JUST IN: Benue State Govt Faults NLC Presidents Claims, accuse Wabba of inciting workers against Government.

The Benue State government have denied claims credited to NLC national president comrade Ayuba Wabba that it mismanaged the Federal Government bail out funds and paris club funds. Wabba de this claims whild adressing news men on The plight of workers in the country especially workers been owed salaries for several .

Speaking through its Hon Commissioner of Informations and Orientation Hon Lawrence Onoja Jnr, the Benue state government accused the NLC president of making wild accusations and jumping into irrational conclusions with out getting facts first.

Read press statement below…

PRESS RELEASE

AVOIDABLE INCITING ALLEGATIONS

The attention of the Benue state government has been drawn to a report in the New Telegraph of 25th Sept.2017. in the report, the Nigerian Labour Congress President Comrade Ayuba Wabba was quoted to have made comments which tends to erroneously suggest that Governor Samuel Ortom has not utilize the Federal Governments bailout funds and Paris Club refunds properly.

This is far from the truth and Comrade Ayuba’s unsubstantiated allegation that the bailout funds where poorly utilized may have confirmed the suspicion expressed by concerned stakeholders that the NLC President may have deliberately or unconsciously been drawn into the murky waters of politics.

On the 29th of May 2015, this administration inherited a colossal sum of N69 billion as unpaid civil servant salaries, pensions and gratuities. This liability was acquired when the federal allocation to the state was very high compared to the present realities where the allocation for both state and local government averages around 6billion Monthly.

The Samuel Ortom administration inherited a high wage bill of 8.2 billion which excluded additional funds required to pay the teachers minimum wage. This administration demonstrated its political will by implementing the teachers minimum wage which amounted to an extra 300 million. This increased the total wage bill to N8.5 billion. Now the question Comrade Wabba should be asking is whether the government has been working to ascertain the actual wage bill of the state which everyone agrees is one of the highest in the country or is the government not paying salaries on an average off every 45 days?
This government believes in exploring ways to proffer solutions to challenges of governance not by engaging in petty politicking or trading blame games when the welfare of the people is at stake.

For the NLC To have singled out Benue State from amongst many other states oweing salaries of civil servants becomes suspicious. The government has been periodically meeting with labour unions to decide on salary payments as funds becomes available. We believe we will still continue with them as dialogue remains the only way forward in a modern democratic era.

We appreciate their patience. The fiscal shortfall is not peculiar to Benue State alone even as the Benue State government is exploring ways amongst which is the declaration of a state of emergency in the state on salaries, discussing with banks and other financial institutions on offsetting Benue salary arrears in a way that would not impact negatively on the state. Already, approval has been given by the Benue State House of Assembly for loans to be acquired while we await the go ahead from the federal ministry of finance and the debt management office. The government would not also want to engage in an uncontrolled acquisition of loans.

The governor Ortom administration has initiated several steps aimed at weeding out ghost workers and other irregularities from the payroll. The immediate benefit of this is the reduction of the wage bill from N8.5 billion to 7.8 billion which is still too high. The modified table payments of salaries have revealed a lot of anomalies in the system. If Comrade Wabba had bothered to cross check figures from the government, he would have discovered that out of the total of N69 billion inherited as wage bill, Plateau state didn’t inherit this kind of wage bill or have such a huge Monthly wage bill.

Comrade Wabba compared Benue state to Plateau state. For his information and clarity of doubt, Benue pays her workers almost three times what Plateau pays hers but we collect basically the same amount from the federal allocation and Benue has a larger workforce. Plateau state wage bill is on an average of N1.5 billion while Benue state wage bill is N4.1 billion Monthly at state level and N3.7 billion at local government level including overheads and pensions.
The present administration has prudently managed the situation and reduced this figure to N40 billion while work continues to trim the wage bill to a sustainable level that will make it easy for the government to pay salaries regularly.

As we have often stated, the state government got N28 billion late last year as bailout funds which was substantially applied to salary payment. The first trench of Paris club was N12.7 billion which the second trench was N6.8 billion less 5% of deducted charges leaving the balance of N6.46 billion. Recall that the federal government advised that at least 50% of the Paris club refund should be used for salary payment. As it stands today, the Benue state government has applied about 80% percent of both tranches of salary payment. This unfortunately is not enough to clear the arrears. We remain grateful to President Mohammadu Buhari for his gracious approvals of these funds.

In case the NLC President is not aware, the role of government includes provision of services like infrastructure, health care facilities, portable water, rural electricity, security, boasting of agriculture, commence and industry, educational development, support for small scale and medium enterprises and many other vital needs that the people require for their welfare and economic wellbeing.

Notwithstanding the shortfall in the revenue available to the state, the Benue state government has within the limits of available resources strived to impact on this sectors with the transparent management of resources by the Samuel Ortom administration, development partners are back in the state adding value to the economy. This administration feels the pains of civil servants and this necessitated the understanding reached with organize labour that at least salaries should be paid every two Months after combining two Months allocation from the federal accounts and this government has been doing this.
We value the opinion of stakeholders with genuine concern for the development of the state but such opinions should be exercised responsibly. Making wild allegations of misdeeds where there is none calls for caution.

The NLC President through his state branches could easily avail himself of facts and figures on the true state of the bailout funds before coming to the press to make unfounded allegations capable of inciting workers against the government. Comrade Wabba should strive to separate genuine labour struggles from opposition politics and be more objective in making comments on such sensitive issues. We see the labour unions as partners in progress as we all have a collective responsibility to provide for the welfare of our people either civil servants and private individuals. Has the NLC President bothered to ask for the details of the disbursement of these funds? If he has, he would have commended the Benue state government for its transparent handling of these funds.

HON. LAWRENCE ONOJA (JNR)
COMMISSIONER FOR INFORMATION AND ORIENTATION,
BENUE STATE.

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