Asaba, Sept. 6, 2017 (TNE) : Majority of the states across the federation have utilised the second tranche of the Paris Club refund to clear the arrears of their serving and retired workers’ entitlements.
However, in most states where the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities have been paid, some civil servants and retirees, especially those in the council areas, are still being owed.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shows that some of the workers and pensioners were owed salaries and pensions for periods ranging between two and 11 months.
The Federal Government in July released about N243.79 billion to the states as the second tranche of the refund, having earlier released N388.30 billion to them in December 2016.
The funds were released following protests by the states against over-deductions from their allocations for external debt services between 1995 and 2002.
The federal government had advised the state governments to use between 50 and 75 per cent of their shares of the refund to clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities they owed.
Fifteen out of the 22 (68 per cent) states surveyed so far, have utilised the money in settling the arrears of the entitlements while nine have not.
Those that paid are: Jigawa, Yobe and Adamawa in the North-East; Kwara in the North-Central; all states in the South-South except Cross River; Abia in the South-East; and all states in the South-West.
Bauchi, Gombe and Borno in the North-East; Cross River in the South-South; as well as Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi in the South-East have yet to pay the arrears.
In Jigawa, for instance, Alhaji Suleiman Kiyawa, Executive Secretary, Jigawa State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme, said the State Government had cleared the arrears.
Kiyawa said the state government paid N461.4 million as terminal benefits to 339 retirees.
Malam Muhammad Ali, a staffer of the state Ministry for Local Government and Community Development, said no retired or serving worker in the state was being owed any entitlement.
Malam Abubakar Musa, a retired civil servant in the state, said that each time a civil servant retired, he/she collected the entitlements without delay.
In Yobe, Alhaji Baba Malam-Wali, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said the state had been paying salaries of workers as and at when due and would continue to do so.
The SSG spoke through his Press Secretary, Shuaibu Abdullahi, in Damaturu.
However, payment of the entitlements of the council workers in the state has been delayed due to an internal conflict among members of the state Local Government Retiree Screening Committee.
Alhaji Kachallah Goni, the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), commended the state government for the prompt payment and urged it to intervene in the matter to pave way for hitch-free settlement of the arrears.
On its part, the Borno Government said it approved N6 billion for the clearing of the outstanding retired workers’ gratuities and pensions.
However, the concerned workers and retirees have yet to receive the payments.
Mr Yakubu Bukar, Head of Service and Alhaji Usman Zanna, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs respectively, said in a statement in Maidugiri that a committee had been constituted to handle it.
In Gombe, Mr Haruna Kamara, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the State Government had not settled the arrears of gratuities of some retired civil servants.
He said that government did not inform the NLC about the release of the second tranche, but that the organised labour only read of it on the internet.
“The truth of the matter is that nobody from the government of Gombe state consulted us about the fund and how they are going to use it,” he said.
Malam Abubakar Umar, a pensioner, appealed to the state government to pay the outstanding gratuities.
All efforts to get the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr James Phisagi, to speak on the matter proved abortive.
In Yola, Gov. Muhamadu Bindow of Adamawa, acknowledged receipt of N6.11 billion as the state’s share of the refund.
“So far, we have settled six months inherited outstanding workers’ salaries.
It remains only one month salary arrears which I have directed the Commissioner of Finance to pay,” he said.
However, some primary school teachers, primary healthcare workers and pensioners complained of non- payment of their outstanding salaries and pensions.
Some primary healthcare workers said they were owed three months salaries.
“As I am talking with you, we have not received even the July salary, let alone the three months’ arrears. We are suffering,” said one of them.
At the state Pension Board it was found out that outstanding arrears of N11 billion are owed to the state government pensioners and N8 billion owed to the local government pensioners.
The Bauchi State Chairman of NUP, Alhaji Abu Gar, said the state government owed the retirees N26 billion as arrears of gratuities.
Gar, who lamented at what he called ‘poor handling of issues relating to pensioners’ in the state, said 43 members of the union had died because of hardship.
The Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Abdullahi Dori, confirmed the state government’s receipt of its share of the second tranche of the refund.
In Ilorin, North-Central, Dr Muideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Media to Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, said N2 billion of the N5.1billion received, was released to the 16 local government councils.
He also said that the state government released N312million to the state-owned tertiary institutions for the payment of salary arrears.
A pensioner, Malam Ibrahim Salmanu, however, said most local government retirees in the state are owed up to 11 months arrears.
According to him, payment of gratuities to state pensioners has been stopped since March 2014.
