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May 29: Between Workers’ Salaries And The Outgoing Governments



President Goodluck Jonathan

As the outgoing state governors and President Goodluck Jonathan prepare to hand over to their successors on May 29, one issue that has continued to generate concern is the backlog of salaries and other entitlements being owed government workers across the country.

The situation has become so bad to the extent that during the recent Workers’ Day celebration, most workers across the states shunned the event in protest of the non-payment of their salaries and others.

Investigation reveals that across the country, some state governments owe workers between three to four months’ salaries, others are owe up to six months, while a few are not owing at all.

Some have resorted to paying their workers half salary due to what the government described as lack of fund and dwindling government revenue. But to workers, the government’s excuses are not tenable considering that since 1999 governance, especially at the state level has been characterised by wastages, profligacy, and kleptomania. It was revealed that some state governments have been in the habit of borrowing money from financial institutions to survive.

Findings revealed that the debt burden of some states would make it difficult for the incoming governments to achieve anything. Some of the state governors are tinkering with idea of salary reduction, which the workers have threatened to resist.

It would be recalled that the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi had sometimes last year raised the alarm that the country was broke, and that some state governments could not pay salaries of workers.

Amaechi had accused the Federal Government of being economical with the truth by denying that the nation was not broke when there were no allocations to the states.

Amaechi said, “Stealing is increasing by the day, but President Jonathan said there is no corruption in the country. Corruption in Nigeria is uncontrollable. People are stealing our money every day and the police are helpless because they are part of the system.”

In his reaction, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dismissed Ameachi’s allegation saying that the country is not broke, despite the cash crunch being experienced.

She said that with the financial assets the President Goodluck Jonathan administration had been able to build over the years, the nation’s cash flow would improve over time.

Okonjo-Iweala said, “Under this administration, we began the work of truly diversifying the economy and the proof of that is that much of the growth in this past few years that has come to the country has come not from the oil sector but actually from non-oil sectors like agriculture, telecommunications, manufacturing and the creative industries.

“The fact that oil prices fell by 50 per cent makes it very difficult in terms of cash flow, but Nigeria is asset rich and that is why when people say the country is broke, I say no. In economic terms, with the kind of assets we have, we should be able to realise some of them to improve our cash flow but it is true that this will be a very difficult year because of the cash crunch.

But few weeks to the handover date, Okonjo-Iweala had disclosed that the government borrowed N473 billion to pay workers’ salaries and fund 2015 budget in the face of dwindling oil revenue.

Okonjo-Iweala’s disclosure came days after Imo State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum Chief Rochas Okorocha had painted a picture of desperation in several states that have not been able to pay workers’ salaries.

Okorocha, who led his colleagues to meet with the president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in Abuja, said that the terrible state of the economy had put the payment of April salaries of workers in jeopardy.

“One of the issues that became of concern to all of us is the state of the Nigerian economy which is really in a bad shape. We have come to notify the incoming president of the challenges ahead of him.

“As it stands today, most states of the federation have not been able to pay salaries, and even the federal government has not paid April salaries and that is very worrisome, by May and June, the unpaid salaries will be in cumulative of three months,” he said.

On behalf of the state governors, Okorocha pleaded with the incoming administration to consider implementing measures that could bailout federal and state governments from the critical situation to at least enable them meet their salary obligations to workers.

“We wonder with the huge expectation from Nigerians and people who have voted us into power, we are hoping that the president-elect will do all the things that are humanly possible to bring about a bailout not only for the states but the federal government, at least for people to get their salaries and turn around the economy.”

It is certain that in the days ahead, the issue of non-payment of workers’ salaries by governments at all levels will remain a bone of contention.

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