By Nathan Nwakamma
Yenagoa – The labour unions in Bayelsa, on Friday, opposed the Higher Education Students’ Loan and Education Development Trust Fund Law, which is meant to collect education levy from civil servants.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the law was signed to take effect on Wednesday by Gov. Seriake Dickson in Yenagoa.
The law makes it mandatory for government officials in Bayelsa public service as well as those in the private sector to contribute to the education fund.
The government is expected to contribute 10 per cent of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to support the education fund on a monthly basis.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), explained that with the withdrawal of a 20 per cent tax waiver earlier granted to civil servants, the proposed levy would pose additional burden to them.
The Bayelsa chapter NLC chairman, Mr John Ndiomu, who said that the workers were in support of the education development of the state, however, believed that the State Government could afford to finance it.
Ndiomu urged the State Government to review the levy, as workers, who were owed a backlog of salaries of more than six months, were grappling with how to survive the current recession.
Also, Mr Tari Dounana, Bayelsa chapter TUC chairman, described the levy as “an anti-people’s policy’’ by the executive and the legislature, without any input from the stakeholders.
“It is unfortunate that such a law that requires civil servants to make contributions from their salaries was passed and assented to without a public hearing for the stakeholders to make their views known.
“We have already agreed to support the proposed Health Insurance Policy into which workers will also make contributions. This is one deduction too many.
“For the government to formulate the education development fund without inputs from the labour, leaves much to be desired. We are opposed to it,’’ Dounana said.
Shortly after signing the law, Dickson implored the workers to refrain from politicising the policy.
He disclosed that N50 billion had so far been invested in the education sector by the State Government.