All the states in the South-West said they utilised the fund in settling the salary and pension arrears they owed their serving and retired workers.
In Ibadan, Mr Bimbo Adekanmbi, the Oyo Commissioner for Finance and Budget, said the state spent more than 60 percent of the first and second tranches of the refund in clearing the arrears.
Adekanmbi said the N7.9 billion it received as the second tranche was used to pay the arrears of April and May salaries as well as pensions.
Mr Waheed Olojede, state NLC Chairman, confirmed the payment, but Mr Bayo Titola-Sodo, President, Nigeria Union of Local Government (NULGE), Oyo State chapter, said council workers are still owed salary arrears.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Osinowo, said government had committed N4.5 billion to the payment of arrears of cooperative deductions owed workers in the state.
He said the payment represented 79 per cent of the N5.7 billion received.
The NLC Chairman in Ogun, Akeem Ambali, however, said that the 12 months’ arrears of cooperative and check-off due deductions made this year had not been paid.
In Osogbo, the Osun Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Adelani Baderinwa, said the state government spent N5.10 billion of the N6.31 billion it received to clear the arrears.
Baderinwa said the payment schedule was recommended by the State Revenue Allocation Committee chaired by Mr Hassan Sunmonu.
“The only outstanding payment owed pensioners here is the gratuity and this is because some who retired in 2011 and 2012 chose not to participate in contributory pension scheme,’’ he said.
The state Chairman of the NLC, Mr Jacob Adekomi, however, claimed that some workers and pensioners were still being owed.
The labour leader said that civil servants in the state had been receiving modulated salaries since July 2015.
“A modulated salary scheme means workers on grade one to seven receiving 100 per cent of their salaries, and workers on grade level 8 to 12 being paid 75 percent of theirs, for instance,” he said.
In Akure, the Ondo State Government said that it received N6.38 billion as the second tranche of the Paris club refund.
Olusegun Ajiboye, Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said 32.68 percent of the amount was allocated to the local government councils while the state government got 67.32 per cent.
He said that the federal government had advised state governments to use between 50 and 75 per cent of their shares for payment of salary and pension arrears.
“That is why Ondo state government used 75 per cent of its share to settle the salary and pension arrears,” Ajiboye said.
He said that the 75 per cent of the fund could pay only 80 per cent of the workers’ salary and pension arrears across board.
But Mrs Bosede Daramola, the NLC Chairman in the state, described the fractional payment template adopted in the state as a breach of contract, saying it is unacceptable to the workers.
The Ekiti Government, on its part, said it received N4.7 billion as the second tranche of the refund.
The Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo, said in Ado Ekiti that local government councils in the state got N1.8billion of the N4.7 billion.
He said that the state government sought for additional fund in order to pay one month salary and leave bonus to all workers.
The NLC Chairman, Mr Ade Adesanmi and his TUC counterpart, Mr Odunayo Adesoye, said they were involved in the disbursement of the refund.
His NUT and NULGE counterparts, Mr Segun Olugbesan and Mr Bunmi Ajimoko respectively, also confirmed their involvement.
Meanwhile, some retirees in the South-South region have decried the non-payment of the pension and gratuity arrears owed them.
For instance, Mr Amadin Okoro, the PRO, NUP, Edo chapter, lamented that the state government has yet to offset the arrears of pensions and gratuities owed in the state.
Okoro said pensioners in the state are owed arrears of their entitlements, ranging between six and 42 months.
However, the Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said the State Government had released N212.87 billion of the state’s share to the local government councils in the state “for the month of August.”
He tasked local governments to be creative in harnessing the huge human and natural resources that abound in the state for the good of the people.
The Akwa Ibom, Government received N10 billion as its own share of the refund.
The Finance Commissioner, Mr Linus Nkan, said: “the governor has given a directive that we use the fund to pay salaries and to the extent that it can cover, pay pensions too.”
According to him, the refund is barely enough to settle indebtedness and commitments of government which include salaries, arrears of pensions and gratuities and contract fees.
In Delta, Mr Titus Okotie, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), claimed the local government council got N2.1 billion of N10 billion the state received.
Okotie said the amount was used in paying the April salaries of primary school teachers and local government council workers in the state.
The chairman said that the teachers are still owed May, June July and August salaries.
But Chief Robert Chukwunyem, state Chairman, NUP, said the pension arrears paid to the 11,000 retirees in the state did not reflect the 33 per cent pension increase of 2010.
Meanwhile, Mr Charles Aniagwu, Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa, said the 25 local government councils in the state received N2.1 billion of the N10 billion the state received.
