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FULL TEXT: President Buhari’s New Year Message To Nigerians

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In the speech, the President reiterated his commitment to the Nigerian project and urged other Nigerians to do the same.

Below is a full text of the President Buhari’s New Year Message To Nigerians

NEW YEAR SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

1ST JANUARY 2021

My fellow countrymen and women,

First, I would like to thank and praise the Almighty who saw us through the year 2020 and has given us the opportunity to witness the start of another new year. We especially thank God because the year 2020 was one of the most trying years since our existence as a Nation.

2. This can also be said about all other nations around the world, due to the challenges posed on our collective humanity by the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

3. While acknowledging that 2020 was a very tough year, we saw this year put to test our national resilience and ability to survive these tough times and also gave renewed hope that we will again brave any storms that lay ahead in 2021 and beyond.

4. As we celebrate the opportunity before us in this New Year 2021, we must also acknowledge the passing away of our brothers and sisters who didn’t make it into this New Year. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

5. We must remember that we also celebrated the historic occasion of our sixty years as an independent and sovereign country on October 1st 2020. In the spirit of hope and gratitude, I would like to remind us again that as a country on the difficult journey to nationhood and greatness, we have confounded the many pundits at home and around the world who never gave the newly-born country that emerged unto the world stage on 1st October 1960 a chance of surviving much longer than a few years.

6. Yet, here we are, 61 years by the next anniversary in October, and not only are we here, we are standing tall in the comity of nations as one country united under the will of God and also actively growing that indivisible Nigerian spirit that has enabled us, year after year, decade after decade, to weather all stormy waters and emerge stronger and better where others have fallen and disintegrated. This nation, this Nigeria will survive and thrive.

7. In this journey to nationhood, we have experienced the highs and lows. 2020 indeed came with a lot of challenges ranging from security and economic issues across the regions to understandable protests that were mainly led by our youths and served notice to the demand for police reforms and accountability. This government heard, this government listened and this government is committed to fulfilling the five demands of our youths, fully understanding that we all wish well for Nigeria.

8. In the midst of all these challenges, I had initially pledged that as your elected President and Commander-in-Chief, I would ensure that these ongoing challenges will be faced head-on with renewed determination and with all the appropriateness and urgency required. Your voices have been heard and we would continue to listen to you, and all the key stakeholders who are committed to the unity of Nigeria to ensure that every region of this nation is safe for us all, while guaranteeing that the future is also secure for the coming generation.

9. I wish to also use this occasion of New Year to reaffirm my commitment to the people of Nigeria, especially the youth who need our collective encouragement and support. In securing this nation we need to secure the future of our youth.

10. Our young people are our most valuable natural resource, at home and abroad. Their ingenuity, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is evident to all. Many of our young people are excelling in various spheres of life including sports, entertainment, information and communication technology, commerce and are globally recognized as achievers.

11. As a Government we are committed to actively engaging with the creative energies of our young people. In this regard, we will partner with the legislature to develop an enabling environment to turn their passions into ideas that can be supported, groomed and scaled across regions. This will create vast opportunities in fintech, agriculture, business process startups and in the entertainment industry.

12. The year 2021 will indeed be a year where we will work to reinforce the hopes of fellow Nigerians in the vision of a united and progressive Nigeria. This administration would continue focusing on delivering key strategic priorities under our “SEA” – (Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption) Agenda. Some of the key priority areas we would direct our attention and strengths to include:

ON THE SECURITY:

13. Re-energizing and reorganizing the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police with a view to enhance their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.

14. In line with the current security challenges, we are facing as a Nation, I would like to reiterate the promise I made recently when over 300 of our boys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara were successfully rescued by our security operatives.

15. The professionalism shown by our Security Forces and the collaboration from all stakeholders across both State and Federal Governments that led to the successful rescue of the boys is proof that Nigeria has the internal capacity to decisively deal with terror attacks on our citizens.

16. However, we recognize that we rapidly have to move to a more proactive and preemptive posture to ensure that these sorts of traumatic incidents do not become a norm. Our administration is fully aware of the responsibility we have to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, and we will not relent in learning and adapting to changing threats to our national security and civic wellbeing.

ON THE ECONOMY:

17. Our focus is on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency. This has helped reduce the growing food related inflationary figures and have in considerable measure positively impacted our food security status during the long months of the pandemic lock down.

18. We are also currently rebuilding our national infrastructure base and, in the process, introducing transformation through the rehabilitation, modernization, and expansion of the railway system, national roads and bridges both in rural and urban centres, alongside the airports and seaports.

