Despite the various bailouts released by the federal government to state government as well as Paris club refund to the state governments to offset backlog of workers’ salaries and pension arrears, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), has said about 19 states of the federation are still owing workers salaries.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, Secretary General of ASCSN Comrade Alade Lawal highlighted the predicaments of workers following the inability of a number of states to pay salaries, despite receiving bailouts from the federal government.
He said, “If we look at the States owing salary in South West, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo are among them that are owing and others. These states I mentioned have not paid anything this year. Then, in the East the same thing, even in the South East. The States that are indebted at the last count is about 19, so we decided to take them one after the other. We have had series of strike action in some of the States. We are presently engaging them on the release of Paris club fund and we are hopeful that in the next few days, we should be able to sought it out and States that refused to pay their debts, then we know that there is something wrong with the governors and we will know how to deal with them.”
On the plan the workers have in case the governors fail to pay up, he said, it will no longer be business as usual, warning that the workers cannot guarantee industrial peace in those states.
He said, “I must be frank with you, it is not going to be business as usual because it appears that some of them are very wicked and deliberately impoverished Nigerian workers. You can imagine State like Osun, up till last year, the senior workers have always been paid half salary, so that governors will say he is paying salary which is not. The state which claims it is paying is Ogun and in the last 8 months, there have been deduction in the workers’ salary, so as far as we are concerned we will say such state is still owing. Like I said, it is not going to be business as usual, it is just for us to mobilise our people and see how they will spend the fund that Federal Government made available to them. When we get to that bridge, we shall cross it.
“We have issued a kind of threat to Federal government to settle arrears and pension of workers and I am very hopeful that we will start series of trade union action this week. We may have road show in terms of protest to the National Assembly. There are ways to go about trade union action, so we are starting this week. We received letter from the then acting President, assuring us that they are looking into our matter but this will not stop what we intend doing. Federal government talked about payment of salaries and went through virement in the National Assembly and it was approved and Mr. President assented to it. The promotion arrears was dumped somewhere, this show government is not interested in the welfare of workers, so we should be able to cry out because it is our entitlement, somebody promoted from 9 to 10, 12 to 13 and up till now he still receiving level 8 salary and all his arrears are being withheld. This is unfair and as the last count the indebtedness was N219 million and nobody is doing anything about it. We are not saying they should pay the money at once but should commence the payment but the way they are going about it is as if only those who can make noise or do something that government would listen to.
On what he thinks is responsible for government owing salary, Comrade Lawal said, “Most of this complains by the interest groups did not get to Mr. President. I doubt because we know President Buhari as somebody that believe in due process. People that surround him are not helping matter. We set an agenda for Buhari before he assume office and he should have set up a team that will take complains to Mr. President that is the only way he can feel the pulse of the masses. People working with him are just doing what they like.
“The extension of former Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Jamila Shu’ara was done orally; it was like somebody saying Mr. President said before those who issued letter knew that nothing like that happened. We later discovered that it was not Mr. President that gave the order. Along the line certain decisions have been taking in the name of Mr. President. We voted for Mr. President not these people but unfortunately the way we are looking at it the system has been hijacked and in this kind of scenario what will you and that is why we exercise constrain if not we would have shut down the system long ago but we are stakeholders that we will not want to drag the hands of time backward. Whatever we do now, we are going to be justified in the eye of the public.”
It would be recalled that in May 2015 when President Buhari took over office, 27 out of the 36 states had fallen behind in the payments to their workers, in some cases for up to a year.
Immediately after assuming office, Buhari ordered the release of about N300 billion as bailout to enable the state governors settle outstanding salary and pension arrears.
The first batch of the bailout fund amounting to about N300 billion was released in July, 2015.
The President also got the Debt Management Office (DMO) to restructure the states’ commercial loans of over N660 billion and extended the life span of the loans. When that did not succeed in pulling many of the states out of distress, the Federal Government again gave out another N90 billion to 22 states as bailout under very stringent conditions.
In December of 2016, twenty-five per cent of the sum of N552.74 billion (N138.185 billion), of the Paris Fund release being owed the states was released to all 33 states entitled to the refund.