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Osun: Workers, Pensioners Groan Over Unpaid Salaries, Pension

Yetunde Oladejo, examines negative impact of non-payment of salaries and monthly pension due to Osun State civil servants and retirees respectively for seven months.

No fewer than two hundred and thirty six (236) Pensioners and twenty (20) civil servants have reportedly died in recent time in Osun State due to the non-payment of salaries and monthly pension due to them for seven months by the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola- led government. This has been the subject of discussion by well-meaning people across the length and breadth of the state. This is so because the economy of the state rests solely on its workforce. Currently, the emotionally and psychologically traumatized work force can no longer perform its statutory functions in the administration of the state.

It would be recalled that before the Osun State Governorship Election of August 9, 2014, Governor Aregbesola owed about three months of wages to the civil servants and the pensioners. It was not until the defeat of his colleague then, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, of Ekiti State in June 29th 2014 governorship election that Aregbesola hurriedly found the money to pay the arrears of workers to avoid the threat of losing re-election, despite the fact that Governor Aregbesola has been collecting the state allocation up until the month of June, 2014. Some of the civil servants have resorted to begging in the street and at market places and those who could not do that resort to buying on credit. However, recently, some of their creditors denied them the credit luxury as they also complained that their businesses are going down.

On their part, some of the retirees who live on drugs could not afford to buy it any more. The people of the state including market men and women could not bear the untold hardship and pain of the unpaid salaries. It is against this background that a human rights group, the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), had called on Governor Aregbesola to pay the outstanding salaries of the state workers without further delay, alleging that the governor misplaced priority by paying the salary of his political office holders and as well spending the state resources on political frivolity such as Ekiti impeachment saga.

The rights group in a statement signed by its Executive Chairman, Comrade Adeniyi, Sulaiman, reiterated the commitment of the group to ensuring that the workers’ welfare should not be in jeopardy in the hands of those in position of authority in the land. They asked Aregbesola to come out and explain to the whole world the true position of the financial status of the state and the reason his government could not pay its workforce again since his (Aregbesola) second coming to office. The group, which described Aregbesola’s administration as clueless and unfriendly to the state workforce, insisted that the accumulated seven months unpaid workers’ salary in the state was as a result of Aregbesola’s mis-management of state resources and hatred for the workers over the outcome of the August 9th, 2014 governorship election in the state.

According to Sulaiman, “It is a pity that Aregbesola that promised to pay Osun state workers salary throughout the period of his administration without waiting for Federal Allocation cannot pay seven months’ salary of the workers in the first year of his second term in office. Aregbesola’s second term in office has become clueless and unfriendly to the people of the state, particularly, the workers and pensioners. The only solution to the problem on ground is for Aregbesola to pay all the outstanding workers salary without further delaying.” Similarly, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), advised Mr. Aregbesola, to sell the helicopter purchased for security surveillance and stop ‘wasteful spending’ in order to raise money to pay salaries of workers in the state.

PDP through its Director of Media and Strategy, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, who gave the advice in a statement made available to Journalists in Osogbo recently urged Aregbesola to sell the helicopter he said was procured for the state as well as stop frivolous trips to Cuba. The statement reads, “What this administration told us was that the helicopter was to be used for surveillance, but we have since discovered that the machine is only serving the traveling needs of Mr. Aregbesola and his family. This remains one draining pipe that must be blocked.

“The governor and his aides should also forthwith stop traveling in chartered aircraft around the world. If President Muhammadu Buhari, could be traveling on British Airways, even when aircraft in presidential fleet are available, there is the need for Governor Aregbesola to borrow a leaf.” The opposition party also accused the governor of wasting the state’s resources on politics and arming of a group of youths he called “State Boys.”

The PDP then called on the newly elected members of the Osun State House of Assembly not to turn themselves to rubber stamps of the executive arm of the government saying that the people of the state now place their hope on the lawmakers to check the ‘excesses of the governor’ in the interest of the masses. The statement read further, “The whole world is aware of the fact that former Ekiti lawmakers were heavily bribed on the bill of Osun state for several months, where they mapped out strategies on how to impeach Governor Ayodele Fayose.

It is also fresh in the mind that the huge amount Aregbesola expended on the last Ekiti state governorship poll, Lagos state governorship poll and the Presidential project of the All Progressive Congress. “Also, a group of miscreants called “State Boys” are being illegally armed and financed by the government to unleash terror on many indigenes of the state by the ruling party. All these actions and many other wasteful spending led us to where we are now, which if they could be reversed, could bring financial reserves to the state.

But if Aregbesola will not treat this advice with disdain, and henceforth, begin to act as the governor of all, we believe at least he will be able to pay few months of the backlog of salaries owed workers and retirees.” Reacting to the statement from PDP, Aregbesola in a statement through his media aide, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, described the suggestions and allegations from the opposition party as infantile, saying that PDP was just seeking cheap publicity with their suggestions and spurious allegations.

