By Bologi M. Maikudi
The organised labour has told Governor Yahaya Bello that his administration owed workers between eight to 39-month salary arrears.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Onu Edoka, disclosed this in Lokoja during an emergency meeting between the governor and the leaders of the organised labour.
The meeting, summoned by the government, took place at the governor’s office at the Lugard House.
Edoka took exception to recent media reports quoting the governor as saying that he was not owing workers a dime.
A visibly enraged labour leader insisted that the state government was heavily indebted to workers in a scale that is unprecedented in the history of the state.
“We wish to unequivocally state that His Excellency’s administration owes Kogi workers and pensioners heavily in terms of salaries, pensions and other entitlements,” he said.
“We are more bewildered by the fact that at one time the government accepts the fact of her heavy indebtness to workers, and at another time the denial card is played.”
He reminded Bello that as at the time he came into office on January 27, 2016, the workers were being owed three months salary and pension arrears.
According to him, Bello’s administration received the allocation for January, 2016, thereby putting the responsibility of payment of salary of that month on him, and not the previous administration.
“You claimed to have spent the N20 billion bailout fund on payment of salary and pensions, but your refusal to utilise several years of monthly allocations for the same purpose gave room to the present backlog of salary and pensions,” Edoka said.
“As at today, the outstanding salaries and pensions arrears are in six different categories, ranging from eight months to 39 months.
”Apart from salaries, the current administration has not paid any leave bonus since inception. The implication is that leave bonuses for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are outstanding against this government.”
He insisted that there was no moral justification for Bello not to pay salary and pensions having accessed bailout funds which were meant for that purpose, in addition to several tranches of Paris Club refund.
“There is therefore a moral burden on His Excellency to explain to the people of the state what his government did with all the refunds, the monthly allocations and internally generated revenue running into hundreds of billions of naira, since inception of this administration,” he said.
“We challenge the state government to a live debate on these issues on any national television.”
He charged the governor to drop the denial game, urging him to commence payment of the outstanding salary and pension arrears immediately, to prevent further death, sickness and other deprivations facing the people under his watch.
Bello, who was visibly rattled by the submissions of the labour, promised to work out modalities for the payment of the outstanding salary arrears and pensions.
He argued that his administration had, within limited resources, done its best to develop the state and improve upon citizens welfare.
The governor then pleaded for the support of the organised labour so that he could do more for the state.