19. The reforms we have put in place in the power sector would guarantee increased efficiency in our drive to significantly expand the generation and distribution of electricity for use in homes and factories.

20. As an administration we are currently undertaking a series of special interventions designed to boost job creation and support the entrepreneurial drive of our youths.

21. With the recent opening of our borders, we expect that the pent-up demand of legitimate cross-border and international trade will boost the fortunes of the many small businesses and agricultural enterprises that depend on Nigeria’s trade and commerce.

22. The message to our West African neighbours is that Nigeria is once again fully open for those willing to conduct business in a fair and equitable way.

ANTI-CORRUPTION:

23. On the anti-corruption drive of our administration, we have recorded substantial gains so far and this year, we are committed to continuing along the path of eradicating corruption, through collaboration with all the arms of Government to effectively prosecute this fight.

24. While we would be working with the Legislature to enact laws that would strengthen this fight, we would also be looking at reviewing some of our laws which would ensure that this fight is more effective. On the part of the executive, we would ensure the diligent and timely prosecution of corruption cases, while appealing to the judiciary to ensure that corruption cases are dispensed with expeditiously.

25. The persistence of various forms of violence has meant that in the most affected parts of the country, the fabric of inter-communal harmony woven through years of investment of effort at building trust, mutual respect, and harmony has been threatened.

26. Insecurity as a challenge has direct repercussions on our national economic stability, growth, and development, setting us back at critical points through the destruction of public and private investments.

27. In parts of the country where chronic poverty, social exclusion, and disillusionment among sections of the youth were already a problem, the cycles of violence that have been unleashed by mindless groups like Boko Haram and others have thwarted the efforts of government to undertake the social policy and associated investments that could make a huge difference in the quality of life of our citizens.

28. I am aware that for some of our compatriots, the progress we have registered since the inception of this administration is not nearly as fast or as sufficient as they would wish. I do not begrudge them their views in so far as they signify a wish, in which we all share, for only the very best for our country.

29. Nevertheless, I call upon all Nigerians to carefully recall the circumstances of our coming to office, the facts on the ground and the resources at our disposal since 2015 with the accomplishments of this administration.

30. As a people, we have shown admirable resilience in the face of every adversity, an unmatched capacity to recover speedily from every setback, an unparalleled generosity of spirit when we resolve our differences, and a constant readiness to invest faith and hope in the destiny we share as a united country built on the diversity of its peoples.

31. It is these attributes that underpin the Nigerian spirit of “can do, will do” that gives me hope that we shall yet get to destination and fulfill our calling together, especially with the solid resolutions we are setting in this new year.

32. Keeping our country on a forward march is a duty which we all have and share. In this regard, keeping our country safe from a resurgent cycle of COVID-19 as this administration finalizes its plans to procure and efficiently and effectively distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, I urge you all fellow citizens to observe strict COVID-19 prevention protocols.

33. As your elected President, my pledge to you is the same as it has always been; I will play my part fully and without fear or favour. I invite all of us to do the same. It is what we owe to the founding generation of our beloved country and also to the coming generation. It is what we desire for national prosperity for all demands.

34. Long Live the Nigerian spirit of oneness, togetherness, and unity. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I wish you a Happy and prosperous New Year.

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Stop Tinubu From Controlling Alpha Beta, Ex-MD Begs Court

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Tinubu

A former Managing Director of Alpha Beta LLP, Mr. Dapo Apara, has filed a suit before a Lagos State High Court asking it to stop a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, from controlling the finances of Alpha Beta.

 

In the suit filed by Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) on behalf of Apara on Wednesday, the former MD alleged that Tinubu controls Alpha Beta, a tax consulting firm that monitors and generates revenue on behalf of the Lagos State Government.

 

The ex-Alpha Beta boss had in 2020 filed a suit before the court but withdrew it before filing it a second time after making amendments.

 

 

Apara, who had in 2018, written a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accusing Alpha Beta of tax fraud, asked the court to compel the firm to pay him his entitlements even as he alleged that Tinubu was the one that got him removed from his position as MD for investigating the firm’s finances.

 

 

Apart from Tinubu, others named as defendants in the suit included Alpha Beta and the current Managing Director, Mr Akin Doherty, who is also a former Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State.

 

 

The claimant is seeking eight reliefs including “A declaration that the 2nd defendant (Tinubu), not being a named partner of the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta), is not entitled to direct or influence the affairs of the 1st defendant in such a way that will deprive the claimant (Apara) of his profits and entitlements from the 1st defendant.

 

 

“An order directing the defendants herein, to render an account of all sums due to the claimant from the defendants, from 2010 to date (and) an order tracing all funds and assets due to the claimant from the defendants herein from the inception of the 1st defendant till date.