The statement reads in part, “The suggestion shows clearly how degenerate the PDP has become in the thinking process for its leaders to have come up with the selling of a mere helicopter in order to pay salaries. It is disheartening this is how degenerate the PDP has become in their thinking process. They screamed ignorantly about two years ago that Osun procured a helicopter with a sum of N8bn. “We had asked them to find out the cost of a Boeing plane, let alone a helicopter which was only leased and it was to beef up the Osun Swift Action Squad (SAS) for its aerial surveillance.

This was clear to all in the state that the helicopter was procured as part of the Rauf Aregbesola administration’s comprehensive security measures to drive criminals far away from the state. “For the PDP in its narrow and pedestrian thinking to tell us to sell the helicopter is a sign of intellectual laziness. The allegations that Aregbesola uses the helicopter for his personal use lack any evidence.

It is obvious that the PDP, after it has reached its final bus stop of defeat rigmarole, as typified by the Supreme Court decision of May 27, is merely looking for something to keep it relevant. “But come to think of it! What could be relevant in a party that never had any touch with the people? What could be relevant in a party that cannot even organize itself to give credible and virile opposition? It is therefore certain that allegations, such as Aregbesola financing Lagos, Ekiti and Muhammadu Buhari’s elections are not only laughable; they demonstrate the fact that the PDP cannot even be rescued from its self-inflicted tragedy.

It is a party eternally rejected. “This certainly cannot be the path to go if its intention is to be an opposition party. An opposition party that cannot help the people to know what the people want, the people of Osun need adequate security which PDP failed to provide throughout Nigeria in its 16 years of misrule. “The People of Osun require good governance which the PDP could not give them.

I therefore advise that shameful lies such as those Odeyemi cooked up again and threw to the media would not help the party. They would help sink it deeper.” CHRSJ appealed to the governor to look for means of paying the civil servants in the state on time, so as to end the hardship they are going through, saying “there is no hiding place for Aregbesola on the financial status, particularly, on the allocation accrued to the state from Federation Account on Excess Crude oil, Ecological Fund, SUBEB Fund, Sure-P, rebate from Local governments monthly allocation and state monthly allocation, as well as Pension Contributory Fund and unremitting Cooperative loan deductions and a host of others.”

The group further stated that the action of the governor by failing to pay the workers’ salaries, was tantamount to murdering sleep, “Aregbesola has murdered sleep over the non-payment of Osun State workforce for the past seven months now and has turned the affected workers to beggars and debtors in the society.”

In a related development, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in the state also demanded the state governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola to declare his assets publicly without delay or the party would be forced to publish what it knows about his alleged massive wealth. SDP described Aregbesola’s defence of how he had spent several billions of the state funds as a mere rhetoric, laughable and inconsistent going by the facts in its possession.

The state SDP disclosed that it has conducted its private investigations and discovered how the governor had allegedly acquired enormous assetsin the last four years in a state where millions of indigenes are living in abject poverty. SDP through its Chairman, Mr. Ademola Ishola, during the party’s Performance Assessment meeting held in Osogbo recently to deliberate on how SDP performed in the last National Assembly Election said what the party uncovered about Aregbesola’s wealth would stun Nigerians.

According to him, “Our party discovered that one of the areas where fraud was being perpetrated by Aregbesola’s government was through consultants handling virtually all his projects. It is a shame that even if the governor wanted to buy toothpicks, it has to pass through consultants, some of who are his cronies.”

Ishola further explained that the governor’s monthly N500 million security votes and the N32 million monthly earmarked for the governor’s wife feeding allowance became worrisome for SDP, alleging that “For now, the governor had pocketed over N25 billion as security votes while about N1.7 billion had gone for food in his house from our meager resources.”

Reacting to this development, the APC, through its director of media, Publicity and Strategy, Barrister Kunle Oyatomi, dismissed SDP’s claims, urging the party to go ahead and publish what it knows about Aregbesola. The party described SDP’s allegation as “stupid and far from the truth,” saying, the governor knows his onions and can never get himself involved in untoward acts.

The UNION gathered that when the controversies were going on among the concern citizen in the State, Governor Aregbesola came out from his shell that his administration had performed creditably well despite its inability to pay its workers in the state for the past seven months. According to a statement made available to newsmen in Osogbo by his media aide, Mr. Okanlawon, the governor scored himself high.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to him by the Osun Action Strategy and Development Group, sympathised with workers while assuring them that the hardship would soon come to an end.

The statement read, “Despite the financial shortage, even the most virulent critics of this government cannot deny that the administration has performed creditably well. “This government built roads, schools, supplied students with Opon Imo (Tablets of Knowledge), distributed uniforms to all public students in the state, created welfare programmes for the old and vulnerable people as well as supporting farmers.

“No state has done what Osun did in the area of security, which today has totally checked crimes and other anti-social activities in the state. Huge amount of money was committed to purchasing armoured personnel carrier and ambulances, which are strategically located in the state and responding to distress calls round the clock. “If all the programmes, with huge cost involved, are factored into the accruable revenue of the state, it will be crystal clear why the state is where it is today.”

