There are strong indications that civil servants are likely to forfeit part of their salary arrears as the financial situations in the states worsen, Saturday PUNCH can report.
Nigeria has been hit by an economic crisis triggered by the drop in the international prices of crude oil and most state governments are currently reeling under heavy wage bill amid drop in federal allocations and poor internally generated revenues.
In the last six months, federal allocations to the 36 states of the federation have dropped from N107.7bn in October 2015 to N89.04bn in March this year.
About 29 states are currently unable to their pay workers’ salaries and this has led to the accumulation of months of salary arrears as allocations to the states continue to dwindle.
This has also been worsened by the disruption of the country’s oil production by the Niger Delta militants, who have been blowing up oil installations.
Though some of the governors, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH through their aides, gave assurances that salary arrears would be paid, investigations by Saturday PUNCH revealed that there were no concrete measures on the ground to make good such promises.
Some of the states now wait for three months’ allocations to pay one month salary.
When asked whether they would borrow from banks to pay salary arrears, the governors said no.
Investigations show that the States are facing financial difficulty that is being worsened by their high wage bill and low IGR.
Asked to state how they intended to pay arrears of workers’ salaries, many of them said they had no other means apart from the monthly allocation from the Federal Government
In Ekiti State for example, the IGR for March was N302m. The total IGR for the state in 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, was N3.2bn. The state government has put the wage bill at N2.6bn monthly.
The Nigeria Labour Congress in the state had, however, disputed the claim of the state government that the wage bill was N2.6b monthly.
The state chairman of the NLC, Raymond Adesanmi, in an interview in Ado-Ekiti, said, “The current wage bill quoted was inherited from the immediate past administration. After one year of this administration, we expect that the bill would have reduced.”
In an interview with one of our correspondents, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, said, “It is borrowing that led the state to this situation. If the state was not indebted, the situation would have still affected it, but it will be minimal. We won’t owe up to five months’ arrears. The governor is people-friendly and will do what will protect their interest at all times.”
Ogunsuyi said the governor and his political office holders, including commissioners, were also owed five months salaries.
He said, “Now that workers are on strike, there cannot be internally generated revenue. That means the revenue of the state further nosedived.”
Ogunsuyi could not tell when salary arrears would be paid.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said that currently, the state Internal Revenue Service generated an average of about N1.1bn monthly. He added that for the first quarter of 2016, it generated N3.2bn.
According to Akorede, the monthly wage bill of the state currently stands at N2.4bn which includes salaries, pensions and subventions.
He noted that local government workers and members of staff of the State Universal Education Board were being owed salaries.
The Kwara State Chairman of the NLC, Mr. Yekini Agunbiade, told one of correspondents that workers in the state tertiary institutions, parastatals and Water Corporation were also being owed some months’ salary arrears.
He was not sure of when the state would be able to pay the salary arrears
In Plateau State, Special Adviser on Media to Governor Simon Lalong, Mr. Mark Longyen, said the current wage bill of the state was N1.7bn monthly. He said that in the last six months, the IGR has been on a monthly average of N500m, that is slightly over N3bn in the last six months.
The Acting Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Bauchi State, Alhaji Yakubu Isa, declined to mention the IGR of the state in the last four months.
But the NBS had, a few weeks ago, said Bauchi State generated N5.39bn as IGR in 2015. The state government owes civil servants two months while some are being owed outstanding allowances of more than two months.
Pensioners in the state have also not been paid for more than four months.
A senior government official, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH in confidence, said the total wage bill of Bauchi State stands at over N5bn monthly.
He said this includes state and local government civil servants whom he said are over 105, 000.
Benue State monthly wage bill, according to the state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Olofu, stands at N4.2bn, including pensions and overheads.
The state Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Tordue Tartenge, said workers were being owed four months’ salary arrears.
“That is for state civil servants and seven months for the local government and primary school teachers,” Tartenge said.
In Oyo State, a reliable government official said the state was generating around N1.2bn monthly while effort was on to improve on it.
The Oyo State Government owes between four and five months’ salaries depending on level of the workers.
The official, who preferred anonymity because she was not authorised to speak on the issue, said what the state was generating was not enough to pay workers as the wage bill stood around N5bn.
