Ekweremadu supports Labour on N50,000 minimum wage, scrap of security vote


  • Wants anti-graft agencies decentralised

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has said that the fresh demand for N50,000 minimum wage by organised labour was in order.

Ekweremadu also said that time has come for abolition of security vote.

The Deputy Senate President spoke in Ibadan at the weekend, where he delivered the 4th National Public Service Lecture of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, on the theme: “Federalism and The Legal Framework for Combating Corruption in Nigeria also called for decentralisation of the federal anti-graft agencies to enable states establish anti-corruption agencies in their jurisdictions.

A statement by his media aide, Uche Anichukuwu, said a situation where the two major anti-corruption agencies in the country, Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, do not have presence in the entire country, made the fight against corruption ineffective.

He noted, for instance, that the ICPC had just six zonal offices and nine state offices, in addition to its headquarters in Abuja, while the EFCC had offices in only eight states, apart from its headquarters in Abuja.

Ekweremadu insisted that “these do not scratch the surface, as they are grossly inadequate for a vast area like Nigeria and leave the agencies highly overstretched.

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“We need a far-reaching and in-depth reorientation. Importantly, Nigeria being a federation, the war against corruption must itself be devolved, and federalised, not centralised as is currently the case.

“To this end, I wish to make the following suggestions: Decentralisation of federal anti-corruption agencies, establishment of State anti-corruption agencies, domestication of anti-graft laws, enthronement of fiscal federalism, decentralised policing, establishment of State orientation agencies, State social intervention/security schemes, State prisons, true economic reforms and public participation in the anti-corruption war.

“Sadly, only Kano state currently has a state agency to fight corruption – the Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission. This should be emulated, and urgently too, if we must make a headway in the war against graft.

“Similarly, a Code of Conduct Bureau should be established in the states with a Code of Conduct Tribunal to handle cases of civil servants in the states and local government councils.

“Beside setting up such agencies, there is also the need for the states to domesticate auxiliary federal laws such as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Fiscal Responsibility Act, among others, to help curb corruption. Rivers, Oyo, Anambra, Enugu, Ekiti, Lagos, and Ondo are the only States that have so far adopted the ACJA”.

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He urged the country to discard the current arrangement of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ to make the war against corruption more effective, since people are more likely to show more interest in how the money they truly worked for was being spent, than one thrown on their laps, for doing little or nothing.

“Entrenching fiscal federalism will replace the current ‘feeding bottle’ arrangement where the centre holds tightly to the purse string and feeds the components, with a better arrangement that is predicated on self-reliance, hard work, enterprise, resourcefulness, ingenuity, taxation, transparency, and accountability”, he said.

Ekweremadu further decried a situation where the minimum wage was pegged at N18,000, while some State governors could pocket as much as N2 billion under the cover of Security Vote.

“When a man who earns N18,000, cannot buy a bag of rice, how then can such a person take care of his family? Does it make sense to him if you tell him not to find alternative means of catering to the needs of his family?

“Is it not also possible to abolish the Security Vote and replace it with Contingency Vote so it can be appropriated and accounted for”, he queried.

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Ekweremadu, however, observed that “while it is easy to point accusing fingers at the governing elites in public and private sectors, we must all embark on individual soul searching from the highest to the lowest rung of the social-economic strata.

“From the clerks who would never be able to trace your file unless you grease their palms, to security men who would not let you in or claim that ‘oga no dey’ if you are not the type that parts with ‘kola’ each time you visit, the penchant for corrupt enrichment is definitely not the exclusive malaise of the rich and influential.

“Procurement managers in public and private establishments who have mastered the art of contract inflation and over-pricing; traditional rulers who confer chieftaincy titles on known criminals and corrupt persons; religious leaders and institutions that honour the corrupt are also as guilty as those highly influential persons who clear billions with a stroke of the pen or public office holders who cart away public resources under the cover of Security Vote”, Ekweremadu lamented.