 

“An order of specific performance of Clause 8 and 11.0 of the partnership agreement that created the 1st defendant by extant partners; an order for payment to the claimant by the 1st and 3rd defendants, of all sums adjudged to be due to the claimant from the said 1st and 3rd defendants on the submission of the accounts.

 

“A perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd defendant (Tinubu), from directing, influencing or in any other manner running the affairs of the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta) in such a way that will deprive the claimant of his profit and entitlements from the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta), the 2nd defendant not being a partner of the 1st defendant.

 

“Ten per cent interest in ruling (5) above; and cost of this suit of N10m.”

 

In the statement of claim, Apara also narrated how Alpha Beta was allegedly formed in 2002 when Tinubu was still the governor of Lagos State.

 

The claimant said he was the one who came up with the idea of a consulting firm to help the state government to track and reconcile taxes.

 

“The claimant (Apara) avers that sometime in about the year 2000, he solely conceived, prepared and presented a proposal to the Lagos State Government on providing consultancy services using his registered firm, Infiniti Systems Enterprises, with respect to using computer technology to track and reconcile the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.

 

“The claimant avers that following the presentation of his proposal to the Lagos State Government, the second defendant (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) who was at the time the governor of Lagos State, demanded that 70 per cent equity interest in the project be assigned to a certain Olumide Ogunmola on his (Tinubu’s) behalf before he, the second defendat, would approve the project,” Apara said in his statement.

 

The former Alpha Beta boss claimed Tinubu nominated Adegboyega Oyetola and one Olumide Ogunmola.

 

He said due to the technological innovation that was deployed by him, the IGR of the state grew from N10bn per annum in 2002 to N300bn in 2019.

 

The claimant stated that in 2010 or thereabout, Tinubu directed that the incorporation structure of the Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be changed from a limited liability company to a limited liability partnership under a newly promulgated law in Lagos State.

 

He said the aim of the move was to shield Tinubu’s involvement from public scrutiny.

 

Apara said as the head of the company, he began looking into its finances and he made many startling discoveries such as mysterious transfers of over N20bn in different currencies to several companies.

 

The former Alpha Beta boss said he realised that all the payments were sanctioned by the partners nominated by Tinubu and they were done without his knowledge, contrary to the terms of their partnership.

 

Apara stated that Tinubu was furious that he was looking into the company’s finances and ordered that he be demoted to deputy managing partner.

 

He said he refused to obey this order and this led to a feud between the both of them.

 

 

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

 

 

Both Tinubu and Alpha Beta had last year described Apara’s allegations as spurious.

 

 

The company had alleged that Apara was relieved of his position because he was involved in fraud.

 

 

A statement by the firm read in part, “The fact is that Dapo Apara began making his untrue allegations in the aftermath of his removal as Managing Director of Alpha Beta for fraud and unethical practices.

 

 

“While he was MD, Apara used his position to siphon huge sums of money from the company including but not limited to fraudulently converting $5m; money allegedly used to pay for cloud-based services that were eventually discovered to be worth less than $300,000.

 

 

“In July 2018, further evidence of his fraudulent and unethical practices was uncovered, including the revelation that he converted approximately N6bn belonging to Alpha Beta to his personal use.”

 

 

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Asset Declaration: EFCC Issues Final Warning, Targets Over 120 Bank MDs, Top Executives

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Asset Declaration

• Deadline extended to June 30, bank chiefs blame court closure for delay

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has issued a final warning to over 120 managing directors and top executives of banks to submit their asset declaration forms.

 

The anti-graft agency gave the top bankers till June ending to obey the order even as the initial deadline of June 14 has passed.

 

The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had initially in March given top bankers, among others, till June 1, 2021, to declare their assets in line with the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, with defaulters said to risk 10 years in jail if found guilty by any Federal High Court.

 

But the anti-graft agency extended the deadline till June 14 to allow bankers to comply with the order effectively.

 

However, PUNCH learnt that the EFCC chairman had sent a final reminder to all the affected banks executives  and given them till the end of June to declare their assets.

 

“The truth is that this law has been in place for over 35 years, but it was hardly ever enforced and so these bankers would just declare anything or not declare at all. However, the EFCC is now demanding the declaration forms as part of moves to sanitise the system.

 

“To this effect, the chairman has written a reminder to the banks, asking all top executives to comply latest by the end of June,” an investigator told PUNCH.

 

Findings showed that well over 120 managing directors, deputy managing directors and executive directors of 19 deposit money banks are affected by the EFCC’s order.

