FG Owes 70,000 Workers Three-Month Salaries
No fewer than 70,000 civil servants in 30 Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government have yet to receive their three months’ salaries.
The Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Mr. Alade Lawal, made this known just as investigations by The PUNCH revealed that states like Osun, Oyo, Benue and Plateau are owing their workers between three and four months’ salaries.
Prominent among the ministries listed by Lawal during an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Monday are Education, Works, Labour and Productivity, Mines and Power.
He said, “About eight MDAs have been owing workers their salaries from October. The number rose to 11 in November and in December, hit 30, including departments and agencies.”
Asked what was responsible for the increase in the number of MDAs indebted to their workers, Lawal said some government officials involved in salary payments were engaged in a game of deceit.
He said, “They are telling us that some of the MDAs are involved in expenditure items different from salaries. They said they were spending on items not related to salaries. But that is not supposed to be the fault of the workers.
“There should be synergy in government whereby they have to work in tandem with the Budget Office and Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. They know what they are doing, they are muddling up the whole exercise and suffering workers unnecessarily.”
He said the government had no tangible reason for not paying the workers, having promised to do so before December 24.
“As of December 22, they promised us that before Wednesday, December 24, these payments would be made. But as I am talking to you now, affected workers have not been paid.
“The Ministry of Works alone has about 26,000 workers. If you add them together, they can’t be less than 70,000 workers that are affected.
“We have been liaising with our people. But you know, this is a festive period and it has affected some of the trade union actions we intended taking. The promise that they made last week which they also told the press that they would pay before Christmas, we thought they were serious about it. But latest developments indicate that they are deceiving us.”
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had in a statement by her Special Adviser on Communication, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, on December 22 promised that the salary arrears of civil servants in MDAs would be paid before Christmas.
The PUNCH gathered on Monday that civil servants in states like Osun, Oyo, Benue, Plateau and Abia had a bleak Christmas as they are being owed between two and four-month salaries.
In Osun State for instance, the Chairman of state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Saka Adesiyan, told one of our correspondents in Osogbo that workers were being owed October, November and December salaries.
The Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr. Boye Abolarin, also confirmed that secondary school teachers were being owed October, November and December salaries.
Abolarin said that workers were subjected to hardship while politicians were feeding fat especially during the Yuletide.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola, however, blamed the development on the dwindling monthly allocations to the state.
Aregbesola, in a statement made available to our correspondent by his media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, said, “Either at the federal or at the state level, where is it that workers are being paid as and when due?
“We thought this situation will not last long. That was why we used our strategic reserve to augment salaries for one year. All our savings were spent on augmentation of salaries.”
In Oyo, the state NLC Chairman, Basiru Alli, said that the November and December salaries of some workers were being awaited.
He said, “I will not say that government in the state is owing us, it is actually delaying payment of workers salaries. As of now, not all workers have been paid November salaries. Some are still waiting for theirs. We do not know when the December salary will come.”
Asked what efforts the NLC was making to ensure all the workers got paid, Alli said that they were told by the government that dwindling allocations from the Federal Government were responsible.
“We hold consultations with the government from time to time and what we were told the last time was that it was not a deliberate attempt to delay the salaries but due to dwindling allocations, the state had to manage its resources.”
But the Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, said that all workers had been paid November salaries.
He said, “The state government is passionate about staff welfare. We are handicapped by the dwindling allocations from the Federal Government. We have a wage bill of N4.9bn but the allocation we have this month was N2.9bn. Last month, the state got N3.1bn from the Federal Government. We are working hard to ensure workers are paid the December salaries.”
The situation in Benue State is not better as the government is also currently owing three months’ salaries.
Before the Yuletide, the government owed workers five months’ salaries but it paid two months’ salaries at different intervals.
A civil servant, who pleaded anonymity told The PUNCH that a day to Christmas, some of his colleagues received alert for one month salary while on Monday, others received alert for their second salary payment.
The civil servant explained that they could not enjoy the Yuletide due to the debts they had incurred.
He said, “What the state government paid to us was used to settle debts .
“Mind you, we from the mainstream civil service are not on any industrial action but the state is currently owing us three month-salaries. I can tell you that the situation is worse for lecturers as they have been on half salaries for five months.”
Investigations by The PUNCH in Abia State indicated that while civil servants in the ministries had received their November and December salaries, their counterparts in the parastatals were being owed some months .
The Chairman, NLC in the state, Sylvanus Eye, said workers in the parastatals had not been paid November and December salaries.
He added that teachers as well as council workers were also being owed arrears of two months.
The state leadership of NLC had about three weeks ago picketed the office of the Accountant General over the salary arrears of the parastatal workers and for allegedly witholding check- off dues of the union.
When contacted, the Accountant General, Gabriel Onyendilefu, said that “the function of payment is dependent on available cash”.
He explained that in the past five months, the state’s allocations from the federation accounts had been dwindling following the constant fall in the price of crude oil.
In Kogi State, local governments’ workers complained that they only received half of their salaries for October and November.
They alleged that they still had some backlogs of salaries that were not fully paid.
A source, who pleaded anonymity, said the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq, had informed them that they would receive alert of their December payment on Tuesday(today).
The NLC Chairman, Plateau State chapter, Mr. Jibrin Bancir, told one of our correspondents that the government was owing many workers four months arrears of salaries and leave grants.
The worst hit are local government workers who have not been paid for about seven months.
Meanwhile, the NLC has directed its state chapters to furnish it with actual state of affairs in connection with the salary arrears.
Noting that it was criminal for any government to owe workers their salaries, the NLC said it would take a firm decision in a couple of days on the issue.
The General Secretary of the congress, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, stated this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Ilorin on Monday.
He said, “We have not taken a firm decision on what to do until we get actual information on which state, what is owed, how many months and the actual amount from all the state councils. We hope that within a couple of days, these reports would have got to us and we would take a firm position on them.
“We would rely on the reports that we get from our state chapters. We are asking our state to advise us on salary payments and if there are debts. Based on that we are going to collate take appropriate actions in relation to getting those salaries paid.
“We condemn any state government that is owing arrears of salaries because the workers must be the first to be paid before they start spending on any other issue.”
Ozo-Eson said it was worrisome that even the Federal Government was owing some categories of its workers for about three months.
He lamented that some state chapters of the NLC did not give the national body a report on time that their members were being owed.
He stated that payment of workers’ salaries should be made a priority.
The NLC secretary said, “For us, it is criminal for any government not to pay workers’ salaries, accumulate them over months while the governors and other political office holders take their own salaries. Such is criminal. We are also aware that even the Federal Government is owing some categories of civil servants their salaries for over three months.
“This is extremely unacceptable. Whatever is the reason for that! In the case of the Federal Government, they try to explain it in terms of problems with migration to IPPIS system.We think whatever is the logic, those salaries and arrears need to be paid immediately.
“On state governments that are owing, unfortunately some of the NLC chapters did not bring it to our notice early enough for us to know that salaries are owed. If you owe a worker salary for a month, you have no moral obligation to expect workers to come and render any service.
“So to hear that there are states and large number of them that are owing workers for two or three months is completely unacceptable.”