Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nigeria: #PayKeshi - A minister incapable of shouldering responsibility

Goaded by embarrassment
Nothing gets the Nigerian government of Goodluck Jonathan as agitated to be vituperative in overwhelming defence of their policies than a public embarrassment.
We must agree as they have severally demonstrated; they have no capacity for shame, but embarrassment shines a light into the nooks and crannies of the failings of the system that they close ranks sending out spokespersons to the media and Twitter/Facebook minions onto social media to stem the tide of criticism.
Yesterday, the calumny descended to a new low, quite shamefully contemptible that it left many seething with rage.
A man of distinction humiliated
Stephen Keshi, 51, as the manager of the Nigerian national football team since 2011 has won the Africa Cup of Nations in February 2013 and has successful added Nigeria to the contingent going to the Brazil FIFA World Cup in 2014. [Wikipedia] [Wikipedia]
Despite his successes as a homegrown coach, as at July 2013, he was owed five months’ salary and out of desperation in October he lamented that he was owed seven months’ salary. Some of this has now been paid. [BBC] [Vanguard Nigeria]
These were his words, in October, “The lowest point of my career is working and not being paid for seven to eight months. I have never had this kind of experience before.” [Vanguard Nigeria]
He earlier stressed the point with, “I am not being favoured. Whatever I am doing here, I am doing it with everything I have and I need to be respected and be paid.” [Vanguard Nigeria]
Stephen Keshi was then reacting to comments attributed to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF formerly the Nigeria Football Association NFA) that allowances and bonuses paid to coaching staff should be enough to sustain them. [Vanguard Nigeria]
A manner of calumny and atrocity
This appeared to embarrass the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, who yesterday upbraided Stephen Keshi for going public with this seriously untenable situation, some quotes from the news story are replicated verbatim below, courtesy of the Vanguard Nigeria newspaper. [Vanguard Nigeria]
If NFA is having problems paying Keshi’s salary, it means that the system has a problem and that system has to be addressed.”
When you get a job you do it and you don’t go about embarrassing your employers because your salary is delayed.”
Surely Keshi was right to talk
Nobody is saying the NFA/NFF does not have problems, however, if a performing and successful member of staff to whom the organisation has responsibilities and contractual obligations is not paid for up to 8 months that it becomes a demoralising and destabilising burden that could affect their productivity, there is cause for concern.
It is evident that from Stephen Keshi’s words that he was affected, despite that, he has fulfilled his contractual obligations without quibble, but with dedication and unrivalled patriotism worthy of the highest commendation.
And as the Sport Minister noted, if the NFA/NFF was having problems, it could report up the chain for intervention and resolution, it beggars belief that the NFF/NFA allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point that the coach had no other choice but to vent his spleen – 7 to 8 months with pay is just unspeakable.
A matter of assuming responsibility
This atrocity happened under the watch of the Minister of Sports. He had the choice of expediting the payment of all arrears along with an apology to all the staff owed their emoluments or in this case, for the embarrassment indicated by the failings of the NFA/NFF; he decided to make a villain of Stephen Keshi, a victim of the failed system in his ministry.
That is just shameful and lacking in sensitivity, though it is redolent of a culture of impunity amongst employers in Nigeria who get away with not paying salary on time, if at all with them demanding as in the words of the minister – “you get a job you do it and you don’t go about embarrassing your employers.”
I would say, the employer can avoid the embarrassment and shame by just paying the salaries.
That bill is essential
In conversations I participated in on Twitter, the matter of a third party owing the NFA/NFF sponsorship moneys was brought up. However, this is completely beside the point, a desperately unconscionable way to pass off blame and share the responsibility for what is essentially bureaucracy incompetence, lethargy, the lack of sensitivity and the lack of respect for the hardworking personnel who have brought plaudits and glory to Nigerian sport. [KickOff.com]
If the Workman (Unpaid Wages Prohibition) Bill had been passed through the legislative process to become law, the matter would have been cut-and-dried on the issue of responsibility. [Information Nigeria]
Somebody in the Sports Ministry hierarchy would have borne ultimate responsibility for the contracts and the payment of salaries to staff.
The organisation in the law would have faced a surcharge of up to 30% of two months’ wages for delaying salaries more than 30 days to a maximum of 60 days.
Any salary delays beyond 60 days will attract a 30% compensatory surcharge with the possibility of the employer serving a month in prison.
For Nigerian employees need it
The Minister clearly identified an employer – employee relationship between the coach and the NFA/NFF, a designated person will carry the sanction if imposed by the courts where the contractual obligations of prompt and full salary payments are left wanting.
It goes without saying that Nigeria is desperately in need of this punitive measure and law that protects the rights of employees whilst giving them the means to seek redress through an expedited legal process that provides specific legal guidance as to what is due, fair and just.
The NFA/NFF under the threat of sanction would have done everything possible to meet their obligations and the minister would have had no justification whatsoever to excoriate Stephen Keshi for speaking out for his right to be paid on time, in full, with due respect, courtesy and dignity becoming of an exemplary and hardworking Nigerian of repute and accomplishment.
A real man shares blame and glory
The Sports Minister has the gall to step forward to share in the laurels and the glory of sporting successes of Nigerians who still excel in spite of and despite the incompetence and negligence of the rotten bureaucracy, he heads. Where that system fails, he should unashamedly shoulder the responsibility for the lapses and the atrocities without looking to pass off blame to others.
His statement about Stephen Keshi was at best regrettable much as it was the display of utterly reprehensible conduct.
The humility of accepting blame
Those who have found ways to agree with the minister must for once find the humility in and magnanimous heart to sensitively take full responsibility and sue for justice rather than shirk and dissemble with sophistry.
Beyond this, Stephen Keshi becomes a poster boy for the many millions of Nigerians who have suffered the indignities of slave labour extracted on the forlorn hope of salaries that will never materialise.
I hope the legislature now sees why the passage of the Workman (Unpaid Wages Prohibition) Bill is of the utmost urgency with the case of Stephen Keshi putting a human face to unacceptable business practices in Nigeria.

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