 

Checks by PUNCH showed that Access Bank has 16 board members, United Bank of Africa has 15, Sterling Bank and EcoBank have 13 members each, while First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and Fidelity Bank have 12 members each as contained on their official websites.

 

Others are Zenith Bank, 11; Wema Bank, 11; Union Bank 11; First City Monument Bank, 9; and Unity Bank, 8.

 

According to the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, bankers should declare their assets through the appropriate authority like the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But the forms were hardly ever scrutinised, a trend which the EFCC seeks to change.

 

Section 1 of the Act states, “Every employee of a bank shall, within fourteen days of the commencement of this Act, make a full disclosure of all his assets.

 

“In the case of a new employee, he shall within 14 days of assuming duty with the bank make a full disclosure of all his assets at the time of his assuming duty; and for the purpose of this subsection, a transfer or secondment from one bank to another shall be treated as a new employment.”

 

Section 2 of the Act reads, “The full disclosure of assets required under Section 1 of this Act shall be made in the manner prescribed in the Declaration of Assets Form contained in Form A of the Schedule to this Act and shall be executed before and attested to by the Registrar of a High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.

 

“The President or the appropriate authority may from time to time prescribe such other forms as may be necessary to achieve the purpose and intendment of this Act.”

 

The Act in Section 5 states that the Chief Executive of every bank “shall twice in every year, but not later than 7 January, or 7 July, as the case may be, submit to the appropriate authority a list of all employees who joined or left the employment of the bank in the immediately preceding six months expiring respectively on 31 December of the previous year and 30 June of that year respectively.”

 

The Act explained that “Chief Executive” meant the chairman, the managing director or other similar officer of a bank, including the Central Bank of Nigeria.

 

Likewise, the Act defined “employee” or “employee of a bank” to include the governor (of the CBN), the chairman and members of the board, managing director, director, general manager, manager, examiner, inspector, controller, agent, supervisor, officer, clerk, cashier, messenger, cleaner, driver, and any other category of workers of the Central Bank, a bank or other financial institutions.

 

Speaking in March, EFCC chairman, Bawa, noted that the anti-corruption agency was worried about the role that financial institutions and bankers played in corruption.

 

He said, “We understood that at the tail end of every financial crime, it is for the criminal to have access to the funds that he or she has illegitimately acquired and we are worried about the roles of financial institutions.

 

“We have discussed, but we hope that all financial institutions, particularly the bankers, will declare their assets as provided for by the law, in accordance with the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act.

 

“The EFCC, come June 1, 2021, will be demanding the asset declaration forms filled by the bankers so that the line that we have drawn from June 1 is really complied with by bankers in particular.”

 

In an action backing the EFCC’s move, the House of Representatives recently passed for second reading a bill to make it compulsory for workers in the banking, insurance and pension industries to declare their assets.

 

The proposed law will also bar staff members of banks and other financial institutions from operating accounts outside the shores of Nigeria. Their spouses and children may also be mandated to declare their assets when a bill presently at the House becomes law.

 

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would also be stripped of the responsibility to keep records of declared assets by Nigeria Customs Service and bank workers, and transfer it to the relevant regulator of each industry.

 

In an earlier move, the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016 ordered workers in all the 19 Deposit Money Banks in the country to declare their assets in an anti-corruption crusade in the banking industry.

 

However, some bank directors who spoke to one of our correspondents on Friday said they had yet to meet the deadline because court workers were on strike for two months and they thus could not notarise the declaration forms.

 

 

“We would have met the EFCC deadline, but courts were shut for two months and we could not notarise our forms. We will submit this week unfailingly,” a bank director who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

 

“I have received the letter from the EFCC. I will comply latest by Tuesday,” said another bank executive who preferred to remain anonymous.

 

The EFCC has in recent times investigated, detained and prosecuted several bank executives for allegedly mismanaging customers’ funds.

 

On Wednesday, a Lagos State High Court convicted a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, for defrauding the bank of N25.7bn.

 

A former Managing Director of the defunct Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru, was also convicted and ordered to repay $1.2bn.

 

Also, a former Chairman of Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank), Tunde Ayeni; as well as a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, are facing corruption charges.

 

EFCC chairman, Bawa, had said earlier in the week that bankers usually aid corrupt officials in laundering public funds even as he alleged that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources delivered $20m in cash to a bank executive.

 

However, the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986 which ought to check the criminal actions of bankers has hardly ever been enforced.

 

Section 8 of the Act says any bank employee who “knowingly fails to make full disclosure of the assets and liabilities required to be made under this Act; or knowingly makes a declaration that is false, knowing same to be false in part or in whole; or fails to answer any question contained in the appropriate form under this Act; or fails, neglects or refuses to make a declaration or furnish information as required by the provisions of this Act, commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 10 years.”

