THE organised labour in Kogi State is poised for a showdown with the state government over payment of outstanding salary arrears from the Paris Club loan refund of N13.1b paid to the state by the federal government.
The crux of the matter, according to findings, was the mode of payment to be adopted and the delay in the implementation of the mode of payment.
Worried by the continued increase in the wage bill of the state despite removing thousands of names from the payroll after the staff screening exercise, the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was said to have directed that the next batch of payment should be on ‘table payment’ arrangement.
The wage bill of the state before the commencement of the screening exercise was put at N2.6 billion but rose to N2.8 billion despite the screening.
The core civil servants in the state that have been collecting salary since the inception of the present administration are being owed four months salary, while the workers in the state owned tertiary institutions were owed five months salary.
However, the state government had two weeks ago pledged to offset the salary with the N13.1b Paris Club loan refund to all categories of workers with the workers to be paid physically through cheques.
A reliable source at the meeting held with the leadership of the workers, however, said they objected to the payment of the whole outstanding through ‘table payment’ with the Paris Club loan refund, saying they asked the government to first pay them with September allocation before talking about the new arrangement.
He said the proposal by the government was contrary to an earlier agreement that 70 per cent of the loan refund should be utilised for salary payment
The source said, “We have earlier agreed that 70 per cent of the N13.1billion will be used for salary. The government first agreed to pay the arrears of 40 per cent of five months owed us last year and continue with full payment.
“But it is surprising that after the screening and after they had removed ghost workers, those with fake certificates, diaspora workers and so on, the wage bill that was N2.6billion before screening went up to N2.8 billion.
“The committee agreed that payment will start by last (penultimate) Wednesday but to our dismay on Thursday, the governor summoned us and said government wants to make a landmark achievement and wants to do table payment but we asked him to do the table payment with September salary because our members cannot go for table payment without having anything.
“We again met on Sunday to agree on the modalities but again to our surprise the governor brought consultant and the consultant said he will do biometric capturing again which means we want to start a fresh screening and the one that we have been doing since 2016 is a waste but the government I listed that it was good for all of us that it will hasten the inclusion of those omitted on the payroll.
“We then agreed on 20 teams to do the job but the major challenge we are having is how to write cheques for about 27, 000 workers and still be able to meet up. The government said they will meet last Monday, again throughout the week nothing happens and our people are running out of patient.”
However, speaking on the development, the state chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ranti Ojo, said the increase in wage bill despite the screening was not the handiwork of civil servants, saying the politicians are responsible.
He said, “Whatever they discover am sure it is not the civil servants that will be culpable, it is the politicians, they are the one in charge of preparation of salary.
“We are however trying to ensure that we give a little time to the government through our patient if by this week nothing happens they will see our next reaction.”