Salary disparity in Nigeria’s public service has over the years been a major source of concern. In most cases, there is a huge salary disparity between workers in the parastatals and the civil servants in the ministries. “It is disturbing that people with the same qualifications but employed in different offices of public service receive different salaries, at times double or even triple that of their counterpart. Even more worrisome is the disparity between salaries of the core ministries and those of departments and agencies,” a civil servant, Okechukwu Samuel told our reporter.

Most Nigerians mistake public servants as the same as civil servants. But comrade John Isaiah of the Nigerian Civil Service Union (NSCU) told LEADERSHIP that there is a misconception that almost the whole country has, as regards civil servants salaries visa-vis public servant salaries. According to him, the public service is the entire gamut of organisations that source their funds from the federal treasury and their activities are guided by government operations. “The public service includes military, paramilitary, parastatals, agencies and the core civil service.” Some union leaders told our reporter that out of more than 12 different salary structures in the public service, that of the core Civil Service is the lowest even though the bulk of the government work is carried out by them. It is believed that this situation is at the core of the many agitations for salary increase by the servants in the country. However, there is growing agitations among civil servants in the country for the federal government to address the salary disparity with their other counterparts in the public service. The civil servants say they expect the committee negotiating a new minimum wage to address this disparity. “In many agencies funded by the same federal budget, it is shocking to discover that a junior officer with a lower qualifications in some organizations earn higher salaries than most directorate cadre staff in many ministries and parastatals,” Isaiah said.

He said this situation was neither the norm in the first republic nor in the second republic, stressing that this practice started during the military regime from 1985 to 1998 as well as the lopsided and salary reviews that was carried out between 2005 and 2006 that ushered in this unfair practice. Last May, the federal government admitted that about 80,000 of its employees who constitute the core civil service are poorly remunerated and is working on an upward review of their salaries Head of service of the of the federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, described the salaries of the core civil servants as extremely low, saying this category of employees who are the backbone of the government receive fraction of salaries of their counterpart in Federal government parastatals and agencies. To emphasize how bad the situation is, Oyo-Ita said, “For example, what a public servant in a parastatal on level 16 earns, is two and half times what a Director in a ministry earns and that Director is now meant to supervise that parastatal or agency, which he is earning a fraction of their salaries. “these 80,000 people are the poor civil servants that really need attention. We are looking into this under the Presidential Committee on Minimum Wage.

We will address all these matters so that a fair salary structure is put in place.” The Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU) also during its recently concluded NEC also threw it weight behind the review of the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure (CONPSS). The review is being championed by the National Joint Public Service Negotiating Council through the setting up of Technical Committee to consider critical upward review of what the civil servants described as “the frightening pay disparity between the salary that exists in the core Civil Service (CONPSS) and other salary structures”. LEADERSHIP gathered that in Will Minimum Wage C’ttee Address Salary Disparity In Public Service? NLC members during a protest the approved adjustment of the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure (CONPSS), which came into effect from 23rd March 2011, school leavers who enter the Service on Grade Level (GL) 04 Step (S) 1 receive an annual salary of N242,994 while officers at the peak of the Public Service on GL 17 – S1 will receive N4,183,600 annually. A 12-month breakdown of the above shows that the school leaver will receive N20,249 while the director will receive N348,633. A diploma certificate holder who enters the Service on GL 07 – S 01 will receive an annual salary of N517,965 which translates to N43,163.75. Following the 30-man Tripartite Committee, inaugurated last December by President Muhammadu Buhari to negotiate a new National Minimum Wage, there was renewed hope that the disparity will finally be addressed. A civil servant, Wale Johnson expressed confidence that the tripartite committee on minimum wage would also look into the issue of disparity in salaries across ministries, departments and agencies of government, adding that while there are agencies that are earning so much, others are earning at the bottom level. He said, “the disparity in salaries in the public sector, whether they are called parastatals or departments, I believe that this is what has increased corruption because if you look at your colleagues in other agencies earning higher than you who is even putting much effort, you feel discouraged. “We are all graduates. Besides, we go to the same market and sometimes do most of the jobs.” LEADERSHIP also recalled that during the public hearing held for the new minimum wage, the issue of salary disparity was a major concern for civil servants who decried their poor take home as compared to their counterparts Going by its time table, the committee negotiating the minimum wage is expected to submit it’s report by first week of September. “We are hopeful that this will be captured in their recommendations. This is a huge opportunity to address it. If we fail to achieve this at this point, it may require a lot of push or even strikes to bring government back to the negotiation table. It is one opportunity we cannot afford to miss,” Johnson said.