Friday, 23 December 2016

Of The Frivolous Three Weeks Public Holiday in Imo State

Two interconnected and successive events in Imo state prompted this piece: the recent declaration of three weeks public holiday in Imo state and the existing three day work week policy of the Imo state government. This essay aims to dissect the effects on productivity, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), socio-economic activities of a penchant for arbitrary declaration of public holidays in Imo state in particular and Nigeria in general especially in view of the acute recession in Nigeria.

I make quick to say that this write-up is not an onslaught on any individual nor does it have a political undertone, affiliation whatsoever. As a true son of Imo state, posterity will not be fair to me if I fail to challenge wishy-washy thinking and if I shy away from adding value, brainstorming solutions to challenges bedeviling Imo state and Nigeria. It smacks of insensitivity and beggars belief that the Imo State government allegedly blew over N600 million on Christmas decorations while pensioners and possibly civil servants in the State are owed arrears of their salaries/entitlements? 

Imo State Chistmas Tree in Owerri

Arbitrary And Unbecoming Declaration of Public Holidays

Preparatory to 2016 Christmas festivity and while celebrating the Imo Day thanksgiving service, Imo State Governor – Chief Rochas reportedly declared three weeks holiday in the State to last between December 19, 2016 and January 10, 2017. Recall that prior to this three week Christmas holiday, the Governor arbitrarily rammed down a three day – Monday to Wednesday work week. The Governor supposed this measure will avail Imo State civil servants, ‘’the opportunity of engaging in other businesses to earn extra income to augment their salaries’’. By this three day work week, it pupils, students attend school three days – Monday to Wednesday in a week?

Nigeria’s Public Holidays Act

According to Nigeria’s Public Holidays Act, enacted on 1st January 1979 which abolished previous public holidays and set the process for making public holidays for the nation, states, and local areas, the President has the power to declare holidays for the entire nation or any state or part of the country. State Governors have the power to declare public holidays in their states or for any part of their states. The Minister for Internal Affairs has powers to change designated holiday dates when he or she determines it necessary or appropriate. The aforesaid Public Holiday Act also stipulates that, ‘’if any holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then only that Saturday or Sunday shall be a public holiday’’. This is far from reality because a typical holiday that falls on Saturday is moved to Monday and so on and so forth.

Consequences of Protracted Public Holidays

Nigeria continues to progress in the negative direction and may continue in that direction for a long time as long as innovative ideas, leaders are lacking. For a state like Imo struggling with poor IGR - Internally Generated Revenue, low productivity, and where pensioners/workers are owed arrears of their entitlements, a money-sapping carnival cum Christmas decorations which reportedly gulped hundreds of millions of Naira and a three weeks public holiday, is to say the least, not well thought out.

Imagine prospective foreign investors, international organizations amongst others, scheduled to come to Imo state having to reschedule for 3 weeks because civil servants are on holidays. Also imagine anyone of us urgently needs an important document (letter of identification or State of Origin etc.) from the State or Local Government Councils say for enlistment into the Armed forces, a scholarship, and immigration or for a contract and we have to wait for three weeks by which time the opportunity may have elapsed. No revenue generating activity, payment and collection of taxes/levies, amongst others, in Imo State for the next three weeks? And workers will be paid for sitting at home for three weeks?

Frivolous Public Holidays in Nigeria Affect Labour Productivity

Labour productivity is defined as the amount of labour input required to produce a unit of output. As we know, the three most important factors of production are labour, capital and land. We have all of these in Nigeria but the problem is harnessing them for optimal productivity, competiveness and sustainable economic activity. With 48 working hours per week, almost 120 days rest days (Saturdays and Sundays inclusive) in a year, Nigeria is said to have the highest number of public holidays in the world compared to Malaysia, China and Indonesia which work 52 hours-seven days a week.

2017 Public Holidays in Nigeria

Abuse of Nigeria’s Public Holidays Act?

No doubt the public holiday prerogative vested on governors is been abused. A few examples will suffice. In Abia, ostensibly to foreclose the swearing in of Dr. Uche Ogah aftermath of an unfavorable gubernatorial court ruling against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the later bandied the death of one Chief Ojo Maduekwe who died during that period as an alibi for hastily declaring two days – Friday and Monday as public holiday.
2017 Public Holidays in Nigeria

To mark the end of the 2016 Ramadan fast, the Nigerian federal government extended the Eid el Fitr holiday from two to three days because the moon was not spotted as planned.

In Lagos State, most of the major markets were unexpectedly shut down for one or two days sometime in June 2013, in honour of late Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, the Iyaloja-General of Lagos State. Traders especially those selling perishable products lost millions of Naira as a result of this.

Failure to do away with whimsical public holidays, poor work attitude, malingering, unskilled workforce, nepotism will foist a cycle of low productivity, poor service delivery, and perennial poverty on Nigeria. Nigeria cannot be a giant of Africa with its citizens sitting at home for several weeks in a year in the guise of public holidays. High time the National Assembly rejigged the moribund National Public Holiday Act and rein in arbitrary declaration of public holidays in Nigeria.

Written By: © Don Okereke
(Security Consultant/Analyst, Writer, Change Agent)
Twitter: @DonOkereke

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