Worried by the near collapsed economy the nation is currently grappling with governors of the 36 states of the federation recently proposed to the Federal Government to among others compulsorily retire all civil servants above 50 years of age as well as impose levy on workers earning up to N30,000 and above monthly.
Coming at a time millions of Nigerians are either unemployed or underemployed, the proposals have been met with outright rejection with many urging the governors to bury their heads in shame.
Describing the proposals as wicked and insensitive, some argued that it is against the civil service law and admonished the governors who are above 50 years of age to first resign from office before making such advice to the Federal Government.
Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome described the proposal as inhumane, wondering what the nation stands to gain if it heeds the governors’ advice and populate an already saturated labour market.
He said, “’the proposed step is unwise, ill-advised and inhumane. It smacks of the usual government’s insensitivity to the plight of the common man. How do you retire civil servants in their prime at 50 years? This is the real age of full bloom, experience and productivity. It is extremely ridiculous! It is the height of irresponsibility and insensitivity. It is the brazen exhibition of cruelty at its highest level.
“The N30, 000 is not enough for these same proponents of the funny and phoney proposal to buy snacks at KFC or Mr. Bigs at a go. Do they live in another planet? The entire proposal is shameful and disgusting.”
On its part, civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, described the proposal as a violation of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
HURIWA said the move violates section 42 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution as it discriminates on the basis of age and breaches extant civil service rules which peg retirement age at 60.
The group said what could lead to imminent collapse of the economy of Nigeria is the widespread political corruption by public office holders including the governors and the Presidency “who carve out huge chunks of financial resources that are not captured in the budget and pilfer the funds under the guise of security votes.”
The rights group according to its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko noted that the exorbitant costs of running the executive arms of government at the two tiers of government of federal and State especially are the draining pipes that could precipitate total collapse of the nation’s economy.
It further advised executive arm of government at both the state and federal levels to cut down on the costs of governance including amending constitutional provisions on appointment of ministers and commissioners to peg the number of each category at six for ministers representing the six geo-political zones for federal government and three commissioners per state representing the three Senatorial zones of each state
HURIWA asked for the law to be amended so that citizens above 50 years cannot run for offices of governors and President of Nigeria because of the possibility that such persons “may be subjected to unexplained health challenges associated with old age.”
The body added that if the federal government “disagrees with these far-reaching reforms of the laws aforementioned to peg the ages of executive officials of the federal and state governments, then, there is no justification to discriminate against civil servants.”
In his own reaction, one of the presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the just-concluded primaries, Dr Cosmos Ndukwe, asked governors above 50 years of age to first resign before asking the Federal Government to sack civil servants above the age of 50.
The former Deputy Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly argued that since public servants and political office holders are being paid from public funds just like civil servants, they should first quit to save cost before recommending the sack of core civil servants.
He further argued that the amount of public funds spent on civil servants is a peanut compared to what is spent by public servants.