Sunday, 10 January 2016

Benue, Oyo Struggle To Pay Salaries Despite Bailout

Following the drastic fall in the global oil price, many states in Nigeria have been plunged into wage crisis because Nigeria relies on oil as its major source of revenue.

The revenue is shared among the federal, state and local governments on monthly basis during the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.

Now that the dwindling state of revenue from the oil has refused to stop, states have continued to struggle to pay salaries of workers despite bail-out funds it received from the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Federal Government.

Daily Trust on Sunday takes a look at this issue with a focus on Benue and Oyo states.
In Oyo State, civil servants are currently being owed salary arrears spanning three months; October, November and December 2015.

As at the last count, a paltry number of the work force are said to have started receiving their October pay, while the majority are still praying for their own turn to come soon.

Because of the existing Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the two parties, following the dwindling revenue at the government’s disposal after the sharp drop in the monthly allocations from the Federation Account, the workers cannot complain openly.

The state government received its fair share of the bailout funds from the federal government, it could not settle the backlog of unpaid salaries till date.  The bailout only succeeded in providing a temporary succor as only about two months arrears were offset from the funds.

Nevertheless, the Oyo State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), saluted the sustained perseverance and tolerance of workers occasioned by the economic challenges faced by the state.

Describing the plight of workers as miserable, the union admonished government to show greater commitment to the enhancement of workers’ welfare and approach the nation’s economic reconstruction with increased diligence.

The union’s message, issued during the week and signed by its chairman, Mr. Waheed Olojede, held that the Oyo State government should show doggedness in weathering the storm of the current economic downturn in the interest of all and sundry in Nigeria.

Especially, NLC appreciated the state government for sustaining a harmonious relationship with the state’s workers by abiding by the existing memoranda of understanding (MoU) between the two parties.

The union urged workers to look forward to better times this year, while calling for God’s intervention in the affairs of the state.

In Benue state, the initial problem encountered by the Samuel Ortom-led administration on the payment of workers’ salaries appears to have been solved.
But the local government workers seem to be unlucky because of the verification exercise.

The government on assumption of duty inherited over five months’ unpaid salaries from the previous administration of Dr. Gabriel Suswam, a development which forced the new governor to access a N10 billion loan, out of which he expended N7.5 billion on payment of two months’ salaries to workers.

Ortom had claimed that he inherited a total debt of salaries, pensions and gratuity which stood at N69 billion before the federal government came to its rescue with a bailout of N28 billion out of which many workers had been settled.

Some state workers, who spoke to our correspondent, confirmed that they had received their salaries up to November 2015.  But they said that they were currently expecting the December salaries.

But the story is not the same for local government workers, teachers and pensioners as some of them said they were still being owed between four and six months’ salaries.

However, the state’s Special Adviser on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (BLGCA),  Mr. Titus Zam, explained, at a news conference, in Makurdi that the delay in the payment of some workers’ salaries was a result of the verification exercise carried out by his office to determine the accurate number of staff on payroll.

Zam said that the Bureau discovered about 5, 000 ghost workers in its ongoing verification exercise of all 23 councils in the state, claiming that the ‘people who came in through the backdoor’ were the ones complaining about non-payment of salaries.

“Those complaining now are those people under illegal employment. But a few might be correctly employed . It’s just that they were not captured in the first exercise in 2012 for reasons that they didn’t present themselves for screening based on health matters or other related issues,” Zam said.

According to him, the current administration inherited at least 29, 000 local government workers which has now been trimmed to 24, 000, following the screening that detected the illegal workers.

Zam assured that the recently constituted complaints committee would attend to people with genuine cases who had hitherto been counted as ghost workers.

He confirmed that N13 billion out of N15.5 billion bailout received by the Bureau for local government staff had been disbursed, adding the remaining N2.4 billion was left in a bank account to sort out complaints.

Meanwhile, Governor Ortom has promised to discuss the possibility of getting another bailout with the president to enable him pay pensioners.

Last week, the pensioners received one month salary to cushion the effect of hardship being suffered by their families.

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