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Richer At The Poor’s Expense

KATSINA State is not among the country’s rich States because instead of exploring its vast agricultural resources, it depends on monthly centrally allocated resources to run its affairs, like other States.

The burdens are weighty, 34 local government councils – four times Bayelsa’s eight –a work force of 58,390, and accumulated salary arrears of N11 billion, not counting current obligations.

Just three months ago, the government said it lacked resources to clear the arrears. A committee Governor Ibrahim Shema set up came up with details of the State’s dire straits. Dr. Samaila Iro who headed the committee said the monthly subventions most of the 34 councils get cannot pay their salary bills.

Among those owed salaries are junior workers, whose pay is barely enough to sustain them. The situation is so bad the state government is negotiating workers’ understanding.

One of the foremost lamenters of the State’s dreary finances is its Finance Commissioner Alhaji Lawal Jari. Last Friday, Jari announced 100 per cent salary increase for chief executives of government’s agencies and boards. The news was important enough for him to address a press conference.

Did Katsina State have a windfall to necessitate the expenditure? There was no windfall. Where is it getting the money to lavish on the top echelon of government service that always looks after itself? Why the sudden largesse when it is still unable to pay the arrears?

Jari said government would in addition to the largesse pay 35 per cent of the chief executives’ annual salaries as furniture allowance. The increment is effective January 2012.

Beneficiaries of the increment are five Managing Directors, nine General Managers and 14 Executive Directors, in the state service. These 28 people are the most unlikely to need any cushioning from the harsh economy. They are mainly political appointees.

Jari urged them “to intensify effort toward effective service delivery and delivery of dividends of democracy to the citizenry.” What dividends of democracy would the people get from government that cannot pay workers? What dividends would come to the people of Katsina from government that thinks of itself first and last? Where would government get resources to execute basic projects that would benefit the people?

The government was silent on the fate of its other 58,362 workers who are owed arrears of the new minimum wage. They are teachers, and civil servants in parastatals, boards, the state and local government service.

How would Katsina State justify the waste in the midst of a floundering economy that should inform more prudent use of its allocation? Governor Shema should remember he swore to serve the people not starve them to conserve resources for his political acolytes.


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