President Muhammadu Buhari has requested state governors to settle outstanding salaries and entitlements of their workers with at least 25 per cent of refunds to them from excess deductions for external debt service.
Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, stated this in a statement he issued in Abuja on Thursday.
President Buhari recently approved N552.74 billion to be paid in batches to all the states that are owed.
Thirty three of the affected states are, however, expected to receive 25 per cent of their approved sums in the first instance before this week runs out.
The refunds arose following the claims by them that they had been overcharged in deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002.
The statement quoted President Buhari as saying that “the issue of workers benefits, particularly salary and pensions must not be allowed to continue as a national problem and should be tackled with all the urgency that can be summoned.’’
The statement recalled that when the president assumed office last year, he declared an emergency over unpaid salaries, following the discovery that 27 out of the country’s 36 states had fallen behind in the payments to their workers, in some cases for up to a year.
“Following this, a bailout loan was issued to the states twice with a first batch of about N300 billion given to them in 2015 in the form of soft loans.
“The administration also got the Debt Management Office, DMO to restructure their commercial loans of over N660 billion and extended the life span of the loans.
“Because this did not succeed in pulling many of the states out of distress, the Federal Government this year gave out a further N90 billion to 22 states as yet another bailout loans under very stringent conditions.
“President Buhari has expressed the opinion all the time that the payment of salaries and pensions must be given priority to save both serving and retired workers and their families from distress,’’ the statement maintained.