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Anxiety Over Governors’ Inability To Pay Salaries

Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State
Posted: Nov 17, 2016 at 6:23 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
Okorocha

Okorocha

AUGUSTINE ADAH – LAGOS — The recent report by BudgIT,  a data gathering and analysis firm that about 33 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries is causing anxiety is some states. According to the report of the firm, only Lagos, Enugu and Rivers were the only states in Nigeria that are able to pay their workers up to date.

Already, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has bemoaned the inability of 33 states of the federation to pay salaries, commending the Enugu, Rivers and Lagos States.

The Conference noted that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi deserves a special commendation for making it among the three, despite its status as a civil servant state, with low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

According to the CNPP in a Statement signed by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, Nigerian states must engage in prudent management of resources and reduce waste to be able to pay workers’ salaries.

“It is only a very prudent Governor that can adequately meet its recurrent needs in today’s Nigeria due to dwindling revenue from the federation account.

“And for Enugu State, with its civil servant state status to be listed among the only three states in the country that can pay workers salaries as at when due deserves a special commendation”, the CNPP said.

he Conference urged Governor Ugwuanyi to ensure the state maintains its rating, even as the government continues it strive to ensure even infrastructural development of the state.

The CNPP noted that “in view of the present economic realities, the 36 states of the federation must look inwards and be more innovative to ensure they meet their recurrent and capital expenditure”

In Kogi State, Comrade Austin Usman Okai, Coordinator, PDP National Youth Frontiers (PDPNYF), has appealed to Governor Yahaya Bello to take workers’ welfare a priority. The group expressed disappointment over the inability of the state governor to pay workers their entitlements despite the bailout received by the state governor. He decried a situation where workers in the state continue to go through suffering with many months of unpaid salaries.

Speaking with State House staff in Abuja few months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented over inability of some states in the country to pay salaries to its workers. He said,   “This is a disgrace to

Nigeria. It is a disgrace that up till now, most of the states cannot pay salaries. What happened to all we have gotten over the years? We look up and down, left, right and centre, what have we saved? There was nothing because we developed a consumption culture that we were not supposed to develop.”

President Buhari attributed the crisis in most states over salaries to inability of the governors to develop saving culture in the country.

In Kwara State, thousands of workers in the 16 Local Government Areas of the state last September embarked on mass protest over unpaid salary arrears. The protest took place at the headquarters of the 16 local governments in the state, in llorin, the state capital.

The protesters, led by leaders of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), took to the streets of Ilorin from the local council offices and moved to other streets condemning the non-payment of their salaries.

Some of them including nursing mothers carried placards with various inscriptions and chanted solidarity songs.

Mr Afolabi Abayomi, the Secretary of NULGE in kwara, justified the decision of the staff to embark on  the protest  that took place in all the 16 local government headquarters of the state simultaneously, saying it was borne out government’s ability to pay workers for seven months.

Abayomi said the unpaid salaries had been creating untold hardships to the workers and their relatives.

In Benue Governor Samuel Ortom who many believed has turned lamentation as the best way to express the poor financial position of the state is almost on collision course with Benue elders.

At a town hall meeting held in the state, some months ago, Abu King Shulluwa, former commissioner in the state advised the governor to stop the lamentation and criticism of Suswam’s administration because it would not help him out of the present situation.

Not few Benue indigenes believe the complaint by the governor over his inability to pay is attributable to the dwindling monthly allocations to the state.

At the town hall meeting earlier mentioned, the elders told the governor that the state has a lot of big markets that yield a lot of revenues to the state which the government can use in addition to the monthly allocation from federation account.

As a result of the governor’s inability to pay salaries, he declared every Friday as work free day to enable workers engage in farming activities as means of escaping from the increasing hunger in the country. Ortom justified his action by claiming that it is unwise to keep the workers in office all days and they cannot be paid at the end of the month.

Similar attitude was declared by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State who declared both Thursday and Friday as work free days to allow workers go to farm since the state government is finding it difficult to pay salaries. But the action of Okorocha attracted condemnation in some quarters. For instance, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, former governor of Niger State berated the action of Okorocha saying civil servants were not employed as farmers.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also condemned the action of the governor. Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC President stated that the policy of forcefully engaging workers in farming is against the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the rules and procedure of engagement.

He said, “First, we have condemned in very strong terms what the Imo State governor tries to do by forcefully sending workers to the farm.

“Don’t forget that the public service rule is very clear about what trade a worker can actually do to join to his normal routine services.”

In Osun State, the civil servants who grounded government activities for the inability of the government to pay arrears of salaries called off the strike after they were paid two out of seven month’s arrears of salaries. Labour unions have been engaging their governors over the plight of the workers occasioned by their inability to pay arrears of salaries.

Many of the labour leaders have expressed displeasure over the failure of the governors to prioritise staff welfare from the bail outs received from the federal government. They criticised the governors for engaging in frivolous expenses and demanded accountability for their respective governors.

There is apprehension in many states that workers may spend this year’s Christmas and New Year without salaries as there is no indication that the governors would offset part of the salary arrears.

As long as workers’ salaries remain unpaid, there would continue to be labour unrest in the country thereby hindering proper execution of government programmes in the country.