Tension as 27 state governors embezzle N300billion bail out funds
Tension is mounting in states that have collected bailout package of 300 billion Naira approved for them by President Muhammadu Buhari as outstanding salaries remain unpaid.
A statement from the presidency confirms that the bailout is for payment of civil servant's salaries while the national labour union, NLC, is threatening to shut down states that refuse to pay, just as the pre-eminent south west group, Afenifere wars that state governors must not be allowed to embezzle the funds.
A report from a Nigerian newspapers reported today that a total of 27 states owing several months of workers salaries applied for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) packaged special soft loan of between N250billion and N300billion. Out of the states that have collected the money, only Kwara has announced using it to settle workers salary arrears.
Tribune stated that the mounting tension is against the background of reports that some governors are diverting the bailout money for other purposes outside salary payment which was the stated reason for which the money was made available to the affected states.
The national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress on Friday told Saturday Tribune that workers had been directed to shut down any state that refuses to settle all outstanding salaries after collecting the bailout funds.
Also, the presidency declared on Friday that settlement of unpaid salaries of state workers was the sole reason the president arranged the soft loans for the states.
Speaking with Saturday Tribune on phone, Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande said “the president made the intervention with the motive and purpose of alleviating the suffering of state workers who were being owed months of unpaid salaries. We don’t want to enter into any argument with any governor on that money ( but) as far as the president is concerned, payment of outstanding salaries is the purpose for which the money is meant.”
The Vice President’s office oversees the administration of the intervention fund.
The CBN had, in separate letters, informed each of the states that have received the bailout money that the funds were released “ under the salaries bailout credit facility” while it added that the loan was to be repaid over a period of 240 months at 9 percent interest rate. The letter, a copy of which was sighted by Saturday Tribune, was signed by Dr. Mudashiru A. Olaitan, acting director of the apex bank’s Development Finance Department.
A breakdown of the loans is as follows: Abia- N14.152b; Adamawa- N2.378b; Bauchi- N8.60b; Bayelsa – N1.285b; Benue – N28.013b; Borno – N7.680b; Cross River – N7.856b; Delta – N10.036b; Ebonyi – N4.063b; Edo – N3.167b; Ekiti – N9.604b; Enugu – 4.207b; Gombe – N16.459b; Imo – N26.806b; Katsina – N3.304b; Kebbi – N0.690b; Kogi – N50.842b; Kwara – N4.320b; Nasarawa – N8.317b; Niger – N4.306b; Ogun – N20.00b; Ondo – N14.686b; Osun – N34.988b; Oyo – N26.606b; Plateau – N5.357b; Sokoto – N10.093b and Zamfara – N10.020b.
Abia will pay back = N102,424,249,925.62
Osun = N 256,060,624,814.05
Kogi = N365,800,892,591.50
Imo = N190,216,464,147.58
Bayelsa =N 7,316,017,851.83
The CBN, in announcing that it had approved that banks should lend money to requesting states to pay workers’ salary arrears explained that specific figures were attached to the facilities to be disbursed to the states because “every state is to come up with its specific needs in order to access the facility from the commercial banks.”
The National Executive Council (NEC) had at its June 29, 2015 meeting directed the CBN, “in collaboration with other stakeholders, to appraise and consider ways of liquidating the outstanding staff salaries owed by states and local governments.”
Meanwhile the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned state governors not to divert the bailout, saying that the organised labour is now set to take the battle to the doorstep of any state governor who fails to pay his workers after collecting the bailout funds.
To this end, the congress on Friday directed its state councils and workers to completely close down any state that fails to pay the backlog of salaries owed them after the release of the bailout by embarking on stikes and organising protest rallies to demand for accountability and good governance.
Already, the congress said it has directed and put all its state councils on notice that any state government that refuses to pay the salary, or any state that contemplates reducing salary or diverts the bailout from the Federal Government to other use besides paying the salary arrears, should be closed down.
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Tribune in Abuja on Friday, President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, warned state governors who are contemplating not paying the money or diverting it to other use, that the congress would take the battle to their doorstep.
He added that the National Delegates and the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NLC had since resolved that after the issue of corruption had been dealt it by the congress, the next issue on the agenda to be confronted is the failure of states to pay salaries.
Comrade Wabba described as false the issue being raised by some of the governors that the bailout could be used for other purpose order than the payment of salary arrears, warning that the bailout is basically for the payment of salary arrears and should not be diverted for any other purpose.
“I don’t want to believe that any right thinking governor will raise this issue because a lot of them have confessed to the fact that the primary purpose of the bailout is for them to pay salaries.
“Certainly, I am telling you that we are sending a warning signal and we have said clearly that anywhere salaries are not being paid after this bailout is released, they should not continue to offer service. First, they should withdraw service and also protest and demand for accountability and good governance,” he said.
On the claim of some governors that the bailout was a loan to be used at the discretion of the states, Comrade Wabba said: “At the Council of State meeting where the decision was taken, Mr. President said emphatically that the bailout would be given to states to enable them to pay liability of salaries. So, what we are aware and which some state governors have also comfirmed is to the effect that, that money is meant first to pay the arrears of salaries.
