How much does Dickson owe civil servants in Bayelsa?

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There is no doubt that the Bayelsa State Government still owes civil servants. Governor  Seriake Dickson in his first term of four years, was not indebted to civil servants.

Though the governor initiated series of reforms to make the civil service efficient, productive and to weed off ghost workers as well as other fraudulent practices in the system, he kept faith with prompt release of workers’ salaries every month.

But things changed last year as a result of the economic downturn which resulted from fall of crude oil prices in the international market. The situation led to significant decrease in revenues accruing to the states, including Bayelsa. Everything changed. It became difficult for the government to meet up with its monthly obligations, including payments of salaries.

Many states across the country accumulated unpaid salaries. However, Dickson engaged and negotiated with the labour unions to find a solution to the quagmire. The unions accepted a monthly half-salary offer from the government pending when the economy would bounce back.

But this year, things started looking up. With tranches of Paris Club Refund paid to states by the Federal Government and somewhat improved monthly allocations to states, Bayelsa was able to meet up with its obligations to workers. Therefore, this year, the state government has not owed its workers.

Investigations revealed that the government has also reduced the backlogs of last year’s backlog of salaries to four-and-half months. The state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Bipre Ndiomu, confirmed that though the government did not owe civil servants this year, it had reduced last year’s outstanding to four-and-half-a-months.

Ndiomu said the NLC held several meetings with Dickson who promised to clear the outstanding immediately the state received the balance of the Paris Club refund.

He said: “The state government owes civil servants four-and-half months. We are talking with the government to clear the outstanding. We have held several meetings and we are expecting the remaining balance of the Paris Club refund. We have been meeting.

“We are confident that if the balance is paid, the government will clear the outstanding. We have been patient because the governor actually promised that he will pay. We are sure that he will pay”.

Subsequent to its efforts to clear the backlogs and meet up current obligations to the civil servants, the state government has constantly faulted the claims of the National President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, who classified Bayelsa among the worse states that owe their workers.

Reacting to the statement, the former Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Nathan Obuebite, recalled that the state was doing so well in terms of payment of workers’ salaries, a reason it refused to join other states to apply for salary bailouts.

“It is worth noting that Bayelsa State did not apply for nor receive salary bailout to states. This is because when states were applying for salary bailout, Bayelsa State did not owe her workers because the governor had saved some funds for the rainy days.

“It was the local government councils that applied for N1.2 billion for salaries of local government workers. For the records, it has been the policy of the Dickson’s administration that local government council funds should not be touched by state government and he has not derailed from it,” he said.

Obuebite also recalled that for the first four years of Dickson’s administration between 2012 and 2015, no worker was ever owed salaries. But he said the problem began last year when the allocation from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) started experiencing a steady decline because the main source of revenue for the state has always come from federal allocations. He, however, said the development was not peculiar to Bayelsa State alone, as most states suffered similar fate.

He said: “For instance, the net allocation to the state in February, March, April and May last year were N2.98 billion, N2.16 billion, N2.42 billion and N3.45 billion respectively.  When compared to a monthly wage bill of over N4 billion, it became impossible for the state to meet its salary obligations.

“We must note that these net allocations were not meant for salary payment alone but also to meet all other state obligations, including local loans servicing, running of all MDAs and government, security expenses, education, health and infrastructural development, among others.

“Inevitably, salaries were owed to workers last year. However, throughout this year, the state has not owed workers for one month. While the state is still gradually defraying the arrears of salaries owed to workers last year, it has kept faith with all its salary obligations for this year, as workers at the state level have all been paid up to date from January to August.

“As a responsive and responsible government, when the Paris/London Club refunds were received in December, last year and June this year, it met with the leadership of organised labour namely NLC, TUC, NUT, and others on how the funds were to be applied.

“The government and the organised labour agreed that, for the first receipt, two months arrears be paid and for the second tranche one-and-half months’ salary arrears be also paid and this decision was implemented in December, last year and July this year respectively, leaving an outstanding balance of four-and-half months, knowing that the Paris Club refunds was not for state workers only as the whole citizens of Bayelsa need to benefit from it.

“The Governor, who immediately directed the payment, also announced that the balance of four- and-half months’ salary arrears would be settled as soon as it receives the remaining tranches from the Federal Government.

“For the umpteenth time, the Bayelsa State Government sympathises with the workers at the third tier of government, but sadly cannot do much, because local governments equally received their funds, which were not tampered with. Moreover, the state government has limited resources at its disposal, with enormous responsibilities to tackle.

“It is also worthy to note that Bayelsa State has continued to report its income and expenditure on a monthly basis to its citizens, in line with the administration’s transparency laws which enable people to ask questions about how the state funds have been utilised.”

Obuebite added that it was a pity that the NLC failed to recognise that Bayelsa was the first state to acknowledge receipt of the Paris Club refund when it received it and that information was made public.

He said: “It is wrong for anyone to mention Bayelsa State as one of the states that owe salaries of primary school teachers, as it is constitutionally not the responsibility of the government to do so. Let it be known that the payment of salaries of primary school teachers is the responsibility of the local government councils.”

The commissioner also pointed out that the government disagreed totally with the report by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), that Bayelsa was one of the 13 states still owing primary and secondary school teachers’ salaries.

He said: “The local government chairmen will testify that since the inception of Governor Dickson’s administration in 2012, the state has never under any circumstance, tampered with local government funds and will never do.

“Statutorily, local government councils are responsible for the payment of primary school teachers, but because of the governor’s emphasis on education, Bayelsa State government paid 83 per cent of that obligation and allowed the local governments to pay only 17 per cent, but when there was a shortfall in the allocation, the state now paid 60 per cent while the councils paid 40 per cent, which is borne out of the governor’s magnanimity,”

The Bayelsa State Government on Sunday declared that it remained one of the least indebted states on salary payment to workers.

The government spoke following reports suggesting that Bayelsa was one of the worst states defaulting in the payment of salaries, a claim credited to the President of the Nigeria Labour Congres (NLC) Mr. Ayuba Wabba.

Also, the incumbent Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, faulted the Labour leader’s assertion. He insisted that the report was done in bad faith because it lacked substance and failed to reflect the true position of things.

He stated, however, that the government was most concerned and had, over time, taken payment of salaries of members of staff seriously and never owed the civil servants to date. The commissioner explained that contrary to the report, Bayelsa remained one of the least indebted states in terms of salary arrears to its workers in the country.

He said the Dickson-led government always fulfilled its salary obligations until recently, occasioned by the free fall in the state’s monthly allocation from the Federal Government. He said government borrowed a number of times to make up for the shortfall to ensure that salaries were paid.

 

 

 

 

Culled from here

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