Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye (R); with Chairman Salary and Wages Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta (L), during a National Policy Dialogue on Living Wages and Corruption in Nigeria at ICPC Headquarters in Abuja on Thursday
Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has stressed the need for a better living wages as an antidote to corrupt practices in the civil service.
Owasanoye said this on Thursday in Abuja at a National Policy Dialogue on Living Wages and Corruption in Nigeria organised by the ICPC.
The dialogue was organised in collaboration with Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria and Michael Imodu National Institute for Labour Studies.
The ICPC boss, who described poor living wage as an enabler for corruption in the public service, said one of the ways to address corruption in the sector was to enhance the living wage.
According to him, there exists a direct relationship between poor living wages and corruption, which then indicates that low wages can make the workforce to be susceptible to corruption.
Owasanoye, who urged the government to pay more attention into the welfare of public servants, said this would reduce the level of corrupt practices in the country.
He noted that the ICPC’s research into the issue of inadequate living wages in Nigeria revealed that there had been several minimum wage policies since 1981.
He, however, noted that little or no attention had been paid to actual living wages for workers, especially, public servants.
The ICPC boss said that research also showed that widespread corruption in the public service created corruption enabling social norms.
He said the trend made public servants and citizens normalised the expectation and acceptance of bribes while carrying out their statutory duties.
“This practice, where public servants demand (expect and ask) or are supplied (offered and accept) bribes increases the cost of accessing public services for citizens.
“And, has been found to be partly motivated and sustained by inadequate living wages and the rising cost of living.
“Evidently, the corruption that results from poor living wages, comes at a cost to all of society.
“For example, the people are denied quality access to public goods and services, while the government is unable to provide quality and timely goods and services to the people,” he said.
According to him, this has far-reaching effects on the nation: from undermining trust in the government, to perpetuating poverty and income inequality and even fostering general insecurity.
He said that the dialogue became necessary when taking cognisance of the fact that the public service was the vehicle through which governments at all levels delivered a broad range of public goods and services to the people.
“Invariably; a corrupt public service inhibits the distribution and timely supply of these public goods and services in equal measure to every citizen, thereby marginalizing the weaker and more vulnerable segments of the nation’s population.
“Therefore, neglecting a fundamental causative factor like the welfare of public servants could have fatal consequences on the wellbeing of the Nation in general,” he said.
Owasanoye expressed the hope that each stakeholder participating would develop and contribute a set of indicators relevant to the working conditions and schedules of their primary constituencies.
He said this would further enrich the national living wage policy document.
The ICPC boss said that their contributions as key stakeholders, should be data-driven and should be based on scientific forecasts of likely economic changes in the near to long term, to properly guide policy direction and cost of living adjustments.
“This we hope, will reduce, and possibly eradicate, the frequent disputes between the government and its workforce, which mostly arise as a result of sudden economic shocks, or pressures from rent seekers.”
Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, represented by a director in the ministry, Dr. Alex Onembe, noted that poor reward system contributed in sharp practices outside of existence of greed and need based corruptive tendencies by individuals.
“This further manifests in prevalence of inequalities, lack of quality services, and lack of investment by organizations resulting in low economic growth and development amongst others.
“It is against this backdrop that I urge all leaders of thought participating in this dialogue to utilize this opportunity to extensively deliberate on ways and means living wage issues can be handled to prevent corruption in and outside the workplaces for Socio-economic development in the interest of all and sundry.”
Lalong expressed the hope that the dialogue would provide a veritable platform for experience sharing that would assist the government in curbing the negative impacts of corruption in Nigeria.
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Esan, represented by the Director Service Delivery, HOSF Office, Mr Muhammed Musa, reiterated government’s commitment to workers’ welfare.
“We are committed to the welfare of the civil servants. It will make them to be more dedicated and corrupt free,” she said
Also, the President of the Nigerian Labour Union (NLC), Joe Ajero, represented by Comrade Hauwa Mustapha, described good wages as pivotal to working right of workers.
Similarly; the President of Trade union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, represented by Dr Tommy Etim, said that better living wages must be implemented to make Nigerian workers articulate.
Dafe Otobo, a professor of Industrial Relations, in a keynote address described corruption as a pervasive issue that has deeply affected all sectors of the country’s economy.
He opined that certain employees might resort to taking bribes in order to compensate for the difference in wages, if they had lower pay compared to private sector.
He therefore advocated adequate remuneration for public servants to ensure their commitment to service
He said that there was the need for provision of better welfare packages, social amenities, and necessary infrastructure for public servants to perform their duties effectively.