Abuja – Many state governments have used the third tranche of the Paris Club refund to pay the arrears of workers’ salary and pension, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria has revealed.
In Osun, the state Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Jacob Adekomi, said that based on the “modulated salary’’ structure which the Osun Government adopted, it owed workers 29 months’ salary arrears.
Adekomi said that while workers on Grade Level One to Grade Level Seven had been collecting full salary, workers on Grade Level Eight to Grade Level 12 were collecting 75 per cent of their salary, while those on 13 and above were collecting 75 per cent salary since June 2015
He said that due to the recent strike embarked upon by workers, the state government had agreed to remit the deductions of pension and contributions of workers to the appropriate quarters.
Adekomi said that the state government had also approved the release of N1billion to cover the bond certificates issued to retired civil servants under the contributory pension scheme.
Reacting, the state government said that it received N6.3 billion as the third tranche of the Paris Club refund from the Federal Government.
Mr Bola Oyebamiji, the state Commissioner for Finance, told NAN in Osogbo that N5.1 billion, out of the sum, was used to pay salary and pension arrears of workers.
He said that the second tranche of Paris Club refund which the state government received was N 6.31 billion, adding that out of the sum, N5.9 billion was also used to settle workers salaries and pensions
He recalled that the government received N11.7 billion as the first tranche of the Paris Club refund, while virtually all the money was used for workers’ salary arrears and pensions.
Oyebamiji said that the government also paid the December 2017 salary in full to workers on Jan.10 this year.
The commissioner said that Gov. Rauf Aregbesola was doing everything possible to ensure that all the backlog of salary arrears and pensions were fully defrayed before the end of his administration.
He said that the governor certainly used the three tranches of the Paris Club refund judiciously for the benefit of workers
In Bayelsa, the primary school teachers in the state are being owed eight months’ salary arrears, while secondary school teachers and other workers are owed three months’ salaries.
Gov. Seriake Dickson said that the backlog of salaries occurred during the period of economic recession in the country in 2016.
He said that the workers duly received their salaries in 2017, adding that the December salary was even paid before the Christmas celebration.
Dickson said that N5.6 billion, out of the Paris Club loans refund received by the state in December 2017, was used to settle a month-and-a-half arrears of salaries owed workers.
He explained that the state government received N14.8 billion from the Federal Government and proceeded to settle part of the arrears of salaries owed workers from the fund.
“Out of the N14.8 billion received from the Federal Government, the state government received N13.5 billion, while the local government councils got N1.37 billion.
“The outstanding salaries arrears were a balance of the half-salaries which I paid for seven months during the recession in 2016,’’ he said.
Mr Tari Dounana, State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) told NAN that the November and December 2017 salaries were paid before the Christmas.
“Right now, workers are receiving salaries for one-and-a-half months, out of the four-and-a-half months owed them since 2016.
“The remaining salary yet to be cleared now is for three months; we urge the state government to speed up and pay the salary,’’ he said.
Dounana moaned that at least 10 states in the country still owed teachers several months of salary arrears in spite of the Paris Club refund given to the states by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In Ondo State, Mr Sunday Adeleye, Chairman, Ondo State chapter of Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), confirmed that the current state administration had been able to pay salaries for August 2016, September 2016 and 20 per cent of the October 2016 salary before the Christmas period.
“So, we have outstanding salaries for November and December 2016 and January 2017 but workers are satisfied with the present mode of payments,’’ he said.
However, the Ondo State Government said that it used its share of the Paris Club refund to pay the arrears of three months workers’ salaries and 20 per cent of one month salary to workers.
Mr Segun Ajiboye, Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said the government had paid the outstanding 20 percent salary for September 2016 and 80 percent of October 2016 salary arrears before Christmas in 2017.
He explained that the state received N7 billion as its share of the latest tranche of the Paris Club refund and paid salary arrears for September and October 2016 from the money.
Ajiboye said that the salary arrears owed by the government were 20 per cent for October 2016 and 100 per cent for November and December 2016 as well as January 2017.
Mrs Blessing Akogun, a civil servant in the state, however, expressed displeasure over the outstanding three months salary arrears which the government owed civil servants “despite huge amount received from Paris Club refund in December 2017’’.
She urged the government to pay up the arrears on time, saying this would boost the morale of civil servants.
In Ekiti, the state government now owes its workers between three and four months salaries, out of the initial backlog of six months hitherto owed.
