Local Government workers in Oyo state are singing a different chorus entirely, on the issue of salary arrears. The workers argue that most of them received salaries last, between June, July and September, 2016, while some lament that they have not been paid salaries since May, 2016. In this interview with Federationews2day, the Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees(NULGE)Oyo state Council,Comrade Joseph Oguntimehin speaks on this and related issues. Excerpts :
How has it been with Local Government workers in Oyo state in recent times ?
On the issue of salaries for Local Government workers, the situation is pathetic in the Local Governments, frustrating. We are in a precarious, terrible and killing situation, because as I am speaking now, very few Local Governments in the state, have been able to pay September, 2016 salaries.
For instance, in the whole of Ibadan, only Ibadan South West has been able to pay September, 2016 salaries. Eight(8) Local Governments in Oke-Ogun paid September salaries, ditto Ibarapa Central and Ibarapa East. In Oyo zone, Atiba and one other Local Government. In Ogbomosho zone, only Oriire has been able to pay September, 2016 salaries to workers. So, in all out of 33 Local Governments in the state, we have about 14 to 16 that paid up to September and in some of these Local Governments, those that were able to pay September, have not been able to pay deductions, and deductions varies, union dues, cooperatives loans, and so on, are there, stagnant.
The last salaries paid in Lagelu Local Government was in May, 2016. Several other Local Governments paid last in June, July, 2016. You can see that we are in a precarious and killing situation. I want to use this medium to appeal to His Excellency, we know he is doing is best for the state, but he should also, with milk of kindness, look at the precarious situation in the Local Government and help us out, because the allocation coming from Abuja is enough to pay Local Government salaries.
But the chunk of this money, more than 90 per cent of allocation from Abuja, VAT and IGR, goes for the payment of Primary School Teachers and non teaching staff of Primary schools, leaving Local Governments with about 10 per cent.
So, by the time they now distribute the remaining one hundred and something million, you discover that some Local Governments will be collecting six million, five million, four million and three million. And now tell me, if they don’t touch this money, how much will they save to meet up with a month’s salaries, that is not less than N35 million, in some cases.
That is why some Local Governments are owing six months, seven months, eight months salary arrears. What we are saying is that , when the money comes as they make Primary School Teachers, first line charge, Local Government workers salaries should also be mad first line charge What is good for the goose, is also good for the gander. After all, the money belongs to Local Governments in the first place. And the law states that Local Governments should participate in the running of primary schools, not that the entire burden should be placed on Local Governments. We are to participate, that is the constitution and that is the stand of the Supreme Court on the N7.2 billion Paris Club refund. That money belongs to Local Governments, don’t be misinformed, because we were reliably informed that during Akala’s regime, his administration collected the state’s counterpart fund of the Paris Club refund, so, the N7.2 billion, belongs to the Local Governments. And we are appealing to His Excellency to release that money to the Local Governments, at least a reasonable amount of the money should be released forthwith to Local Governments, so that the backlog of salary arrears on ground , will be cleared.
Our members cannot pay their children’s school fees, many are owing their Landlords, many are sick, they cannot get treatment for themselves and their families, and yet we call them workers. The Government should see Local Governments as part of their responsibilities. There ins no point sitting on Local Governments’ money. We are suffering and our counterparts in the Teaching service are enjoying, two months salaries have been released to them from Local Governments’ money, leaving us with nothing to write home about. What is the offense of Local Government workers ?
We are still appealing to him, before it gets out of hand, should this month be allowed to run out, without any appreciable solution, we may not be able to guarantee industrial peace in the state Local Government service, enough is enough.
Our people have shown enough understanding and restraint, so that we will not be seen as troublesome people, people trying to cause unrest, that is why we mellowed. U I have written series of letters, today, not less than is (6) officials of the state Government were written on this same issue, including His Excellency.