Osun Workers Benefit From Church Scheme Over Unpaid Salaries
FOR public service workers in Osun State, these are indeed trying times. For about seven months now, they have not received salaries from their Osun State government employer under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola. All they get from Aregbesola instead are promises that are yet to be fulfilled since last year when the state wage bill began to pile up.
Even though Osun State is not the only state in the federation that is facing financial difficulty and owing its workforce, yet, the ugly situation in the state appears to have been further aggravated by the fact that the authorities have not thrown the card open about the true picture of the state of finance.
The expected line of communication between employee and employer seems to be lacking. However, Aregbesola has blamed the inability by his administration to pay salaries regularly on dwindling resources coming to the state from the federal purse.
He said, “Problem began in 2012 when our expenditure increased as a result of hike in minimum wage. This was when we applied the increase to junior workers only. Then our total emoluments rose to N2.7 billion from the N1.4 billion that I met in November 2010.”
He continued, “By December of that year, it hit N3.5 billion. At the same time our statutory allocation increased marginally from N2.1 billion to N2.5 billion.
By July of 2003, our total emoluments hit N4 billion while our statutory allocation was N2.1 billion. By then we had extended the increase to other cadres of workers.”
The explanation offered by the governor notwithstanding, the workers appear to have become fed up with the usual answer to their question from the authorities on when actually their fears would be assuaged and hunger and starvation facing them will be taken care of.
Inability by the authorities to meet its obligations to those in active service and the senior citizens who had retired from the state public service has forced the workers to embark on an indefinite strike on May 25 to press home their demand. Although the trade dispute declared by the labour movement in the state is still in force, yet the welfare of the workers has become worsened with each passing day.
The pitiable situation of the workers, many of who find it difficult to feed their families and meet other personal and family obligations has drawn the attention of some public-spirited individuals and worship centres who have organised relief materials including money and foodstuffs to cushion the painful effects of working without getting the expected wage.
Because the enduring capacities of humans who find themselves in such a harrowing condition vary, many workers in active service and their retired counterparts have reportedly died while there was a reported case of a worker who attempted suicide.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Dr. J. A. Olunlade recounted the ordeal facing the senior citizens, lamenting that about 236 members of the union had suffered preventable death due to their inability to raise money for medical treatment.
He noted that the condition of retirees and workers has become more despicable in a situation where both are either retirees or those still in active public service.
Olunlade who spoke during a peaceful protest by the union to press for the payment of members’ entitlements in Osogbo on Wednesday painted a pathetic picture, pointing out that the association had lost about 236 members since last year due to their inability to access health facility, while many others also suffer starvation and could not settle their bills including children’s school fees.
He appealed to the state government to take urgent measures to bail retired and working officers out of poverty, preventable illnesses and sudden death.
His words, “Empty promises by government and insensitivity to the plight of pensioners which have led to untimely death of many and inability of many to meet their financial obligations have become a recurring decimal and we are fed up of these.” He alleged that a particular retired school principal in Ilesa area died recently due to the inability of his family to raise about N3,000 health bill.
Worried by the plight of the workers over backlog of unpaid salaries which he said has become noticeable among worshippers, the Pastor of the Living Faith Church, Osogbo, otherwise known as Winners’ Chapel, Olumuyiwa Emmanuel has appealed to the congregation to come to the aid of Osun workers by donating money and foodstuffs to be distributed to the affected members of the church who are public servants as part of their contribution to be their brothers’ keeper.
The appeal which was made last Sunday during church service has started to yield positive dividends as about 60 workers had registered for the scheme while the church had also begun distribution of relief materials to them. The pastor was quoted to have said: “There are people among us who are civil servants and who have not been paid for about seven months.
These people need our help especially at this time. Whatever you have, begin to bring them to church from tomorrow. Bring foodstuffs and money. We must be our brothers’ keeper.
Don’t bring clothes, this is not the time for that. There are people who slept on empty stomach last night and we must not pretend that we don’t know.”
The clarion call by Pastor Emmanuel for donation to the workers has also enjoyed the blessing of the umbrella body of Christians in the state, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which called on all Christians in Osun to show love to the civil servants by donating their widow’s mite to support them in time of need.
The state chairman of CAN, Rev. Elisha O. Ogundiya noted that in view of the present state of thingS in the state, whereby the state government is handicapped to pay workers’ salaries, churches in the state should accept the challenge by making financial and material contribution to assist the workers.
Ogundiya said the leadership of CAN is concerned about the hardship workers are passing through, urging capable Christians not to leave the public servants to their fate but to offer assistance to ameliorate their suffering in tune with the biblical injunction.
His words, “Churches in the state are encouraged to be their brothers’ keeper in assisting in cash and kind not only to their members but also to people of other faiths. He said the church of God would continue to pray for the political leadership to enhance a rapid reversal of the current economic hardship facing the state.
“I exhort, therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty (1 Timothy 2, 1-2).
“In the light of this passage, the Christian body that met used the time to pray for sundry needs of people and government at all levels considering the present situation in the state of Osun, the ongoing workers’ strike action, and the non-payment of salaries and pension, which have taken toll on the economy in the state.”
Some beneficiaries of the relief scheme initiated by Winners Chapel told The Guardian that they find it difficult to maintain their families due to the issue of non-payment of salaries.
The workers who craved for anonymity said they and their friends are tired of borrowing for survival because according to them the ones they borrowed had not been repaid due to their condition. They added that creditors are also tired of giving more loans saying that the situation has also affected their dignity.