The House of Representatives is doing something that will make Nigerian civil servants smile in no distant time. Oh no, they are not increasing workers’ salaries. But they are making a move towards giving workers the legal right to have other sources of income.
According to the Punch newspaper of 6th September, 2020, the House of Representatives is amending the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act to allow civil servants to “own and run other private businesses apart from farming”. Punch reveals that this amendment proposal was submitted since last year and that it was sponsored by Awaji-Inombek Abiante, the lawmaker representing Adoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency in Rivers State.
The lawmaker proposed the amendment of this bill to allow civil servants to own businesses because he believed that it was unfair to prevent them from engaging in commercial activities. He argued that civil servants that have ideas and skills that could improve the socio-economic situation of the country, were barred from selling their ideas because of this existing law. He also said that civil servants have already been breaching this law because they engage in petty businesses. He further asserts that preventing civil servants from being enterprising affects the country gravely. However, this bill has passed its second reading.
The first time I heard about this latest development, I was so happy. The person that sent the link to the news page to me knew that I desire that civil servants should be allowed to legally have other sources of income. So when this person saw this news, she didn’t waste time breaking it to me. But after the euphoria of the news dissipated, I asked myself if civil servants can actually own and run businesses.
From what we all know, many civil servants have petty businesses they run. For instance, some of them go to their offices with clothes, jewellery and other accessories to sell. Some have shops, where they go when they close from work. Many go into farming, though not usually for commercial purposes. Some turned their cars into taxies. The businesses civil servants go into are too numerous to be mentioned. But then, most of them are not sustainable. Some start up their business today and close it tomorrow. Some maintain theirs but the business neither goes up nor down. So, will changing, or rather, amending this law make any changes? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
Maybe a lot of things should be done before civil servants are thrown to compete with professional entrepreneurs out there. Releasing them into the business world is equal to exposing them to be swallowed up by professional business men and women, who will wait for them to come out with their salaries so that they (the business people) will collect the money from them and send them back home. It is true that civil servants are already breaching the existing Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, as observed by Abiante, but their businesses are not sustainable.
I stand for this amendment, but let civil servants be prepared beforehand. Of course, it is not compulsory for every worker to own and run a business, but the majority will be tempted to do so. This then requires that training on entrepreneurship be organised for civil servants as soon as possible. I did not say that the government should organise this training for them, but they need to give the go ahead for it to happen. Private individuals can use this opportunity to prepare civil servants for the future. Who knows, maybe this amended bill will become effective before the end of the year. So there is no time to waste.