Cover Stories, Politics, Seat of Power

 ‘Life is miserable, punishing!’ –Workers across 14 states lament non-payment of  salaries

Despite the N804.7 billion economic bail out approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015, for the states that could not afford to pay their workers’ salaries to enable them do so in order to save the agonized workers and put them back on their feet financially, some states are yet to regain their balance which has prevented them from fulfilling their statutory responsibility.

ENCOMIUM Weekly’s investigations revealed that about 14 states are still owing their workers even to the tune of eight months. Such states include Nasarawa, Yobe, Benue, Osun, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, Oyo, Ondo, Adamawa, Imo, Enugu, Cross River and few others.

However, some of these states have started adopting measures to settle their workers to avoid any form of civil unrest capable of destabilizing those states further.

The state of Osun, ENCOMIUM Weekly was informed, has adopted paying the workers partly since July 2015, when the bailout was released. The government, we were told, paid its workers half salaries since July to December 2015, and it has not paid them a kobo for January.

This, we learnt, has resulted in some of the workers groaning. Not only that, they’re said to be warming up for another show down with the governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola if the issue is not addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Yes, Osun State commenced payment of workers’ outstanding salaries immediately the Federal Government released the bailout. But not all the workers received full salaries up till now. I learnt it’s only level 1 to 7 civil servants in the state that collected their full salaries from July to December 2015, and they have not been paid for January. Workers from level 8 and above only collected half salaries per month.

“Now, if you calculate it, majority of workers in Osun are being owed four months salaries excluding February. By February ending, it will be five months. And I learnt the government is broke again. It can’t afford to pay any salary now.”

Ffew of the state civil servants ENCOMIUM Weekly contacted confirmed the tale,. They, however, appealed to the government to see to their plight before things get out of control again.

One of the workers, Mr. Taiwo, a level 12 officer said, “It has not been easy coping without the salary. It’s like it’s low. We only collected half salaries since July to December 2015, and we have not been paid at all this year. I live on borrowing and my wife’s petty trade. Governor Aregbesola should please pity us and do something urgent before things get out of control again.”

Another worker, Mr. Salami also expressed bitterness about the ugly situation, “We’re really suffering in Osun. Even if the salary is paid up to date, how much is the take home, let alone not seeing anything at all. We’re promised full salaries by the governor, only to discover that the alert we’re getting then was half salary since July to December last year. And nobody has been paid for January. Now, February will soon end to make it five months arrears. The only grace I have is my farm. If not, we would have been finding it difficult to eat three squares meal daily. Only the workers between level 1 and 7 are enjoying because they received their full salaries till December.”

In Kwara, the main stream civil servants are not owed, only the teachers and local government workers are being owed three months’ salaries. And ENCOMIUM Weekly learnt they’re also not finding it easy coping without being aid for the period.

One of the aggrieved workers from the state, Fathai Ambali lamented the non-payment of salaries by the state government. He therefore called on Governor Abdulfitah Ahmed to see to the situation before the salaries accumulate beyond that.

“We’re not finding it funny in Kwara State. For four months, nobody has been paid apart from those in the ministries. I am tired of borrowing. Even people have lost confidence in the governor, honestly. He should just pay the whole of three months now before the whole thing keeps accumulating.

“By February ending now, it will be four months. We need the money, that’s why we’re working.”

Another teacher, Yekeen Olalekan also expressed bitterness about the unpaid salaries, “We’re not happy with the way we’re being treated by the governor. I think he should realize we’re also important and we should get our salaries as at when due. Imagine, I have to turn my car to a cab for me to keep my family. We understand the fact that Kwara is dry, but that notwithstanding government should consider workers first before any other thing.”

The situation in Kogi State is a little worse as workers of all categories are reportedly owed five months salaries by the previous administration of former Governor Idris Wada. The civil servants in the state, ENCOMIUM Weekly learnt, just called off their strike to usher in the new government of Yahaya Bello. The new administration, we were told, has promised to pay only one month salary for now out of the outstanding five months’ salaries owed the workers.

Few of the workers who spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly from the state poured out their anger on the ugly development, appealing to the new administration to address the issue urgently.

According to Tanko Abdullah, “We’re not happy with the way the previous government handled workers’ salaries in the state. Former Governor Idris Wada didn’t treat us as important. Now that we have a new governor, we believe he should treat us in a better way by not allowing our salaries to accumulate before paying them. Now, most of us who are farmers had to go back to farm to survive. It’s unfair.”

The situation in Ekiti is a little better, and workers there are calm as the government only owed the workers two months salaries which was also confirmed to us on Sunday, February 14, 2016, when ENCOMIUM Weekly contacted the governor, Ayodele Fayose, via his spokesperson, Lere Olayinka.

“Ekiti government only owes its workers December 2015 and January 2016 salaries. And that will be settled as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, one of the workers who spoke to us said, “Even with Fayose owing us two months’ salaries, we’re not finding it funny. We pray he doesn’t allow the arrears accumulate beyond that before he clears the debt.”

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