Yetunde Oladejo, in Osogbo reports the dilemma of Osun workers whose financial situation worsened when their banks debited rather than credited them after the government paid one out of the seven months salary being owed them
Contrary to the expectations of Osun state workers that at least five months’ salaries would be paid by government, their hopes were dashed, as only December salary of the workers was paid, while the pensioners received half of their November pay. Even then, many got the shock of their lives when the bank alert they got was debit rather than credit. They had taken loan from their banks in lieu of promises by the government to pay them five out of the seven months owed them.
The state Governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, had promised to pay the workers and pensioners their salaries before the end of June, although he was silent on whether he would pay the backlog or part of the salaries. But many of the workers had thought that their suffering and hardship would be reduced by the end of June. They were however disappointed when they received alert from their banks. The UNION investigation has revealed that some of the workers who had secured loans from banks could not get any money at the end of the day, while some were either debited or got a small amount. One of the workers who spoke with our correspondent lamented that he received N7,000 debit alert from his banker. He disclosed that when he had nothing to give to his family, he had to run to the bank to borrow money with the hope that the state government would pay backlog of their salaries.
“See me today, I am still indebted to the bank with nothing to eat at home. I have no money with me and there is no where I can run to for assistance.” Also a pensioner said he got N500 being half of the amount he received as pension monthly. They however called on the government to pay at least five months of their salaries so as to relieve them of the burden they are currently passing through. While the workers were still expecting their salaries on the last day of June, the state government announced that it has slashed the salaries and allowances of all political office holders and appointees by half and that it would pay a month’s salary to the workers of the state.
A statement from the Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Semiu Okanlawon, said that the state government is saddened and troubled by the turn of events in the financial status of the state and the country at large, and that the state is taking responsibility for the unfortunate problem and is prepared to meet the challenge head-on, a development which later generated public outcry.
According to the statement, “Since the inception of this government, we have treated the resources under our control with the utmost respect and disbursed them diligently for the greater benefits of our people. Our mandate had always been to use our God-given wealth to bridge the gap between the downtrodden and the government. “It is very unfortunate that we find ourselves unable to pay our workers their due wages for several months when, in the past, we stood for paying on or before the 25th of each month. We thank the ever gracious and understanding workers of our state for their patience as we go through this most trying time.
“However, we are glad to announce that we have commenced the process of paying the balance of November and full December salaries arrears for all our workers across the state and the process should be concluded by Friday, July 3, 2015. We are able to do this because our partners and creditors have faith in us and we have proven to be responsible and trustworthy. “We must emphasis at this point: We are not out of the woods yet! Our finances took a dive because we were hit by the shock of the sudden and massive drop in global oil prices, while Nigeria also had a federal government that failed in its primary responsibility to secure our people and our commonwealth. Thanks to the Nigerian people, that evil leadership has been removed and replaced with a progressive one.
That does not translate to instant cure for our near-empty pockets. We must take drastic steps to correct many of our past errors and embrace the true realities of today. “Therefore, we hereby announce a 50 per cent cut to the salaries and allowances of all political office holders and appointees. This is one of the many steps we are taking to ensure the sustenance of our collective. We are also calling on our people to join us and do their part in carrying the weight of change.”
But in a swift reaction, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the slash by half in salaries and allowance of political office holders as a mere propaganda. The PDP through its director of media and strategy, Prince Diran Odeyemi said that the announcement by the governor amounts to nothing since only four officials were affected. His words: “We condemn the propaganda of the government that it has reduced the salaries of political functionaries by 50 per cent.
“We want to state categorically that only the Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff, and Secretary to the State Government and the governor are political functionaries as Governor Aregbesola has refused to appoint commissioners since October 2014.” Odeyemi however expressed disappointment that the state government succeeded in paying only one month salary despite owing workers seven months of unpaid salaries.
“With utmost disappointment and embarrassment we received the news of one month payment of workers salary in Osun. “It is indeed a shock for Osun workers to receive payment alert of their Dec salary in July leaving an outstanding 7 months unpaid with no fixed date for the payment. “While sympathizing with the entire work force and retiree in Osun, we appeal to them not to take laws into their hands and remain calm in the face of disappointment from the Governor,” he stated. Also a right group, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) in Osun state has described the payment of one month salary to the workers and pensioners by the Osun state government as Greek gift which was intend to silence workers and defray public outcry.
The movement in a statement jointly signed in Osogbo yesterday by the state coordinator and secretary, Alfred Adegoke and Kola Ibrahim respectively stressed that one month salary is too little going by the reality on ground. Their words: “we in the DSM bemoan the fact that Aregbesola government could only pay a month salary which by reality on ground will be swallowed up by loan repayment.
The same government created this debilitating situation whereby workers’ are swallowed by loans and debts, through its non-payment of salaries as at when due and withholding of loan and dues already deducted from workers’ salaries. “We also decry a divisive policy of paying workers and pensioners. We similarly condemn a situation whereby government deeps its hands into deductions from workers salaries meant for banks and cooperatives loans repayment, pension funds and union dues.
This is tantamount to a financial crime. It should be stopped forthwith and all money wrongfully and illegally held in this respect by the government should be paid immediately. “We call on Aregbesola’s government to begin the full payment of all salaries and allowances of workers, pensions and gratuities of pensioners.
We find the excuse of lack of fund as mere smokescreen.” Speaking on the 50% cut salaries of political appointees, DSM said, “ the recent announcement by the government clearly confirms our position that one of the means by which the state resources is being wasted is through bogus salaries and allowances for political appointees. We maintain our demand that political appointees being part time officials should be on same salary scale with workers in the civil service.”
Meanwhile, a social political organization, the Oranmiyan Democrats has declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government of Mr Rauf Aregbesola in Osun state was concerned with the plights of its workers and urged them to be patient with the state government, saying better days are ahead.
The Convener of the group, Chief Titilola Moshood who spoke in Osogbo, the state capital noted that the non-payment of salaries by Osun state government has assumed political dimension, warned politicians, especially those in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to use the current situation in the state to score undue political goals.
He lamented that the dwindling allocation from the federation account was responsible for the situation the state finds itself, saying the PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan caused the current crisis being experienced in the state and some of their states in the country.
Titilola who condemned the politics introduced into the current situation in the state by the PDP and some public servants in the state said the situation will soon be normalized. He said the decision by some PDP leaders to donate food items to civil servants in the state was political, a situation which he condemned, stressing that no meaningful government would be happy with the situation in the state.
He noted that Osun state was not the only state affected by the current economic challenge which occasioned the non-payment of salaries, saying 11 other states are faced with the challenge. He appealed to workers in the state to be more patient with the government as arrangements were on top gear to settle the outstanding salaries. In the meantime, the salary paid by the government was not acceptable to the workers in the state, as the leadership of the of the workers insisted that they would not go back to work until the government pay at least five month out of their salary.
However, hopes of parents and guardians have also been dashed as continuous stay at home of their wards in public primary and secondary schools might denied them opportunity to write their third term examination, hence unable to meet up with their counterpart in private schools.