Saturday, December 3, 2022

El-Rufai’s four-day workweek drama, by Jaafar Jaafar

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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Days after making news for painting Kaduna with showy, kaleidoscopic graffiti, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has today taken the state public service to a new gravity.

The governor may have good intentions by introducing a 4-day work week policy, but it appears ridiculous, especially when other parts of the country work 5 days a week. Kaduna cannot be an island on its own.

I’m a fan of many policies of the El-Rufai administration, but I take exception to this for a number of reasons.

Work-free days or public holidays always come with economic consequences. At a time when insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic are taking toll on the economy, and the state is struggling to recover from a Wuhan-style lockdown, this administrative exhibitionism is gratuitous. I think public servants in particularly Kaduna State should make some sacrifices to remedy the lost time.

A 2012 study by the think tank of a leading economic consultancy firm in the UK, the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that each bank holiday (what we call public holiday in Nigeria), costs the British economy a whopping 2.3bn pounds! The Queen’s diamond jubilee holiday in the year was said to have cost between £1.2bn and £3.6bn.

In July 2016, an extended 3-day public holiday for the Eid-el-Fitri cost Nigeria about N140 billion.

But what is not clear with El-Rufai’s weird policy is whether schools will be affected in the “next stage of the transition”, that is when the policy fully takes effect.

A statement by El-Rufai’s spokesman Muyiwa Adekeye said schools and hospitals were not affected by this decision. “However, all public servants, other than those in schools and healthcare facilities, will work from home on Fridays.

“This interim working arrangement will subsist until the government is ready to move to the next stage of the transition which will culminate in the four-day week across all MDAs in the state,” he said.

If Kaduna schools will be affected in the “next stage”, the government should take a word of caution from a former chairman of Kaduna State SUBEB, Ishaya Akau, who once explained the effect of public holidays on education. Mr Akau said in a 2013 interview with Vanguard that “if you look at the world over, children spend about 900 hours in a year in school. The average in some areas is 700 hours, but in Nigeria, it is 400 hours”.

While banditry has completely eaten the school hours in rural Kaduna and forced the governor to withdraw his children from school, El-Rufai’s administrative grandstanding in the metropole will further reduce the shrinking hours.

The government said the measure was designed to boost productivity, improve work-life balance and enable workers to have more time for their families, for rest and agricultural activities. This sounds good, but let there be security in the state before asking civil servants to have time for “agricultural activities”. In a state where ransom payment is discouraged, then going to high-risk places such as farms should also be discouraged.

Another reason adduced for reducing the work days is “significant investment in ICT”, so that civil servants can work from home. According to the statement, the government will give public servants access to digital devices and platforms to enable them work effectively from home.

But how do you automate service without stable power in the country? In an era when insecurity is forcing you to shut down telecommunication services and industrial action throwing the state into darkness, this decision is unjustifiable.

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