No plan to sack workers, Finance minister recants
Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed yesterday said the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch has no plan to retrench workers.
The minister’s position negated what she said while giving a breakdown on the 2022 Appropriation Act on Wednesday.
Mrs. Ahmed had said the government was working out a severance package for those that would be affected by the staff rationalisation being planned.
She said: “There is a special committee, led by the SGF, that is working on the review of agencies with the view to collapsing them partly, using the Oronsanye report.
“At the end of it, what we want to do is to reduce the size of government and also to reduce the size of personnel cost and part of it will be designing the exit packages that are realistic.”
But featuring on Nigerian Television (NTA) ‘Good Morning Nigeria’ programme, the minister said Buhari will not approve managers of the economy to lay off civil servants to cut down on recurrent expenditure.
According to him, the President “has made a commitment that he will not disengage staff”.
Reacting to the report that government was planning to lay off workers to save money for capital expenditure, the finance minister said President Buhari had directed from the beginning of his administration that no staff should be disengaged.
“He (Buhari) insisted that salaries must be paid and the Federal Government has never failed to pay salaries,” Mrs. Ahmed said.
Earlier in the programme, she said the managers of the economy were “trying to reduce cost of governance by blocking leakages and subsequently, revising and reviewing the number of agencies that we have in government.
“There is an exercise that is going on. Yes, the famous Oronsanye Report has not been implemented but it is part of the major tools that we’re using in this revision process. So, there will be agencies that will be collapsed, some agencies will seize to exist.
“Mr. President has directed that there must be special attention paid to how staff will be taken care of during this process.”
Tactfully dodging the issue of a planned retrenchment of workers when asked what government wants to do with its bloated personnel cost, the minister said: “We do hope that at the end of the exercise, agencies will be merged and fused and it will cut down operational cost and we will be able to come up with incentive packages retrain people and redeploy them to areas where they will be useful.
“We still have a very high need for teachers so we could retrain people and send them to teach. There’s also incentive of exit package – that is also money. If you want people to exit you have to pay them that incentive package, so that’s why it’s taking a lot of time because it’s not easy.
“If we had a lot of money we would have given people incentive package and people would exit and go and start their businesses this will reduce the size of personnel cost.”
The finance minister also said the government has not given up on raising the Value Added Tax (VAT).
She said: “We have to increase VAT at some point. We cannot continue with 7.2 per cent if we want to increase our revenue and we want to expand our expenditure ta some point.
“I am not saying this year because we did not make provision for it. We didn’t make provision because there is this tension between the federal and state governments over VAT so we decided to stay away from VAT until things are clear.”