The Lagos State government, under Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has taken a step further in stemming the acts of indiscipline bedeviling quality education administration in the state, the Special Adviser on Education to the governor, Tokunbo Wahab, has said.
Wahab, who made this clarification in an exclusive interview with a media platform recently, also advised that unions in the state’s tertiary institutions should stay away from the issue of subvention to the schools.
While answering question on why the state government had to wait for workers to go on strike before approving minimum wage, Sanwo-Olu’s aide explained that the issues were unconnected as the governor had already signed the minimum wage into law.
“There are two issues here; the issue of minimum wage, which is a statutory obligation from an employer to an employee and the issue of the N450m, which is their subvention like every other MDA. Mr Governor has signed the new minimum wage into law.
“Currently, those in the civil service are enjoying the benefits. So, we are saying that other MDAs like the Lagos State University, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education and the Lagos State Polytechnic ought to also benefit from it. Mr Governor has graciously given the go ahead for the implementation of the minimum wage for our tertiary institutions from October 2020,” Wahab said.
He further described the recent protest by the Lagos State University’s workers as unfortunate because the government has already ticked over 90% of the demands submitted to it.
“Now, the issue on Monday (last week) was unfortunate. The unions came with a list of demands some months back. On the list were some demands, which included giving them a governing council, infrastructure and that we should put some (other) things in place for them. Now, let’s look at the things on that list. The governing council was inaugurated last month by Mr Governor and it has barely spent three weeks. Mr Governor has also ensured that some of the abandoned infrastructure in LASU have been completed. They have moved into their Senate building and are wrapping up the construction of the Lagos Business Management faculty. The contractors are back on site.
“Don’t forget that we had about six months’ shutdown due to COVID-19 interruption and the only thing that is left on their list is the issue of the minimum wage. On the issue of the minimum wage, the government has acceded to that request and the implementation will start by the grace of God in October,” he clarified.
Tokunbo Wahab, who has severally been engaging the stakeholders in the state all through the COVID-19 lockdown as a proactive measure in ensuring that the state’s educational sector is prepared for resumption after the lockdown, reiterated that the unions’ clamour for increment in the subvention was a misplaced priority and ill-advised.
“The issue of N450m subvention that they are claiming is not enough is not an issue for the unions. It is an issue for the state government and the management of LASU. The governing council will look at it appropriately and deal with it.
“Technically, the issue of subvention is between the government and its MDAs. Subventions are grants. Minimum wage is a clearly different matter.The management of the school, the governing council and the state, which owns the institution, are looking at this issue of subvention and at the appropriate time, we will take a position on it. But the issue of minimum wage has been agreed on. It is not a privilege. It is a right of the workers. It is a law and it has been signed. We are implementing it.
“The unions, in my view, saw an opportunity and use an opportune time for their action and I say that with due respect to them. Do I agree with the actions they carried out on Monday? I will say no for several reasons. They have a right to go on a strike, but the labour law provides the statutory steps to be taken and the statutory notice that must be given to the employer. You must serve a 21-day notice; you must serve a 14-day notice; and you must serve a seven-day notice. These things were not done. However, we understand. They chose the most opportune time to do what they wanted to do though it was needless. We would have still granted them their request for minimum wage (even without the action),” he submitted.
The SA, however, appreciated the governor for his swift respond and also thanked the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly and other stakeholders, that the issue has finally been resolved, while emphasising that unions have no ground protesting over grants.
“What is left is the issue of subvention which is not a union matter and I stand to be contradicted by anyone. Subventions are grants. We have four main institutions that collect subvention from us. LASU collects the highest of N450m. Lagos State Polytechnic collects about N210m monthly; and AOCOED collects the same amount as subvention. These are public documents; it is not about me saying it. The MOCOPED collects N125m as subvention monthly.”
While confirming that the institutions have been collecting these monthly subventions since the inception of the administration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, he said the governor increased the of the MOCOPED from N120m to N125m and he increased AOCOED’s from N200m to N210m.
According to him, the government also gave them a bailout last year; MOCOPED got N200m and AOCOED was given N350m. Not only that, the governor has approved a befitting administrative building for the Lagos State Polytechnic and the contractors are on site, while LASU has a 8,272-bed space world-class hostel; the contractors are on site there. For the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, the contractors are back on site with respect to the administrative building, which had been abandoned for years.
He further stated that the state government will now start looking into the internally generated revenue of these state-owned institutions in order to ensure proper accountability.
“When the law created them, they were given autonomy to allow them to run. However, to whom much is given, much more is expected. We have now directed all our tertiary institutions that their revenue collection process will now be seamlessly handled and we want to see how much they generate. That is now part of the process that we are putting in place, so that there can be checks and balances, accountability and transparency. They will still have their autonomy. It is their money but let us see what comes in. So, that also comes into the narrative of increase in subvention and how much the quantum should be.
“For the IGR, going forward, the government will want to see what they generate internally. It is just for the sake of transparency. It is their money and it goes to them; it is not our (government’s) money at all. We just want to see what they generate to also show justification for whatever they are claiming from the state, so we will know how to give them leverage. You know this narrative is like that of the father and the son. You give your son certain money over the years, it gets to a stage in life where you believe your son is now an adult and should begin to fend for himself; that is the narrative.
“It is a narrative we must handle and put in proper perspective. We are not throwing them away; we are not denying the fact that the state owns them. However, we want them to show transparency, while we are supporting them. Don’t forget that COVID-19 has disrupted the global financial system; it has shown us the new normal, so we must also show understanding in whatever we do,” the Special Adviser concluded.