THE crisis rocking Osun, the Home of the Living Spring, due to the non-payment of workers’ salaries is yet to abate. And the affected workers in the state are not in their right frame of mind at the moment.
This, ENCOMIUM Weekly gathered from an inside source, may lead to a total breakdown of law and order in the state if the promise made by the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to pay up the debt come Tuesday, June 30, 2015 doesn’t come to pass.
“Osun workers are in a very terrible situation now. And from the look of things, they are fed up with Governor Aregbesola. I learnt they are only waiting for June 30 to come. If he fails to redeem his pledge, they will make the start ungovernable for him.
“The situation of the workers and pensioners in Osun State at the moment is miserable. The only alternative open to Aregbesola is the bail out by the Federal Government because the state is in a serious financial mess now. He just promised them June 30, I am more than sure he can’t afford to clear all the accumulated salaries and that may not go down well with the workers,” the source added.
Meanwhile, the governor had in a statement issued to the press on Sunday, June 14, 2015, said he would pay the workers who are being owed seven months salaries. The statement which was issued by the Director of Bureau de Publicity, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon was silent on whether the workers will be paid all the outstanding salaries or part.
According to the statement, “Before the end of June, workers would be paid their salaries.”
Aregbesola had also on Monday, June 15, restated his promise to pay the aggrieved workers so that the crisis would be a thing of the past. He reportedly said this when the Australian High Commissioner, Jonathan Richardson paid him a visit at the Government House, Osogbo.
The governor was quoted to have said, “I want to appeal to workers in the state to be calm as their period of hardship which is caused by the delay in the payment of salaries will in a matter of weeks be a thing of the past.”
This had been, however, faulted by the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Osun State Chapter, Mr. Waheed Amuda, who claimed the governor has not officially informed labour unions of his plan to pay workers’ salaries by the end of June.
“The governor has never called a meeting to inform us that he would pay us on or before June 30. We only read the information just like other members of the public but we pray he pays us by that time. If he can even pay us today, we will appreciate it.
“Our people are dying, they are hungry and some are even sick with no money to treat themselves. It’s one of the our prayers that he should pay us so that we will be able to provide for our families,” he was quoted to have said.
Some workers ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to expressed their anger, disappointment and dismay while narrating the ugly and frustrating situation.
“I am an accountant and I have been in service for not less than 10 years. This is the first time we’re facing this kind of crisis. Osun workers are hard working and law abiding people. But the situation on ground now has gone beyond taking it easy with Aregbesola. We’re not happy that we down tools but we don’t have a choice. As I speak to you, I have not finished paying my children’s school fees. My parents are old, one of them is a diabetic patient. I take him to the hospital almost every week. But now, I can’t afford that again. Even to fuel my car is extremely difficult at the moment. I am only living on the mercies of those I helped. My wife is even fed up, she is also a civil servant. So, it makes this period so tough for us. Now, I concentrate on my farming, maybe if the government refuses to pay, I will have something to fall back on. The government has turned us to beggars in the eyes of the public. We understand the fact that Osun is not the only state owing her workers but it’s the only state in the South West. Aregbesola should be ashamed of himself. Is he executing more projects than Ogun State? So, let’s say the fact, he has actually mismanaged Osun allocations. That’s the basis of the problem.”
“I am a teacher. I have been teaching for about 12 years in Osun State. I have never gone through this kind of experience even when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power. I have not touched government salary since December 2014. I am married with five children and all of them are in school. My wife has a shop where she sells provisions. We have drained everything in the shop. I owe her about N187,000 as I speak to you. To worsen it all, we both have aged parents who rely on us. My wife being the only female has not been finding it easy at all. Now, her mother is seriously down with stroke, we’re the ones footing the bill of her medication. But for the last two months, we couldn’t do that because of lack of fund. My dad is also old, he’s a farmer but can’t go to the farm any longer. I am the one taking care of him. I weighed about 76.7kg before but now I have dropped to 71kg, because we don’t eat quality food again and it’s not even regular. We’re disappointed in Governor Rauf Aregbesola. Our expectations were high when he was campaigning and we all supported him. Now, we’re regretting voting him. But I believe there is still hope. We have all handed over everything to God.”
“I still need to thank God for being alive. My belief is that there is no problem without a solution. This is the seventh month and I am still living, that means God has something for us. But right now, things are not easy at all. I asked my maid to go for the time being. I didn’t want to continue owing her, so I told her to go back to her family pending the time the crisis would be resolved.
“My husband is a contractor but it has been long he went to work. The whole burden has been on me. And people from the extended family are also there. Their responsibilities, all lie on me. Fine, it’s understandable that not only Osun State owes workers’ salary but why must it be the only APC state out of other states controlled by APC? That means Aregbesola is a bad manager of resources. He’s aware of the limited resources of the state before embarking on unreasonable contracts here and there, contracts that have neither head nor tail. The reason he’s embarking on so many contracts at the detriment of civil servants is because he also doubles as Commissioner for Works because of his personal agenda. The small shop I was running has been demolished, therefore, making things worse. But with God, I strongly believe we will get out of the problem.”