This is because the state government has paid two months’ salaries to all categories of workers as well as the Christmas bonus.
The Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo, said the state got N4.7 billion from the latest tranche of the Paris Club refund.
He said that the current monthly wage bill of the state stood at over N2 billion, adding that the N4.7 billion, which the state government received, could only pay one month salary with a little leftover.
Two civil servants, Mr Kola Onaade and Mrs Debira Adeyemi, confirmed receiving two months’ salaries in December last year in addition to the Christmas bonus , while leave allowance was paid in early January.
Also in Abia, the Chairman of the NLC, Chief Uchenna Obigwe, said that the union had agreed with the government that secondary school teachers would be paid two out of their six to seven months’ salary arrears.
He also said that state and local government pensioners would be paid one or two months pension arrears, out of the outstanding 18 months.
The labour leader, however, said that core civil servants in the state had been paid their December salaries.
Obigwe said that the state government released N3.47 billion, representing 60 per cent of the state’s share of the last tranche of the Paris Club refund, for the payment of pensions and salary arrears.
Obigwe, who is a member of the committee set up by the government to handle the disbursement of the money, said that Abia received N5.7 billion.
He said that the government set aside 40 per cent of the amount for infrastructure development.
He said that although the money was received before Christmas but it could not be disbursed on time due to some challenges occasioned by the flurry of activities during the Yuletide.
He said that the disbursement of the last tranche to other category of workers would begin soon.
Obigwe said that the committee was still scrutinising the payroll of the Abia Polytechinic, Aba, with a view to ascertaining its exact wage bill.
He said that government would release the subvention for one or two months to the institution to enable it to pay staff salary and reduce the salary arrears from about eight to six months.
In Kwara, some of the workers told NAN on condition of anonymity that although the December salary was paid but not without a cut.
One of the workers said that there had never been a time when the government paid full salary.
“Yes, government paid before Christmas, but not full salary; some got between 72 and 85 percent, while some lucky ones like me got 98 percent.
“They’ve been paying us percentages of our salaries for over a year now, we don’t know what will become of the unpaid percentages; you can’t question anybody, it is that bad.
“Primary school teachers, under SUBEB, are being owed about five months salaries, staff of colleges of education in the state are being owed, the water corporation staff and even lecturers and staff of Kwara State University are not spared,’’ he said.
Mr Hutonu Rafiu, the Secretary of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Kwara, said that the local government workers in the state were paid various percentages of their salaries for December, 2017.
In a swift reaction, Dr Muyideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Communications, to Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed, maintained that no civil servant was being owed salary in the state.
Akorede told NAN that all the workers in the core ministries were paid their December salaries before Christmas.
He said that Kwara received N5.1 billion as its share of the Paris Club refund, adding that N2 billion was used to pay local government workers and teachers under SUBEB.
Akorede, however, said that the latest refund was captured in the 2018 budget, adding that part of the money had been used for payment of salaries and other outstanding allowances to some tertiary institutions in the state.
In Oyo State, Mr Waheed Olojede, the Oyo State Chairman of the NLC, told NAN that the state government received N7.9 billion from the third tranche of Paris Club refund.
Olojede said that the government used the sum to pay two months’ salary arrears for September and October to workers in the mainstream of the public service.
He, nonetheless, said that workers in the mainstream of the public service, including secondary school teachers, were still owed salaries for November and December 2017.
The labour leader, however, said that teachers in primary schools were owed only December salary.
Olojede said that the situation at the local government tier was somewhat different, as workers were owed up to six to seven months’ salaries in some council, while others were owed lesser amounts.
He said that labour had reached an agreement with the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters to use part of the Paris Club refund to pay workers and pensioners.
Olojede also affirmed that workers in the state had never received salaries in percentages.
Besides, Mr Abimbola Adekanmbi, the Commissioner for Finance and Budget, said the state government received N7.9 billion from the Paris Club refund and would spend 60 percent of the sum on workers’ salaries and pensions
He pledged that the state government would not renege on its decision to use100 percent of its federal allocations to improve the welfare of its workers.
Adekanmbi stated that the prudent allocation of resources had helped the state government reduce the salary arrears of the workers from seven months to just one month.
“We owe workers for the month of December that has just finished. The state government has signed the November salary, which is presently at the Accountant-General’s Office for payment,’’ he said.