Aniagwu said the state government took N7.9 billion due it, adding that N4.4 billion of it was spent in paying the arrears owed its retirees and augmenting the councils’ June salaries.
He said the remaining N3.5 billion would be used for capital and recurrent expenditures.
Also in Bayelsa, Mr Jonathan Obuebite, the Information and Orientation Commissioner, said part of the N10 billion the state allocation was used to pay one and half months salaries owed the workers.
According to him, the state expected N14 billion which could have been enough to pay two months’ arrears of salaries, but got only N10 billion.
The state Chairman of TUC, Mr Tari Dounana, however, said that more than four months’ salary arrears had yet to be settled.
He said that the state government paid only one and half months of the six months’ salary arrears owed workers.
Dounana said that local government staff and teachers in the state were owed between eight months and one year arrears.
Mr Landy Erez, a pensioner said that the state government owed workers more than 10 months’ arrears of salaries.
Most civil servants and pensioners in Rivers said the State Government is up to date in the payment of their salaries and pensions except for the pension increment.
One of them, Mr Rogers Ogan, a primary school teacher, confirmed that his salary had been paid up to date.
Mr Edward Abibo, the Chairman of NUP in Rivers, also said that the state government did not owe pensioners any arrears of pension.
He, however, explained that about 2,000 workers who retired in 2014 and whose biometrics have yet to be captured into the state payroll, have not been paid.
Abibo said also that the state government has not paid the arrears of the 2003, 2007 and 2010 pension increments.
“Those that have not been receiving their monthly pensions are undergoing biometric verification; I believe after the exercise, they will be put on the payroll,” he said.
The Cross River Government has yet to settle the arrears of retirees’ gratuities.
One of them, Mr Andem Antigha, said that since 2015 when he retired, he has not been paid his gratuity.
Investigation showed that the state government’s UBA account into which the refund was paid was frozen on the order of an Abuja High Court.
This followed a dispute between it and a consulting firm over the payment of the Paris club refund.
The survey also shows that only one of the five states in the South-East had utilised the refund to clear the arrears of pension and salaries owed to its workers.
The Commissioner for Finance in Abia, Mr Obinna Oriaku, said that the state government utilised the two tranches of the refund in clearing part of the arrears.
Oriaku said that the state received N5.7 while it expected N16 billion and regretted that the amount could not bring the state out of the woods.
He said that the state government constituted a committee comprising representatives of organised labour and government to handle the disbursement of the fund transparently.
He said that the state had cleared the arrears of salaries of civil servants in some ministries, departments and agencies.
Oriaku, however, said that the state was still battling with the settlement of arrears of salaries of primary and secondary school teachers as well as those of local government workers.
He said salaries of workers in some parastatal organisations, including the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, have not been paid.
The commissioner blamed the backlog of salary arrears on bloated workforce and padding of salaries in the civil service during the past administration.
The state Chairman of the NLC, Chief Uchenna Obigwe, confirmed that the state government was transparent in the disbursement of the state’s share of the refund.
He said that the state’s first and second shares of the refund, totaling N16.3 billion, was a far cry from what was required to offset the outstanding payments.
Also, council workers, primary and secondary schools teachers as well as staff on some parastatal organisations were still owed salary arrears, ranging from two to eight months.
And in Enugu State, Comrade Virginus Nwobodo, the Chairman of NLC, said that the refund had yet to be shared between the state and the local governments.
He, however, said that the stakeholders had met to decide on the sharing formula.
According to him, the first tranche of the refund was disbursed equitably, without any complaint.
Meanwhile, Chief Abel Ologu, a pensioner in Abakaliki, has urged the Ebonyi Government to utilise the refund in clearing salary and pension arrears owed in the state.
Ologu said that the state government had not disbursed the fund accordingly.
The Chairman of NLC in Anambra, Mr Jerry Nubia, also made a similar appeal to the state government in Awka.
Nubia said Anambra government is owing retirees of the councils, pension arrears from 2015 to date, adding that their number has continued to rise.
He said, however, that the state government workforce and pensioners receive their salaries and pensions as and at when due.
“The NLC in the state is commending the effort of the state government in ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions,’’ he said.
Dr Anthony Ugozor, the state Chairman of NUJ, who said the state received N6.12 billion as its share, corroborated Nubia assertion.
A civil servant, Mrs Uchechi Ilechukwu, said that the state government workers receive their salaries regularly.
“Anambra state civil servants have been receiving their salaries on the 24th of every month since the inception of Gov. Willie Obiano’s administration,” she said. (TNE)