“We believed in Governor Rauf Aregbesola, that’s why we voted for him for the second term but our decision is now fighting against our mission. I borrowed even from ridiculous means. I am doing a monthly contribution which I had collected mine since last year June. We have about 10 people now, waiting for theirs. Each time, I have to pay N10,000. The most painful thing now is that I couldn’t afford to pay anything again because I have not collected a kobo this year. And what I invested my money on was fruitless. And the agreement when we started was that no matter the hardship, you mustn’t default. I am in a dilemma. Even my children’s education is suffering at the moment. The man promised to pay us when it was only three months, he never did. Now that it has accumulated to seven months, how will he be able to pay up the whole months running into millions of naira. I earn about N136,000 monthly, that means I have been owed close to N1,000,000 and I am not alone in that category. One man died at Okefia, Osogbo a couple of weeks back because of hunger. I also know of a pensioner who collapsed and was rushed to the hospital but no attention was given to him. He had to be taken to a private hospital. But it’s almost the same thing because his family couldn’t afford to pay his hospital bill. Our situation in Osun right now is pitiable. Maybe that’s why PDP is trying to come to our rescue. I learnt some of us have been going to PDP secretariat in Osogbo, Ilesa and Ikirun to collect food items. Even Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other concerned religious and corporate institutions have been pledging one support or the other. It’s ridiculous that we have been turned to beggars by Aregbesola whom we all have so much confidence in. But as it is, I still believe he got it wrong somewhere, somehow. He can’t afford to soil the image of his party. He must certainly fulfil his promise, if not, there would be no end to the strike action.”
“I am a pensioner, I retired long ago. I am 75 now. Since I retired, my pension has not been this delayed. I have not been paid a kobo this year. The last time I collected my pension allowance was November 2014. You can imagine what we pensioners are passing through in the hands of Aregbesola. My situation is even more critical because I have been battling stroke for the past seven years. But it’s worse now because I don’t have money for my medication. I have stopped taking medication for about three months because I don’t have the money. I can’t even walk again. It’s long ago I came out of my room. My wife and children are tired of my situation. And even those giving me money are also broke. I feel like dying but death has refused to take me. If at all, the government pays the money now, a lot of things have been damaged already. But my belief is that if God says I will survive it, I will. We pensioners are only appealing to Aregbesola to resolve our case first, he shouldn’t allow us to die of hunger. We served the state meritoriously, we deserve to be accorded respect, because he too will get old one day.”
“I retired as a civil servant in Osun State about five years after the creation of the state. We were all under Oyo State before. But throughout my service period, there was no issue of delay in the payment of workers’ salaries. Even, pensioners used to get their pensions on time. Since I left service in 1996, things have not been this bad for the pensioners in the state. We’re really suffering now. I am down with poor sight. I have only been surviving with the little I collect as pension. And my children also have their own responsibilities. Even at that, not all of them are gainfully employed. What my children give me as feeding allowance in a moth is usually not enough for my wife and myself. We depend largely on the pension. Now, the government owes us for seven months now. How does Aregbesola expect us to cope? My advice for him is that he should stop all the capital projects and face workers and pensioners first. After that, he may use the rest fund to finance the projects. We don’t want any project now, we need to live first. He should please see to our problem first.”
“The situation in Osun State at the moment is strange to all of us. And it requires urgent attention by the Federal Government before everything gets out of control. It’s still better now, let the Ramadan be over and he doesn’t fulfill his promise, we will make the state ungovernable for him. If he likes, let him continue reading his riot act millions of times, we don’t care. All we want is our money because his family is comfortable. Why must he subject our families to this kind of terrible situation? I have been serving the state for nine years, there was no time I was owed even two months’ salary. Now that we even hoped for the better based on the impression we all have about Aregbesola and his party, no one ever envisaged we could be in this kind of mess. Even if you have anything to dispose so that you can get money to eat, who will buy the thing? Osun is basically a civil servant state. So, everybody is connected directly or indirectly to salary earners. If we don’t collect salaries, commercial activities in the state suffer and survival is very difficult. My rent is due, and I am a widow. I don’t expect support from anywhere except God. My children have not been working. I have four children, two of them are graduates but they don’t have any job. So, they all depend on me, and now for about seven months, I have not earned a kobo. So, life has been so terrible for us.”
“I am a health worker in the state. I earn about N400,000 per month. Imagine the state government owing me alone about N2.8m, and we have those who earn more than that in that ministry. How do you expect that the government will clear the debt as said? It’s a fake promise. The mistake Aregbesla made is that he has allowed the salaries to accumulate. As I speak to you, the strike action has affected a lot of people in the state. I thank God I have other things I live on. Even at that, I had to go borrowing last month to buy foodstuff. Everybody around me keeps coming for one assistance or the other not even minding I am also part of them. We can’t continue like this, my brother. Governor Aregbesola should just beg the Federal Government for quick intervention. People are already dying in the state. We’re not used to the situation we found ourselves at all. But as he promised, let’s wait and see.”
“I am just three years in service but this is the first time the government of Osun State will owe us for this long. It’s so terrible that I beg to eat now from my uncles and aunties. I sleep all day and night. If I eat in the morning, I am not sure of lunch or dinner. The only thing is that I am a bachelor. If I am married, I would have found life more difficult. The salary is meager, now it doesn’t even come at all. Osun is too dry for all the projects the government is embarking on. We must feed well first before any project. I think enough should be enough. He just has to pay us in full not part.”