In Ogun, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Oshinowo, said that the state did not owe workers in spite of the fact that it had yet to collect its share of the third tranche of the Paris Club refund from the Federal Government.
The commissioner told NAN in Abeokuta that the state had continued to prioritise the payment of its workers’ salaries.
He said that the government paid the December 2017 salary in full with bonus before Christmas, in line with President Buhari’s directive.
Osinowo, who conceded that the state government had not paid the workers the arrears of their cooperative deductions, said that the arrears would be defrayed as soon as funds were available.
He recalled that the state government used N4.5 billion, out of the N5.7 billion of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund it received, to clear six months arrears of the unremitted cooperative deductions of workers.
The commissioner noted that the figure represented 79 per cent of the received funds, as against 50 per cent which President Buhari directed that states should commit to the payment of workers’ salaries
Mr Steve Modupe, the Treasurer of the NLC in Ogun, commended the state government for paying the December 2017 salary promptly.
Modupe, who gave the commendation in an interview with NAN, however, noted that the state owed 17 months arrears of cooperative deductions as well as two months arrears of union deductions.
He noted that a large percentage of the workers’ salaries had gone into cooperative savings, which the state government had failed to remit to the appropriate quarters
He explained that the situation had continued to result in untold hardship for the affected workers
In Bauchi State, Ali M. Ali, the Special Adviser to Gov. Mohammed Abubakar on Communications and Strategy, said the state government was not owing workers’ salaries.
He said that in spite of the fact that the Abubakar-administration inherited a backlog of salary arrears from the immediate-past administration, it was able to defray the arrears and ensure the payment of workers’ salaries as and when due.
“We do not toy with the issue of payment of salaries, except arrears of gratuity we inherited from the previous regime and even on that one, we are screening both local and state pensioners, with the intention of reducing the backlog,’’ Ali said.
In Borno, Mr Usman Moruma, the Vice-Chairman of NLC, said that the state government owed more than N20 billion arrears of annual increments, leave grants and pensions.
Moruma decried the blunt refusal of the government to disclose the amount which the state received from the third tranche of the Paris Club refund.
“Workers in the state receive their salaries as when due but some were not paid due to the ongoing biometric verification.
“It is good to ensure effective utilisation of the funds to settle outstanding arrears of leave grant, pensions and gratuity, which have been pending since 2016,” he said.
Alhaji Muhammad Kauje, the state Commissioner of Finance, declined to comment on the amount disbursed so far to the state under the three tranches of Paris Club refund, saying that he would need to be briefed by those handling the funds.
In Yobe, the state Head of Service, Saleh Abubakar, said that civil servants in the state were paid their salaries as when due.
“The Yobe government has remained committed to payment of salary and gratuity even without getting bailout funds from the Federal Government,” he said.
Abubakar said that government had also been consistent in payment of gratuity to retired civil servants.
“By the end of 2017, government had settled gratuities of civil servants who retired in 2016, just as the governor has recently approved N1.1 billion for payment of gratuities of those who retired from January to June 2017,” he said.
Also in Adamawa, Mr Louis Mandama, the Head of Service, said that the state government had been up-to-date with regard to the payment of salaries of its workers.
Mandama said that all the outstanding entitlements of state civil servants had been cleared before Christmas.
He also said that part of arrears owed local government workers in the state, which were inherited from past administration, had been cleared.
The NLC Chairman in Adamawa, Mr Dauda Maina corroborated Mandama’s position, saying that the state government workers were not owed salaries.
Maina lauded the Federal Government for release of the Paris Club refund, saying that it had gone a long way in assisting states to fulfil their obligations on the payment of workers’ salaries.
Also speaking, Mr Hamman-Julde Gatugel, the state NULGE Chairman, lauded the Federal Government for directing the state governments to utilise the Paris Club refund to paying the salary arrears of their workers.
Gatugel, however, said that the council workers in the state were still owed two months’ salary arrears.
The Adamawa Commissioner of Finance, Mahmood Sali, who did not disclose the amount which the state received from the Paris Club refund, however, stressed that the money was judiciously used.
Similarly, in Gombe State, Alhaji Adamu Abubakar, the Head of Civil Service, said that the workers’ salaries were always paid as and when due.
Also speaking, the state NLC Chairman, Malam Haruna Kamara, confirmed the prompt payment of the entitlements of the civil servants by the state government.
However, workers in Edo said that they received their monthly salaries as and when due, adding that they were not owed salaries by the state government.
