The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has expressed its worry after the number of states owing workers grew to 35 as the 2019 general election closes up.
Speaking after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Lagos, TUC said only Lagos State was up to date with salary payment and other benefits, warning state government against diverting money meant for payment of workers salaries and other benefits into electioneering processes.
President of TUC, Bobboi Kaigama said with the exception of Lagos, every other state was owing one form of benefit or the other including salaries despite the bail out and Paris Club refunds.
He said, “We want to say without fear of contradiction that the only healthy state in this country that has no arrears of salaries and other wages or unpaid benefits is Lagos State. All the other states have one issue or the other in terms of salaries, wages or benefits of their workers that have not been paid.
“There is no exception. You will find out that if it is not one month salary that is not paid, it will be 13 months of gratuities or pensions that have not been paid. Or that contributory pension deductions are not being remitted, or that there are certain promotions arrears and death benefits that have not been paid. So, I am telling you, taking this issue holistically, we can only say Lagos State government is the only healthy state in this country.
“We keep saying that if state governors cannot meet their obligations to their workers, they should just resign and leave the stage. We have continued to argue that apart from the first generation states that were created by the military, there is no state that was created there after that did not have its submission that the state had the capacity to pay the wages of the workers in the state and other things.
“Ours is that probably those who are saying that we should go back to regional government are not misplaced because the trust we have on state government has been eroded. So, if it is just for the purposes of payment salaries, no other developmental issues like infrastructure, health facilities, roads, rails transportation and so on, we are better off with regional government. Then, we did not have the oil that we have today. We only had our agricultural resources, solid minerals that we developed and funded. The first generation universities in this country, the cocoa house we had in Ibadan, the first television in Africa and a host of other investments of the regional governments.
Today we cannot vouch for states.” On the ability of states owing the existing N18,000 minimum wage to pay a new minimum wage expected to be higher than the current one, Kaigama said it is corruption that makes any governor to owe workers.
He stated, “If we are talking of none payment of salaries, it is a case of corruption and not a case of the funds not there or available. Because for the state governments, first, we had the case of bailout, we had a case of budget support funding, we had a case of first, second and even third tranches of the Paris Club refunds.
“At every point, the emphasis of President Mohummadu Buhari to the governors was please, go and ensure that you settle your workers salaries and other benefits. If you are done with that, you can now go ahead and fund other projects. But the contrary is the case. So, in Nigeria, the check and balances in terms of accountability is very weak. So, we need to strengthen and develop our institutions particularly the ICPC and EFCC so that people are made accountable to the electorate and people they represent.”