Public workers and unpaid salaries



REPORTS that public service workers in more than half of Nigeria’s 36 states, at the last count are being owed salaries of between three and eight months by their governments have further highlighted the leadership deficit which citizens have had to endure over the years. That Federal Government workers are not immune to the harrowing ordeal of unpaid salaries particularly towards the close of last year and early in the year makes the situation more tragic. If this seeming state of financial bankruptcy is disgraceful, more shameful is the leadership bankruptcy that has engendered it. Of course, to continually demand workers’ loyalty by the governments in default is antithetic to any claims of good governance and in states where they have so acted, the workers are justified to go on strike.

Nothing at best also advertised the insensitivity of affected governors (and, without shame, the political parties) to the plight of their people as they hit the campaign trail early in the year to solicit for votes to keep them in power. No shame, no compunction.

However, the current chief executives in the states, old or new, have to find means of redressing this unfortunate development in the shortest time frame because a labourer is deserving of his wages. Owing workers unjustifiably and for no fault of theirs is indefensible; families should be spared this ordeal. In fact, the change preached so vociferously by the current dispensation must start with the settlement of the salary commitments as a priority of the states concerned and, where applicable, the federal service.

Listed as debtor-states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kastina, Kogi, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Zamfara. Ironically on the infamous list are at least three of the leading earners from the Federation Account, including Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River. It stands reason on its head for instance if a state like Akwa Ibom which had been showing off massive infrastructural development has also failed its workers and forced them into poverty. That is a misplacement of priority.

It is a fact too that many of the states are contending with bloated workforces they either inherited, or created for political patronages but cannot cater for. The appointments into those offices at whatever level lack honesty of purpose. The governors should, however, be creative enough to improve on their revenue drive to honour their commitments.

It is also on record that many of the governors hardly present themselves as models of good governance with lifestyles that are flamboyant or too extravagant for comfort. It is rather unfortunate indeed that some of the governors who are too quick to plead helplessness and seek understanding on the sliding fortunes of the country’s economy due to falling oil prices had enough funds to pursue their political ambitions and even donate to parties’ purses during the campaigns. They have also always found enough to charter private jets for their travels and sustain a luxurious lifestyle. In no unmistakable terms, a number of the governors have proven themselves unworthy of their offices. They are mere opportunists, incapable of human and material resources management.

The multiplier effect of earned but unpaid wages is real. The worker suffers, the immediate family and dependants suffer, society is worse off for harbouring stress-filled human beings who are not proud to call themselves citizens and lifespan is gradually shortened. In the face of all of these, the so-called leaders live in the clouds, do little to redress the hopelessness and, at the same time, glory in their cluelessness on governance.

With the way Nigeria is structured or the states are made to function, there is no economy outside of civil service. If civil servants, teachers and the like are not paid, nothing else happens. What then obtains in Nigeria today is a cycle of distrust between governors and the governed who have been pauperized into submission.

Certainly, a total dependence of many states on federal allocations has never been and will never be a way out, thus raising again the question of fiscal federalism. The nation certainly must retrace its step to genuine federalism. Monthly allocations to the states are not shared on equal basis as some receive far in excess of others for some statutory reasons. It cannot be justified, therefore, when all states are required by labour provisions to pay workers the same minimum wage. Each state deserves to negotiate with its workers to enable it pay salaries well and regularly too. States must also be encouraged to explore and invest in resources in their domains, pay royalties to the federal authorities and have access to more revenue.

However, the current crisis may necessitate federal assistance in whatever form to bail out affected states even if on agreed terms of repayment over a period.

The national embarrassment on display now need not go on any longer.

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  • curtis uwuigbe

    Those are very shameless and deeply inconsiderate governors, people who do not understand the meaning ‘to govern’. I wonder why the people of such states voted such people or their cronies in the last elections. No paying workers salaries is a good reason to reject a siting governor or his associates. The electorate has her share of the blame on this lackadaisical inhumane character of the so-called leaders.

