OGUN: Great Potentials, But Still Living From Hand To Mouth

Ibikunle Amosun

Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun

IN Ogun, there is disagreement between workers and the government over the true situation of the state.

The government insists that it has paid its workers up to date. But the State Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Salaam Abdussobur, told The Guardian “Yes, they (government) have paid salaries up to May, but it is without the deductions it made from the salaries.”

He mentioned such deductions to include, “Union dues, pension deductions, among others which, according to him the government is yet to remit to the appropriate quarters.”

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, who spoke to The Guardian on Thursday, described newspaper reports that Ogun is one of the states owing salaries as not only false and misleading, but also mischievous.

His words, “I can say without any equivocation that since inception of this administration till date Ogun State does not owe its workers. In fact, we are one of the few states that have consistently been paying workers’ salaries as at when due.”

Adeoluwa, however, admitted, “the only outstanding we have bothers on pension, contributions and some deductions.”

Abdussobur said that the deductions owed them included “bank re-payments,” explaining “the government stood as a guarantor to some of the workers who took bank loans with an agreement that government would deduct specific amount monthly from the affected workers’ salary to offset the loans but despite the deductions, the government has refused to pay to the banks.”

The implications, the NLC secretary explained, “is that the interest of such loans continue to increase daily.”

Abdussobur said, “the monthly contributions the workers make to their co-operative societies are also being withheld by the government without remitting them to the appropriate quarters”.

According to him, for the past six months, the union leaders had been discussing with the government to find a way forward, disclosing, “the government has now agreed that by the end of July, it would meet all our demands.”

He added, “if that promise is not fulfilled at the end of July, we will advise ourselves, not excluding taking a drastic action.”

Abdussobur admitted that, the present government inherited 29 months arrears of such deductions from the past administration, which has been reduced to eight months by the present government.

To him the reason for cash crunch in most of the states is due to misplacement of priorities and urged the governments to make payment of salaries their number one priority, saying they should not sacrifice payment of salaries on the alter of execution of capital projects.

Adeoluwa told The Guardian, “we have such issue because when we assumed office, we met a backlog of 29 months arrears of such deductions, which were left behind by the immediate past administration.”

The state’s scribe stated, “as at now we have succeeded in reducing such arrears from the 29 months to eight months, so, it is unfair for anyone to say we are owing workers salaries, when in actual fact, we have paid. I must emphasised that Ogun is not bankrupt as the media is making the public to believe, we have paid salaries up to date.”

For the governments to free itself from such indebtedness, the NLC secretary suggested that all governments should cut down the cost of government by reducing drastically the number of political appointees.

Meanwhile, infrastructural contractual agreements entered by government have been on holdacross the state. The speed with which Gov. Amosun hit the ground running in his first three years slowed remarkably in his fourth year, towards his reelection.

So far, government is yet to pick up after the May 29, swearing in. Ogun is reputed for its ability to generate internal revenue, but whether government has the discipline to prioritise projects is another thing.

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