She said, “There is nothing to hide because what the state generates from the two major sources is known to all. Our workers’ know what comes in and how it is spent. We have set aside all the money that comes in from federal allocation for workers salaries, but the IGR, which is still around N1.2bn, is set aside for important projects that can be accommodated within that amount.
The Ondo State civil servants are currently on strike over the non-payment of their five months’ salaries by the state government.
According to the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, the wage bill of the entire workforce in the state is N3.9bn monthly.
It was gathered that the monthly IGR of the state was between N500m and N750m.
A source in the state Board of Internal Revenue explained that the state had made over N3bn as its IGR since the beginning of 2016.
Meanwhile, the state’s five months unpaid salaries amount to N19.5bn and a government source told Saturday PUNCH that federal allocation and IGR would not be enough to pay the huge wage bill debt.
But Akinmade said the dwindling economic situation had affected the salaries of the workers but government was striving to pay the arrears of the workers.
He said, “We are appealing to workers to call off the strike, so as to enable us to pay their salaries, for the past one week, the government has been losing a lot of money through the strike.
On how the government would pay the debt, Akinmade said the government had no plan to borrow but it was expecting some money from the Federal Government which he said if paid, would go a long way in paying striking workers.
The commissioner also noted that as the workers were being owed, so also the political office holders, saying both workers and political office holders were being paid the same time.
In Bayelsa State, the internally generated revenue since January 2016 revolves around N400m and N450m monthly according to figures reeled out during the monthly transparency briefing of the government.
The state government owes workers in the civil service five months, pensioners, seven months. The state university lecturers are owed five months, while those in the local government councils are owed between seven and 13 months.
On the wage bill of the state, before the verification embarked upon by the state government which has exposed some payroll fraud, the government was paying about N4.5bn on salaries of employees.
While civil servants received about N4bn, political appointees received about N500m.
The Ogun State monthly wage bill, according to Governor Ibikunle Amosun, is N9bn. In 2015, the state raked in N34.59bn as IGR.
Although the government has been paying workers’ salaries, it has yet to pay their cooperative deductions for eight months. It managed to pay one of the deductions with April salaries.
Federal allocation dropped by N18.6bn in six months
Meanwhile, the total allocations received by the 36 states of the federation declined by N18.68bn or 17.34 per cent in six months from N107.7bn in October 2015 to N89.04bn in March this year.
However, within the six months period, analysis of the figures from the Federation Account Allocation Committee showed that the states received a cumulative sum of N628.8bn from the federation account.
The figures are based on an analysis of the monthly allocation of revenue made by the Federation Account Allocation Committee after deducting all outstanding liabilities of the respective states based on the Irrevocable Standing Payment Order.
Labour leaders reject salary arrears forfeiture
Reacting to the likelihood of forfeiting part of their salary arrears, labour leaders have said no worker will forfeit his or her salary under any guise.
The Kwara State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Yekini Agunbiade, and his Ondo State counterpart, Mrs. Bosede Daramola, asked their respective governors to look inward to generate money to pay the workers.
Agunbiade said the chapters of the NLC, Trade Union Congress and the National Union of Local Government Employees signed an agreement with the state government that after the workers’ biometric verification, all arrears of the workers would be cleared.
He insisted that labour would not allow a situation where workers would forfeit their salary arrears.
“They (workers) cannot forfeit their arrears; nobody will forfeit his or her salary arrears,” Agunbiade said.
Daramola equally said Ondo State workers would not accept the idea of salary forfeiture from the state government.
She said, “I don’t think our governor has such plan because nobody discussed that with us, and I have said that if the government eventually brings such idea, it will not be acceptable.”
In spite of the fact that Osun State received the least allocation from the Federal Government, chairman of NLC in the state, Mr. Jacob Adekomi, told one of our correspondents that the idea of salary arrears forfeiture should not be conceived, let alone being discussed.
An activist, Odia Ofeimu, said governors who owe their workers ought to have been impeached a long time ago, adding that they all committed impeachable offences.
He added that the Federal Government should set up a committee to probe the governors, particularly on what they used the bailout they were granted in 2015 for.
A Professor of Energy Economics at the University of Ibadan, Adeola Adenikinju, said the governors would be violating labour laws if they default in paying the workers their arrears.