As it’s rightly said, a labourer’s sweet shouldn’t be allowed to dry off before his wage is paid by his master. Also, workers across the world hold the notion that labourers are worthy of their wages. But it seems the reverse is the case in Nigeria of today as workers across the country keep groaning over their unpaid salaries, which has let their families in perpetual hunger and penury.
The situation has become so worrisome in some states that most civil servants now opt for ridiculous means of survival.
Aside Osun State that has always been in the news over what was described as financial mess by the man at the helm of affairs of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola which he reportedly cited is the reason the state couldn’t pay its workers for months then. The crisis which almost shut down the state before the rescue mission of the Federal Government was actualized in July 2015.
Also, a lot of other states had taken in that same category with Osun, the Home of the Living Spring. The situation is few other states are even worse off now as their workers have been abandoned to their fate for almost a year, even after the economic intervention fund, otherwise referred to as bailout, was paid to the states to enable them settle the backlog of salaries they owed their respective workers.
Among the states that are yet to come out of their financial predicament, ENCOMIUM Weekly can reveal, include Bayelsa, Benue, Nassarawa, Kogi, Osun, Imo, Oyo, Plateau, Bauchi, Rivers, Ekiti and more. Some of these states can’t still afford to pay their workers’ salaries up to date. For instance, Bayelsa, a state believed to be enjoying fat payment of federal allocation with sizeable workforce is unbelievably owing its workers for five months. And this has affected the likes of the workers in the state in no small measure.
And that Bayelsa is mainly civil servant state is no longer news because the government is the only productive sector that can absorb the teaming unemployed problem of the state, as other Bayelsans working in the private sector are very few.
However, the civil servants who were said to have been enjoying good rapport with Governor Seriake Dickson-led administration suddenly developed cold war with the governor in November 2015, when the state refused to pay their outstanding salaries as promised.
An impeccable source disclosed to ENCOMIUM Weekly that some civil servants in the state are yet to collect their November salary let alone being paid for December 2015, January and February, 2016.
“As at November 2015 till date, civil servants in Bayelsa have lost confidence in the state government as salary alerts that usually come into their mobile phones latest by the end of the third week now come in on the 15th of the following month. The situation is even worse for some workers in the local governments. They have not got salary alerts for more than four months”.
The situation is also said to be very pathetic for lecturers of the state owned Niger Delta University, Wibberforce Island, Amassama as some of the them are yet to get their November/December salaries for 2015, which means their families were thrown into hardship and hunger during the last yuletide season.
“One thing I keep wondering about Bayelsa, is the acclaimed inability of Governor Seriake Dickson to pay workers salaries. How many are the workers? Bayelsa is one of the highest paid states from the Federal purse being one of the oil producing states.
“Bayelsa has eight local governments with about 12,000 workers, and yet the government is owing its workers. So, something must be fishy. We’re not surprised to be treated the way Governor Dickson is treating us. Now, most of us have turned to tricyclists over night to take care of our families. I had to join the trade when I discovered that salary is no longer reliable”, one of the workers spoke anonymously.
Another worker, Pius Ogbeni said, “Yes, the government is owing us some months salaries and that has affected us greatly. Now, to meet family needs is extremely difficult because most of us depend largely on salary. I live on borrowing to survive pending the time the government will pay all the outstanding salaries”.
However, the people of the state have contined to groan over unpaid accumulated salaries, and it is for this reason that the aggrieved workers reportedly shut down the Yenagoa Local Government Council Secretariat, a couple of weeks back to press home their demand and express displeasure over the unusual delay in getting montly salary alerts.
The situation was the same in other local governments, including Sagbama, Nembe, Brass, as all councils’ secretariats were said to have been locked during the protest.
One of the protesters also reportedly lamented, “We passed through hell last year as we had bleak Christmas and our children in private schools were sent back home because of school fees in January’. They’re yet to resume now.
The condition of payment is also hellish at the state level as the state government now jiggles payments. The situation whereby the civil servants that were paid in December were not paid in January.
It is learnt that Governor Dickson has resolved to adopt the policy of its rotational payment among the civil servant to ameliorate the salary debacle in the state, but he insisted he won’t sack any worker because of the states financial mess which, according to him will soon be over.
Some workers ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to from other states also lamented hardship and torment occasioned by the non-payment of their salaries by their respective state governments.
“I have not collected December salary. Governor Isiaka Ajimobi is owing some of us up to three months salaries now while some have collected their December salary. But nobody has collected a dime this year. And the way things are going, we’re not sure of collecting any salary soon. I learnt the government is broke at the moment.
“The most painful thing is that we don’t have any other alternative of surviving. A lot of people have resorted to okada business after the close of work. Most of us even trek to work now because we have to be careful of spending the little money we saved because we’re not sure of when we’re getting another one. We’re worried about what’s happening in Oyo State with the Ajimobi led government”.
Another worker, Mr. Kajewole Salami said, “I was paid last in November 2015, and even the alert for that month was received in December. Since then, I have not received any alert. I can’t pay my children’s school fees. I am a junior worker in the state who even finds it difficult to cope with the meager salary let alone not collecting anything at all. My prayer is that the government doesn’t allow the salaries accumulate beyond that level before he starts settling them so that our case will not be as worse as that of Osun State.
“Now, I have owed a lot of people. Even workers couldn’t enjoy 2015 yuletide in Oyo State as most of us were not paid at all.
“There was a time the government said we should submit our West African School Certificate (WASC) before we would be paid which many of us couldn’t tender then. So, we’re worried about the situation of things in Oyo state right now”.
A worker from Osun State also lamented, “I won’t say we’re used to it because it’s a bad situation which we’re only being forced to adapt to. As a senior civil servant, I only collected half salary in December which has been the practice since July 2015. But nobody has been paid this year at all, even the junior staffers at the local and state levels.
“Things have not changed at all. We can’t eat three square meals daily any more. Most of us trek to work everyday. We pray we don’t go back to what happened last year”.
A worker from Osun Ministry of Finance who also spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly under the condition of anonymity said, “We’re yet to receive any alert this year. The last time I received alert was December 2015 and it was half salary. So, the government is owing us about five months salary. There is no difference yet in our situation in Osun State. Most of us live on borrowing from ridiculous sources. And you’re aware that Osun is predominantly civil servants state. Our financial predicament has crippled commercial activities in the state”.
ENCOMIUM Weekly’s efforts to get Governor Dickson’s reaction via his Special Adviser on Media, Dan Maxim proved abortive as the calls put through to his mobile phone were no answered. We also sent him a text, all to no avail.