By Peter Duru – Makurdi
The Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, has said as a civil service state, Benue’s position as the third highest salary paying state in the country is a drawback and unsustainable given the poor revenue base of the state.
Convener of MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka who stated this Wednesday in Makurdi while reacting to demands by Labour urging the government to pay the outstanding five months salaries owed workers in 2017, said the high wage bill accounts for the inability of the government to meet its monthly obligations to workers and pensioners in the state.
Comrade Bukka said by dedicating close to 80 percent of its revenue accruals to the payment of salaries Benue state government would continue to struggle to maintain steady payment of salaries and pensions as well as embark on infrastructural development.
He said: “It is drawback and it is unacceptable for Benue state, a complete civil service state to rank third on the scale of states paying the highest salaries in the country after Lagos and Rivers; it is an aberration and it is unsustainable.
“We gathered that over 80 percent of the government’s income goes to salaries; the government would obviously be running a deficit budget and by so doing struggle to meet its obligation to workers, pensioners as well as embark on infrastructural development.
“I recall that the then Governor Gabriel Suswam had wanted to slash salaries of workers by 10 percent but it was resisted by Labour. I also recall that during the 2014 Workers’ Day celebration at McCarthy Stadium in Makurdi workers booed the then Governor and walked out on him when he raised the issue of slashing salaries.
“He had also at the time warmed that it would be difficult for successive governments to pay salaries if nothing was done about the wage bill. But nobody cared to listen and nothing was done; today it has become a major challenge.
“This problem has become naughty and I know that Governor Samuel Ortom is capable of cracking it. We know he has been carrying out screenings but it is now time to take the fight to the cancerous group that has held the state hostage.
“We appeal to him to dedicate time and energy to tackle the problem because it is obvious that some people are feeding fat on the resources of the state through padding of salaries. He would do the state a lot of good if he cleans up the system before handing over to the next administration in 2023 and Benue people will remember him for that.”