 

When asked what would happen if the bank executives don’t make their asset declaration form available, the investigator said, “We will cross the bridge when we get to that point. But this is a matter of law. Anyone who makes false declarations actually risks 10 years in prison.”

 

When contacted on the telephone, the EFCC spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, simply said, “We are still in the process of collation.”

 

Bankers’ union calls for time extension

However, as the deadline to submit their asset declaration forms approaches, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions has called on the EFCC to extend the recent deadline given to bank executives.

 

The union had earlier said its members were not afraid to declare their assets as being required by the EFCC, stating that workers in the banking sector were guided by the principles of integrity, transparency, and honesty.

 

Speaking with one of our correspondents via telephone on Saturday, the union’s president, Anthony Abakpa, stated that in view of the fact that court activities had yet to commence fully, top bank officials should be given more time to declare their assets.

 

Abakpa reiterated that an extension would enable the officials to meet the demands effectively.

 

He said, “As I told you earlier, basically, before someone attains a managerial position in a banking institution, it is mandatory that they must declare their assets at a point of entry.

 

“So, all of them have declared their assets through the EFCC, NBIC (Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry), and DSS (Department of State Services) before they came into the position.

 

“So I don’t think that it is a new thing. They have not been able to keep up with the deadline because the judiciary was on strike. I think they need more time to do it accurately.”

 

Banks will comply with EFCC order as with CBN –Sterling Bank MD

 

Asked his position on the declaration of assets, Sterling Bank Managing Director, Abubakar Suleiman, said bank MDs would comply with the EFCC’s order as they had done with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

 

Suleiman noted that the EFCC’s directive was not a new thing for bank MDs.

 

He said, “It has actually been a part of the requirements for bankers to submit asset declaration forms. When one is appointed on the board of a bank, one of the important documents that one has to submit to the CBN is one’s asset declaration form. It is not a new requirement for bankers.

 

“The requirement to submit to the EFCC would also not make a difference. We will simply update those asset declaration forms and submit them.”

 PUNCH.

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I Wont Reverse Minimum Wage Payment, But Heads Will Roll – El-Rufai

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El-rufai

The Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai has disclosed that his government has no intention to reverse the recommend minimum wage being paid civil servants in the state, he mentioned however, that workers would be sacked in view of the limited recourses available to the state.

 

The Governor made disclosure while informing newsmen in Kaduna, of the sack of 99 political appointees in his government.
He said the disengaged appointees constitute 30 percent of political office holders.

 

He said the state has started implementing its rightsizing policy but is yet to disengage any state civil servant.

 

 

The governor disclosed that only agencies connected to the local government system have disengaged staff and these include the 23 local government councils, SUBEB and the Primary Health Care Board.

 

“So far, 99 political appointees have lost their jobs but we have not commenced rightsizing civil servants. We want to be fair with regards to civil servants. We had earlier promised that before we reduce the size of the civil service, we will start with political appointees and we have done that,’’ he said.

 

The governor, who spoke in Hausa, said the rightsizing of civil servants will still go on as planned because of dwindling revenues that is accruing to the state government from the federation account.

 

‘’However, civil servants with question marks on the veracity of their data have to be given a chance to clear the doubts before any action is taken on them,’’ he clarified.

 

 

The governor said his government has employed 11,000 more workers in the health sector, Kaduna State University as well as primary and secondary schools across the state.

 

 

The governor disclosed that it is a fallacy to allege that the salaries of political appointees account for the bloated personnel cost of the State Government.

 

 

‘’In March 2021, the salaries of these political appointees amounted to N259 million , while civil servants were paid N3.13 billion, aside from costs related to state contributions to pension, accrued rights and other personnel costs. So, it is false to insinuate that political appointees are the ones that guzzle most of the state’s resources,’’ he said.

 

 

Justifying the rightsizing of the public service, he said that all states and the federal government are affected by the shortfall of revenue and some states have even reverted to paying the old monthly minimum wage of N18,000.

 

 

The governor, however, promised that Kaduna state will not reverse the N30,000 minimum wage that it has started paying.

 

 

“We are the first government, federal or state, to pay the minimum wage. We will retain the minimum wage of N30,000 and the consequential adjustments that gave most of our civil servants a 66% salary increase. We will also retain the minimum pension of N30,000 monthly.

 

“The unified Local Government Service continues to pay the minimum wage, even though they varied the consequential adjustments for their workers below the level for state civil servants,’’ he added.

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