Describing the situation as an economic tragedy, he said the current misfortune of the nation’s economy remains a gross mishandling by the last administration of the Peoples Democratic Party, stating that the unchecked oil theft under the PDP, in which the nation was losing 400,000 barrels per day, culminated in the drastic reduction of oil price in the international market. Aregbesola further said the state collected N5bn as monthly allocation in February 2013 but the allocation drastically reduced to a mere N540m in April 2015.

“As we are trying to find solution to these challenges, we must not also run away from what brought us to this situation. For those who think this is an opportunity to pillory us in this economic condition, I pity them. Only God does not fail. We shall overcome; we shall recover from this challenge. I sympathise and feel for the workers. I appeal to them to bear with us as we work assiduously to end this problem.

I assure them that the period of agony will soon be over. It is disheartening for people to work and such work fails to translate into wages. It is a harrowing experience for both workers and the government”, Aregbesola added. But in a swift reaction CHRSJ, charged Aregbesola to stop blaming anybody for his government’s inability to pay workers and retirees respectively for seven months. The group while reacting to Aregbesola’s attribution of the current problem facing the state on his government inability to pay workers on the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government, the CHRSJ’s boss said Aregbesola was economical with the truth on the financial status of the state,urging him to come out with the true position of the state financial status and how the current administration expended the resources accrue to the State in the last four and half years.

According to the CHRSJ boss, “By now, Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola should stop blaming anybody, particularly, the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration on his government inability to meet his obligation on the payment of workers salary as such defence has been belated and not tenable again. The rights group also called on the two anti- graft agencies in the country, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to beam his searching light into all the financial transactions of the Osun State government, Mr. Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola since assumption of office in November 27th, 2010.

The group alleged that more than 50 percent allocation accrued to the state were misappropriated, embezzled and diverted by Aregbesola and his kitchen cabinet into personal used, thereby making them to enrich themselves overnight and acquiring property worth billions of naira across the choice areas of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States. They therefore, urged the anti-graft bodies not to wait any longer to begin the investigation into the Aregbesola’s administration in line with the Buhari’s government posture to make all the political office holders in the present political dispensation to be accountable to the Nigeria people.

The rights activist who volunteer to assist the anti graft agencies to unravel the alleged corrupt practices of the administration in the state, maintained that all the projects embarked upon by the Aregbesola’s administration were cosmetics and moribund. He insisted that most of the fund allocated to the state and Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) were shared to the kobo by the Aregbesola’s family and political cronies which made the state to unable pay its workforce. “We are ready to bring out the facts that over billions of naira have been accrued to the state and local governments since Rauf Aregbesola’s administration came on board in November 2010 and over fifty percent of these funds are diverted into the personal purse of Aregbesola’s family and political cronies.

People of Osun state will be surprised that Mr. Kabiru Aregbesola, a family man who had N8.4 billion Opon- Imo(tablet of knowledge) contract from his father’s (Rauf Aregbesola) government, was recently alleged of Money laundering to United Arab Emirate”. Consequent upon this, Governor Rauf Aregbesola has said the economic situation in the state that led to his administration’s inability to pay workers’ salaries was beyond his control. He said it was heart-rending that he had found himself in the situation, which he described as a quagmire. Aregbesola said he was not happy the same way a head of a family would feel when he cannot meet the needs of his family members. He said, “No head of the family will be happy that he cannot feed members of the family.

Extend that to state, it is heart-rending that I am in this quagmire. But no matter how sad (I don’t want to use the word ‘depressed’), no matter how unhappy I am, the truth is that I will not fail to say that it is a situation absolutely beyond my control. “I led an administration in receipt of regular allocation in which I do my budget. Unfortunately, this allocation started falling in rapid form that totally disorganised my budget and any other arrangement.” Aregbesola said those who want to be objective would readily admit that the Osun State of November 2010 when he assumed office and Osun of today are not the same.

He said people must give credit to the changes that his administration had brought about in the state, saying the changes were not miracles but were occasioned by application of resources. The governor further explained that with the unexpected and sharp decline in revenue, his administration had a dislocation. His words: “Were it to be Osun alone, probably I would not have an excuse. “I pray it does not continue. I am not sure if there will be any state that will actually escape from the biting effect of the absolute sharp drop which I call economic disaster that we are grappling with. “Since my inauguration on November 27, 2010, I had made it a duty to pay salary on or before 25th of every month up until January 2014 when that became practically impossible.

I have been giving the same staff who today are, regrettably and painfully, not being paid annual bonus that we call 13th month salary. There was no demand for it. I just felt that workers must be encouraged, they must be inspired. “I did that religiously and faithfully from 2010 to 2013. The development that led to this began precisely in July when we received the June allocation and it was short by 40 percent. “Since then, what we have been receiving from the Federation Account is less than the wages, personnel cost. It is far and not mildly less.”

Aregbesola said he struggled with it till October 2014 when there was nothing else he could do. He said the situation was further compounded by the fact that his government could not go to bank to borrow to pay the wages commitment. The governor however said that with the efforts he was putting in place, there might be solution by month end. “It is a sad development. I am struggling to reduce the pain as much as possible and I am almost at the end of the efforts I am making to ensure that by the end of this month, I will have enough to at least meet to a large extent the salary needs of the workers,” he declared.

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