  • Mazi JO

    The States enumerated in this shameless saga are to be charged of human rights violations. They have put the dignity of honest Labor to ridicule. When someone works for a living and the principals fail to pay him/her for those series of months, how do they take care of their Families not to speculate the burden on their persons. How do they function? Salaries and Wages are recurrent and as such the priority items in the Budget process. If the State Budget measures have become so incompetent, I have a suggestion. Before disbursing Federal Allocations, the NASS, the Administration/Federal Ministry of Finance should apportion monies to the States by withholding unpaid Salaries and Wages to be released when these States are ready to pay the poor workers. There might be paperwork problems here but it cannot be worse than leaving these human beings languishing in despondency. Leave the bulk so withheld as cash in the Treasury, it will not rot, until the time it is to be paid out to the deserving people. We cannot even begin to estimate the direct cost of these practices in the Economy and Society as whole. A State that cannot pay its workers that long should consider Bankruptcy for every other thing it is doing is indirectly irrelevant.

  • Benbella

    Why the State Commissioners dont have Budget for the workers f? before Self made Projects in the State or why hire people you cant afford to pay their Salaries, I dont understand Nigeria logic, If the State is not capable to be one of the State why CREATE them for God sake to punish their Citizen, an honest Goverment would cut Commissioners Salaries to half to pay workers salaries period, all is about Corruption Games ? Wow ! you will have slow down on spending in your State without paying Salaries to Workers, No tax payments ? No revenue collection on goods and services , thay State is doom for sure !

  • Labour, as we all know, means work. What do we give an accent to this word and say dignity of labour? Society can
    recall different kinds of work – from the physical labours of a farm-hand to the white-collar job as an executive in a large organisation. In all circumstances, what makes labour dignified and worthwhile is the ability of the
    employers of labour to ensure that those who toil and sweat to produce the goods and services are rewarded, no matter how pittance for their efforts; So the reports that public service workers in more than half of Nigeria’s 36 states, at the last count are being owed salaries of between three and eight months by their governments makes for an unease and heart breaking reading. Most recently, His Excellency, the governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha had the affront to question the logic in the on-going strike embarked by the lecturers of Imo State University for non-payment of salaries. It is difficult to understand why these arrogant state governors think that is right to owe a worker his or her wages
    after toiling for months on end. To even starting to justify this in terms of how many months the workers were owed compared with others states makes it unbelievably inhumane and downright disturbing. To owe workers three to eight months’ salary arrears sounds incredulous and downright heartless. What plausible reason can a state government give to a workforce that after a full month that your wages are not forthcoming? And how can one explain the recent case involving a lecturer at the College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu who was fired for ‘insulting’ the state governor by
    appealing to him to facilitate the payment of their backlog of salary arrears? We all know that in addition to the monthly
    Federal allocations, that various state governors have incurred enormous amount of internal debts that would take years to pay back. Where is all the dosh gone then and who has eaten all the pie? And we are expected in all honesty to keep
    our mouths shut or be banged in for blackmailing the government that has heartlessly impoverished our people and turned so many lives upside down. What has happened to the Federal Allocations meant for the various ministries? These workers are men and women that have families to carter for, with majority travelling long distances to and from work, rents to pay and other social demands. The most disturbing aspect of salary arrears is that it transcends both public and private organisations. And sadly, Nigeria is not a poor nation that cannot afford to pay salaries to its workers. This is a country that is enormously blessed with mineral and human resources, and states that should value the efforts of their workforce. His Excellencies should please desist from comparing one and half months’ salary arrears to eight months’ salary arrears as both arrears can cause an unimaginable distress and hardship to families so affected. None can be justified.

  • Joosabba

    The Governors of these states should be made to surrender their assets to the Federal Government, sell the assets and pay their workers. The unpaid salaries have proved that these Governors are not competent to govern the States that are under them.
    The tittle of these Governors is “Can’t pay workers salaries,the Federal government take your assets” These should be added to Nigerian constitution as amendment.

  • Olatunde Adeniran

    Comments below seems to suggest people don’t read what this article is all about. Instead paying the blame broken records/music or becoming drama queens, we need to look inwards to become creative and not become or remain part of the problem. I believe most employees are wiser and have created honest alternative means of income. I will also suggest we up our games to create sustainable wealth creation techniques so we move away from employment mentality to self sustainable