“I am happy to appreciate and recognise some governors who, even when they collected the money engaged our state councils and worked out processes of paying. One of them is Bauchi State, and then Adamawa State; they engaged our state councils in formal meetings where decision was taken on how to disburse the salaries and they also disclosed fully what they have collected.
“To me it is far from the truth; and specifically if we have such states, we will also visit the states and organise a rally to debunk what they have said and we are ready to do that.”
He added: “Already, we have put our states on notice, including Osun, where we are aware the governor has promised now to pay all the five months. That is our next point of call, we have told our people anywhere they don’t pay, or anywhere they contemplate reducing workers salaries, they should close down the place immediately.
“As I am talking to you presently Ebonyi is already on strike, Imo has already addressed the issue because the governor saw how they protested and we told them whatever they need to do, they need to do that, including pensioners. We have told pensioners that we are going to meet them. Some of them are also ready to protest to whatever length to ensure that this money is not carted away.”
Comrade Wabba stated that many of the governors were very corrupt, hence their claim that because the money was a loan they would not use it to pay salaries, stating that their move to divert it to other use was to give them another opportunity to corruptly enrich their pocket with the money.
He said: “It is also part of corruption we are talking about. In most of the states, why salaries are not being paid is not because of the shortage of funds, it is about their priority. Most of the governors that have paid are also giving us those information, so it is not true.
“They have a responsibility to pay salary, the workers have already earned this salary by our national laws. It is forbidden for a worker to work in excess of 30 days without being paid, it is a law. It is expected that after the end of every 30 days a worker is entitled to his wages, so it is a debt.
“So if workers have worked and government has seen reason to give a bailout, I don’t think people should misplace the priority as to why that decision was taken because it was very clear. Even the CBN has made it very clear. So, if we have specific cases where it is still an issue, it is part of the decision we have taken that after this national rally on corruption, we will confront those governors and deal with the issue.”
Osun workers reject payment of half salary for March, insist bailout is for salary
Workers under the aegis of Osun State Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JPSNC), comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), among others on Friday in Osogbo rejected the plan by Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration to pay them half salary for March 2015 out of about eight months salaries owed civil servants in the state.
Reacting to the statement made by the state Head of Service (HoS), Mr Sunday Owoeye that government had directed that half of March salary be paid to civil servants, the labour unions said there was no basis for such development, after the government had sought and got about N35billion bailout funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay all outstanding salaries.
In a joint letter addressed to the governor, copies of which were also forwarded to the Speaker, House of Assembly, the SSG, Accountant General, Director, Department of State Security (DSS) among others, the labour unions also warned that the bailout funds received by the state be used to pay their eight months outstanding salaries.
The letter reads in part, “it was on record that bailout funds of N34.988 billion was released to this state on Thursday 3rd of September, 2015, according to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele and instead of government fulfilling her own side of the deal by carrying out section 3(f) of MoU signed with the labour on the 13th and 29th July respectively, reverse was the case”.
“The information released through the Head of Service on the payment of outstanding salaries on Wednesday was completely opposite the spirit of existing MoU which had generated palpable tension among the workers and all the entire people living in Osun State.
“That government should effect immediate implementation of the MoU signed on Monday 13th July, 2015. That labour movements in the state reject in its entirety the payment of half salary as announced by the Head of Service on Wednesday, 9th September, 2015 and should not be paid into worker’s individual account”.
It continued, “that all the arrears of salaries and pensions should be paid from the already released bailout funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria which it is meant for. That Mr Governor should direct the Accountant General of the state and Accountant of the Ministry of Local Government not to release half salary into any worker’s individual account”.
Governors must not be allowed to embezzle bailouts —Afenifere
In its own reaction, Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere says it is miffed that “some irresponsible governors have refused to pay workers their salaries from the perpetual indebtedness called bailout recently arranged by the Federal Government.”
According to a press release signed by Yinka Odumakin, national publicity secretary of the body and made available to Saturday Tribune, “the callous disposition of such governors has confirmed our fears that the whole idea of the bailout without ascertaining what happened to the monies meant to pay workers salaries in the first place is an encouragement for financial recklessness and waywardness of the governors which led to the quagmire.”
“The governors who are now holding to the funds meant for workers embezzled their past, are denying them their present and putting their children and grandchildren into indebtedness.
“Rapacious governors concerned must not be allowed to get away with this heinous crime against the workers. It will make a joke of the anti-corruption war if they are allowed to do with the bailout what they did with their states allocations meant to pay the salaries now turned into humongous debts.
“The NLC which is marching around against corruption now has specifics on its hand to mobilise against the governors who want to sentence them to perpetual penury,” Afenifere said.
Benue PDP warns Gov Ortom not to use workers’ salaries to siphon state funds
THE People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State on Friday called on Governor Samuel Ortom to stop using the salary arrears of workers in the state to defraud the state.
The publicity secretary of PDP in the state, Honourable Godwin Ayihe at a press briefing said that the salary arrears owed workers in both local governments and the state civil service were a little above N19billion as against the N28billion being claimed by the governor.
Governor Ortom had at a media parley early in the week explained that the Federal Government’s bailout of N28billion to the state was to settle the salary arrears of workers both at the state and local government levels.