Workers’ Salaries: State Governments And The Challenges Ahead

Wabba, Buhari and Yari

Wabba, Buhari and Yari

Government’s inability to pay workers’ salaries, especially at the state and council levels is at the front burner now.

The problem is topical and has become one of the greatest challenges confronting majority of the state governments across the country today. It is equally affecting governance as paucity of fund is threatening to ground government activities.

State governors are running from pillar to post to meet government’s financial obligations, especially to the workforce. State debt profile has continued to pile up. Governors have sought for Federal Government’s bailout, but it seems it is not forthcoming.

The worst of it is that when crude was selling for between 95 to 115 dollars per barrel with budget benchmark at 78 to 76 dollar for almost five years plus during President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, neither the state government nor Federal Government saved enough for a time like this. Several attempts by the Federal Government to save were rebuffed by the state governors, who had insisted on sharing of the revenue among the three tiers of government at all time.

While the huge monthly allocation bazaar lasted, state governors and several government officials at all levels engaged in financial profligacy. White elephant and over-bloated projects were initiated as pipe to siphon public funds. Corrupt practices and scams reigned like never before within and outside the corridors of power. Anti-graft agencies went to sleep and brazen looting of public treasury continued unabated.

Many concerned Nigerians saw a bleak future coming. They raised the alarm, they cautioned, but government officials especially the state governors failed to listen. Suddenly, towards the end of last year, the price of crude oil in the international market crashed. Countries that have been dependent on oil as a major source of income began to feel the heat economically. Once huge monthly allocation from federation to the states, which majority of the governors have been dependent on to run the affairs of the state began to dwindle.

Governors raised the alarm and traded blames with the Federal Government. On the side of the federal government, the external reserve instead of increase, decreased drastically. Worsening the situation was the billions of public fund spent by government officials during the general elections.

Following the recent list published by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), 18 states have not been able to pay workers’ salaries regularly for months now. Some of the states owed workers between six to eight months’ salaries. There is no doubt that with the way things are going today, almost all the states may not be able to pay regularly in the days ahead, unless something drastic is done. Some of the states have denied owing workers at all, but investigation reveals that almost all the states across the country are owe their workers one way or the other.

For instance, some states that pay workers’ salaries regularly owe them leave allowances and other entitlements. Some also pay workers in the ministries without paying those at the local government areas and parastatals. Some states pay one month salary after three months have elapsed.

Almost all the state governments owe their retirees pensions and gratuities for years now. Before now, most state governments have devised different means of paying workers’ salaries to keep divided and avoid industrial action.

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