Mr Osato Osarodion, an employee of the state Ministry of Information, said that the Gov. Godwin Obaseki’s administration usually paid workers’ salaries before the 26th day of every month.
He said that the state government had never paid half-salaries to workers, adding that the Obaseki-administration should be commended for taking the welfare of its workforce seriously.
Similarly, Mrs Sharon Efosa, a teacher in Benin, commended the state government for paying the workers’ salaries on time.
Efosa said that if salaries were paid promptly, workers would be able to plan better on how to use their earnings.
All the same, governors of Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Katsina states claimed that they were not owing workers’ salaries in their states.
The governors, in separate responses to inquiries made by NAN, said that they had been faithful and prompt as regards salary payment.
In Katsina State, Abdu Labaran, spokesman to Gov. Aminu Masari, said: “I assure you that the Katsina State Government is not owing workers salaries; we pay staff salaries as and when due.’’
A civil servant, Abdullahi Yusuf, said that the civil servants had all through the state administrations been receiving their salaries regularly.
Similarly, the Kano State Government said that it did not owe workers as it had paid December 2017 salary to all its workers even before Christmas, as directed by President Buhari.
Alhaji Shu’aibu Danlami, the Director, Special Assignment, Kano State Ministry of Finance, however, noted the salaries were not usually paid simultaneously due to the computerisation of the payment system, which the government introduced.
However, the state NLC Chairman, Kabiru Minjibir, said that some workers were still experiencing some irregularities in the payment of their salaries.
He, therefore, urged the state government to investigate the recent cases of irregularities in the payment of workers’ salaries in the state.
Minjibir said: “For some time now, there have been cases of overpayment, under payments and illegal deduction of salaries, which have caused untold hardship to the affected workers.’’
He expressed the hope that the state government would investigate and unravel those responsible for the misdemeanour.
He said the union, on its own, had started investigation with a view to identifying those responsible for the illegal acts before reporting them to the government for necessary action.
The NLC chairman, nonetheless, bemoaned the perceptible apathy of the state government to pension payments and called for immediate action to remedy the situation.
In Kaduna State, the Commissioner for Finance, Malam Suleiman Kwari, also said the government did not owe workers’ salary or pension arrears.
“The government has verified workers and pensioners, and it has been scrupulous in abiding by its obligations to its workers.’’
He said that between June 2015 and October 2017, the state government paid N4.11 billion as gratuities and death benefits to 1,654 workers who retired under the old pension scheme.
However, Adamu Ango, the Assistant Secretary-General of the state chapter of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), insisted that the state government still owed the salaries of over 15,000 primary school teachers, while others were underpaid.
Besides, Ango said that the state had not paid the 2015 Leave and Transport Grants of 3,338 primary school teachers, as well as 2016 and 2017 grants of all public school teachers.
In Kebbi, the state government said that all workers had been receiving their salaries regularly without any delay since the inception of Gov. Atiku Bagudu ‘s administration in 2015 to date.
The Commissioner of Budget and Economic Development, Alhaji Zilani Muhammad, said that welfare of the workers had always been addressed with utmost priority, hence the government’s resolve to pay workers’ salaries in due time.
He said that apart from the settlement of workers’ entitlements, the present administration had so far released N7.5 billion for the payment of gratuities and pension arrears to pensioners within two years.
Alhaji Usman Dan -Gwari, the state Chairman of Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), told NAN in Birnin Kebbi that the government released N2.5 billion in January this year for the payment of pensions.
A cross-section of workers in the state said that the Bagudu-administration deserved a lot of commendation for its prompt payment of salaries and entitlements to workers and retired public servants.
Also, the Sokoto State NLC Chairman, Malam Aminu Ahmad, said that no worker in the state and local government service had outstanding salary arrears across the state.
Ahmad told NAN that the state government was prompt in the payment of salaries, pensions and other legitimate entitlements of its workers.
“To my knowledge no worker is owed any salary arrears, and pension was cleared up to 2016 by the present administration.
According to him, there has been no deduction or half-payment of salaries in the state even before the Paris Club refund.
The Sokoto State Chairman of the NUP, Alhaji Umaru Abubakar, said that in spite of the current financial crisis, the state government had been able to fulfil its obligations to its retired workers.
He said that the government expended over N4 billion on the payment of the backlog of inherited gratuities and pensions to the state and local government retirees.(NAN)