Paris Club refunds: Anxiety in states as workers await payment
Serving and retired public servants in many states were still awaiting payment of their salary arrears/gratuities yesterday, four days after the release of N243.7billion to them of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund.
Some state governors are understood to be treading carefully to avoid a repeat of their confrontation with retirees and workers over the last disbursement.
They are opening the account books for labour leaders and other representatives to have an input in the spending pattern of the money, having realized that the allocations will not be enough to clear the accumulated salaries, gratuities, pensions and other entitlements.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who got N4.7 billion as the state’s share has invited leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC),Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) to discuss the disbursement of the cash.
Also expected at the meeting are the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).
Ahead of the talks, the governor’s media aide, Lere Olayinka, said the refund of N4.7 billion is N3 billion short of the total wage bill of state civil servants, local government workers and pensioners.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state disagreed. It branded the planned meeting as “a worn-out tactic to fraudulently deny workers their salaries and con Ekiti people for selfish motives.”
“We are aware that after collecting the money, he has started calling another round of meetings brainwashing workers that N4.7b Paris Club refund will not be enough to pay one month salary barely a month after he confessed that the actual Ekiti monthly wage bill is N1.7b and several months after he consistently lied that the state’s wage bill was N2.6b,” APC Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun said.
“Since the Paris Club and bailout issues became major sources of the state finances, Fayose is no longer talking about the state’s monthly statutory allocations of N1.9b and another monthly N1.3b Budget Support Facility he has taken for 11 months but which he diverted to purposes through which he can make personal gains.”
However, Fayose’s Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, described the allegation by the APC as mischief taken too far. He said the APC was blinded by partisan politics and argued that Fayose was the first governor in the country to go public with the state’s share of the fund.
Abia State Finance Commissioner, Obinna Oriaku, admitted that the N5.715 billion received by the state is not enough to clear all the salary arrears as promised by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Oriaku said Abia was expecting between N12 and N13 billion which the governor had ordered to be committed to the clearing of accumulated salaries.
The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Uchenna Obigwe, said the N5.715 billion won’t “go far” and appealed to the federal government to “release more money to Abia State.
“If Abia gets about N20-N25 billion, I think that everybody will be okay in Abia State. All pension and arrears of gratuities would have been a thing of the past. You know that over 15 years gratuities have not been paid in Abia. So, you can see that it is enormous,” he said.
Obigwe said labour leaders in the state will meet the government to “determine how many months of salary that money can cover in paying the workers.”
Civil servants in Ondo however, told The Nation that they were still waiting to be alerted by the banks about payment of their salaries. A government source said payment would commence next week.
Ondo state got a refund of N7,003,648,314,28b. Of the sum, 32.68 per cent will be allocated to the local councils while the state government will retain 67.32 per cent as its own share. Seventy-five per cent of the state’s share will be spent on salaries and pensions and the balance of 25 per cent will be expended on capital projects.
The Cross River State government is yet to release the modalities for paying the workers which was one of the highlights of the agreement it reached with labour leaders to end the recent strike in the state.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, John Ushie, expects government to live up to its promise. He told The Nation that he expected government to use the money for workers’ salaries.
Finance Commissioner, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr., did not specify when workers will be paid. He simply said as soon as possible. The non-utilization of the N11.3 billion first tranche of the refunds by the state government was partly responsible for the last workers’ strike.
In Enugu, government has set up a committee to ensure ‘proper utilization’ of the state’s refund. The committee comprises representatives of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), the NLC and other stakeholders.
Chairman of the state council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Virginia Nwobodo, expressed optimism that workers would get a fair deal.
“In Enugu we have no fears as far as Paris Club refund is concerned,” he said.
The Oyo State government yesterday confirmed receipt of a N7.9 billion refund. Finance Commissioner, Abimbola Adekanmbi, disclosed that a minimum of 60 per cent of the sum would be used to clear salary and pension arrears. He said payment would commence “as soon as possible.”
According to him, the state received the third tranche on Monday July 17. On the application protocol, the commissioner explained that over 60 per cent of the first tranche of N7.2 billion was used for salaries and pensions, 100 per cent of the second tranche of N5 billion was used for the same purpose, a decision he said was above the 50 per cent minimum prescribed by the Federal Government.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Oyo State had on Thursday appealed to Governor Abiola Ajimobi to use 100 per cent of the latest refund for salaries and pension arrears.
The NLC chairman, Waheed Olojede, told The Nation yesterday that workers were expecting 100 per cent of the N7.9 billion refund to the state to be used for workers and pensioners’ unpaid arrears. Civil servants in the state are being owed for the months of April, May and June 2017.
“We have written a letter to the government demanding clearance of all outstanding salaries and pensions. We want the governor to fulfill his reported promise during Ramadan to use 100 per cent of the refund for salaries and pensions,” he said.
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