President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concern over the growing complaints and agitations by workers in states over unpaid salaries and allowances, in spite of his administration’s interventions.
The various interventions which the 36 states had received from the Federal Government include bailout, Paris Club refund and budget support.
Buhari spoke at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday while receiving a delegation of governors led by the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Abdul’Aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State.
On the delegation were Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Udom Gabriel Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom). The deputy governor of Ebonyi State Eric KelechiIgwe was also on the delegation.
“How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months?
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“I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay their rents and even pay school fees for their children.
God has been merciful in hearing the prayers of his servants so the rainy season has been good, you can ask the Kebbi State governor on this, and our enormous food importation bill has gone down,”the president was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesman Femi Adesina.
He told the governors that the federal and state governments would need to work closer together to ameliorate the situation.
President Buhari said he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.
Yari was quoted as telling told Buhari that the governors inherited backlog of unpaid salaries and huge debts portfolios on assumption of office.
The NGF chairman commended Buhari’s efforts in improving the economy, assuring that the states would continue working with the Federal Government to improve the livelihood of workers and all Nigerians.
We spent bailout funds on 200m Nigerians – NGF
The NGF later told State House correspondents in an interviewthat the billions of intervention funds received from the Federal Government had reached about 200 million Nigerians in all the states of the federation.
Yari said, “200 million citizens in Nigeria are residing in respective states. These supports are going down to them when you are taking the indices from the grassroots.”
“We’re here on behalf of the 36 states governors and this is a result of the collective decision to see the President after the National Economic Council meeting last month. Our mission here is simple; we are here to thank Mr. President for his concern about the state of the economy and for giving us several support ranging from bail out, restructuring our debts, Paris Club exit payment.
“We thanked the president for that and at the same time, as a father, we said to him Mr. President you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of Paris exit funds which we agreed, and you directed we be paid 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent open reconciliation.
“Reconciliation has been on since 2016, we are hoping that both the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ministry of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November, so therefore we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers in our 2018 budget, so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective Houses of Assembly and that’s why we are here.
“Mr. President was prompt being that he has a representative in the National Economic Council that is the Vice President and Minister of Finance is away. We are going to work on the numbers when he returns from his trip [to Turkey for the D-8 summit], we are going to follow up this meeting with him so that we can conclude on what is going to be done next,” Yari said.
Why I’m having problem with salary – Ortom
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has said that his inability to pay salaries is not deliberate.
He spoke with State House correspondents after briefing President Buharion the challenge of salary payment among others.
“We’ve not diverted money whether bailout or Paris Club anywhere. The records are there for anyone to scrutinize and see,” he said, adding that he inherited N69 billion arrears on pensions, gratuities and salaries as well as over N70 billion contractual obligations.
Ortom, who insisted on the wage bill review, vowed to prosecute anyone found culpable in salary inflation.
“The issue is that we must admit that Benue State wage bill is one of the highest in this country, N7.8bn. My predecessor admitted that there was a mistake in negotiating with them, but they resisted attempts to bring it down. Now, we’ve no choice. We’ve set up technical committees comprising labour congress and my government. They’ll look at it and review wage bill and ensure that leakages are eliminated, salary padding and ghost workers and all that.
“Honestly, N7.8bn wage bill for Benue State is out of place, and there’s no way we’ll continue in this manner. I and my council have looked at the wage bill and compare with what people are collecting elsewhere in the country and we’ve done it to an average of N4.5bn. We just have to review it to that because an average income for Benue State both from federation account and IGI stands at slightly above N6bn. So, if you’re paying salaries alone, you’ve a deficit of N1.8bn a month. It’s impossible and we’ve security issues to tackle and several other things that government must run. So, it becomes a big problem,” the governor said.
States must set priorities right – NLC
The General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)Peter Ezon said “Those states that didn’t set their priorities right are the ones having problem with salary payment. This is a very bad situation. All states must set their priority right.”
He said the Congress has given an order to all states congress to declare an action if they are owed up to four months of salaries, adding that “we will mobilize to go and support them.”
Ezon said that many state governors are violating the labour act by not paying salaries as at when due, adding that a responsible government must pay workers’ salaries at the end of every month.
Deputy President of NLC Peters Adeyemi said that non-payment of salaries after the first bailout and the release of the first and second tranche of Paris Club refund shows that the governors are misusing state funds.
He listed some of the defaulting states to include Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Benue, Oyo, Abia and Imo.
He urged President Buhari not to release the last tranche of the Paris Club refund to any governor that could not account for the ones released before now.
The situation across some states
In Kano, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Kabiru Ado Minjibir, said workers were not being owed salaries.
However, he said government owed some workers N9.1bn as outstanding gratuity, death benefits and pension arrears.
He added that the government also owed N220m eight months’ salary arrears for the regularised teachers under Kano State Senior Secondary Schools Board (KSSSSB) recruited in 2015.
Minjibir added that there was also outstanding salary arrears of N532m for the regularised staff of Kano State Primary Healthcare Management Board also recruited in 2015, as well as nine months’ salary arrears for the regularised staff of Kano State Security Guards to the tune of N142m.
He commended government for approving N4bn out of the N10bn bailout funds it collected from the federal government for the payment of outstanding gratuity and death benefits.
In Kogi State, the Labour union said 30 per cent of the state’s workforce is owed 21 months salaries; 21 per cent owed between 11 and 18 months; while about 45 per cent took their salaries up till July this year.
They said LG workers, primary school teachers and pensioners were also owed.
But Governor Yahaya Bello insists that he only owes salaries for two months – August and September, 2017.
In Rivers State, the civil servants have been paid their salaries up to September 2017, same with Local Government workers. Pensioners are however owed four months arrears.
In Katsina State, salaries have been paid up to last month September 2017 for the state and LG workers.
The state NLC chairman Comrade Tanimu Saulawa and his NULGE counterpart, Comrade Aliyu Kankara, said only gratuities were outstanding.
In Kebbi State, workers are not being owed. The state Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammed Augie, said out of the N3.5n allocation to the state by the federal government N1.5bn is being expended every month on workers’ salaries.
In Kwara State, the government insists it is up to date in the payment of salary and pension.
It however admitted owing some arrears of gratuity of pensioners as well as subvention to some of the state tertiary institutions.
Secretary of Concerned Pensioners of Kwara state, Comrade Ayodele Ajibola, said the government owes pensioners arrears of pension and gratuity since 2006 running to N3.3 billion.
On pension, Ajibola said the government is not owing because some collect as low as N2,850 monthly.
The Chairman of NLC in the state, Mr Yekini K. Agunbiade, said civil servants in Kwara State Water Corporation, state media houses, Kwara express and state tertiary institutions.
He also said primary school teachers who are under local governments and pensioners of local governments are owed between one to eight months.
In Jigawa State, there is no case of outstanding salaries. Both civil servants and pensioners in the state get their monthly pension on 7 or 8 of every month.
In Nasarawa State, civil servants are owed one month salary, according to the state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdullahi Adeka.
Local government workers are owed shortfalls of 18 months now because they receiving their salaries in percentage.
For pensioners, they are getting their pension as at when due but with some challenges.
In Osun State, the government said it has paid salaries up to September this year. The media aide to the governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, Mr Sola Fasure, said the state government does not owe workers.
He added that pensioners were also paid up till August this year.
In Edo State, the civil servants have been paid salaries up to September 2017.But at the Local Government workers are being owed between five and 13 month salaries.
Some of the state pensioners are owed few months pension arrears but the LG pensioners are being owed between five and 42 months pension arrears.