Subsidy deductions hit states hard, govs owe salaries, workers lament
State workers and pensioners on Sunday lamented they were carrying the burden of a cash crunch in the country with many state governments failing to ensure regular payment of salaries, gratuities and other entitlements.
Labour leaders, who spoke separately with our correspondents in Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Ondo, Rivers, Abia, Ondo, Edo and Kano states, noted that pensioners were worst hit by the failure of governors to perform their responsibilities.
Findings by our correspondents showed that deductions by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited from the Federation Account Allocation Committee had continued to deplete the funds being shared by the three tiers of government at FAAC meetings.
The NNPC had explained that its deductions from FAAC were due to the humongous subsidy spending it shouldered.
No FAAC remittance from NNPC in Q1, subsidy gulps N675.93bn – Reports
Since the beginning of the year, the NNPC has not been able to make remittances to the Federation Account due to its huge subsidy spending on petrol.
Figures obtained from the NNPC in Abuja showed that the oil firm spent N210.38bn, N219.78bn and N245.77bn as subsidies on petrol in January, February and March 2022 respectively, translating to N675.93bn during the three-month period.
On Wednesday, FAAC shared N725.57bn among the three tiers of government, as allocation for March 2022.
But instead of contributing to what was shared, the NNPC informed FAAC that it would deduct or recover N671.88bn from April 2022 proceed due for sharing at the May 2022 FAAC meeting.
The NNPC described the N671.88bn as value shortfall it incurred as it remained the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria and had been subsidising the commodity using billions of naira monthly.
The N725.57bn shared by the three tiers of government was from statutory revenue of N521.16bn and Value Added Tax of N204.4bn.
Investigations by The PUNCH showed that in most states, workers and pensioners were the ones bearing the brunt of subsidy deductions as states reneged on regular payment of salaries and gratuities.
Labour leaders in Benue State respectively lamented the plight of workers following the cash crunch affecting the state government.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the phone, the state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Godwin Anya, said that state and local government workers in the state were groaning due to staggered payment of salaries.
He stated, “Workers in the state are owed 2017 salary arrears and the current payment of salaries is staggered.
“Local government workers in the state are owed nine months, primary school teachers are owed 10 months, while at the state level, it is five months. These are arrears for 2017.
“Some workers have not been paid since March. This year, the system is that they (the state government) pay some workers in a particular month and leave others.”
Also, the TUC Chairman, Gideon Akaa, said that the dwindling allocations had taken their toll on workers.
Akaa said, “What we have is staggered payment of salaries, apart from the arrears the state government owes state workers which are five months. As for leave bonus and other entitlements, I cannot say anything.”
Ganduje owes Kano retirees N25bn gratuities, death benefits, others
On its part, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners in Kano State says Governor Abdullahi Ganduje owes retirees N25bn.
The state NUP Chairman, Salisu Gwale, in a telephone interview on Sunday with The PUNCH, said, “The amount we were owed was N26bn as of May last year (2021) but the government was able to pay only N1bn.”
He said government debts to the pensioners included gratuity, death benefits and pension arrears.
“I am currently in Saudi Arabia and I will use the opportunity to pray for God’s intervention in this issue as we have been making efforts to make the government pay the money but to no avail.”
Efforts to contact the state Chairman of the NLC, Ado Minjibir, failed as he refused to answer the several phone calls from The PUNCH.
Similar efforts to contact the state Commissioner for Information, Mallam Muhammad Garba, proved abortive as he was said to be in the Holy Land for Lesser Hajj.
In Ekiti State, the TUC Chairman, Sola Adigun, said the state government owed workers between two and five months of salary arrears.
He appealed to the state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to honour his agreement with workers to pay their arrears before handing over to a new government in October.
He said, “At the state level, our arrears remain two months salaries, promotion has been implemented up till 2016. Financial backing for the 2017 and 2018 promotions has just been approved.
“At the local government level, out of the seven months arrears of salaries, the state government has paid two with five outstanding.
“Because of the dwindling resources, we have a serious challenge on salary arrears and other emoluments and privileges to be attached to them. In all sincerity, the challenge is serious.
“The agreement we had with Ekiti State Government led by Dr Kayode Fayemi was that the arrears of salaries, leave bonuses and promotions shall be implemented before the exit of this government in October! Here we are, six months to the exit. It has been giving labour leaders serious concern,” Adigun said.
Wike has not paid pensioners a dime since his assumption of office – NLC
Also, the Rivers State chapter of the NLC called on the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, to heed the demand of pensioners and pay the backlog of gratuities.
The state NLC chairman, Mrs Beatrice Itubo, stated this while answering questions from our one of correspondents in Port Harcourt.
Itubo said, “Pensioners in Rivers State have not been paid gratuities since this administration came on board. No pensioner has been paid a dime.
“Workers are not being promoted by this administration since 2015. These are the other entitlements we are asking for. The other time we wanted to embark on a protest, the governor intervened. Our national body was here and we signed a tripartite agreement where he promised to address these demands, but till today he has remained silent.”
But the Director General of the State Pensions Board, Samuel Ijeoma, said that the state government had approved the payment of gratuities for the pensioners.
Ogun owes 150 months pension contributions
The Ogun State TUC Chairman, Akeem Lasisi, lamented that due to the cash crunch facing the state, the government owed workers 150 months of unpaid contributory pensions.
He added that the state government owed gratuities of local government workers from 2011 to date and from 2014 for the state workers.
He stated, “Government owes over 150 months of unpaid contributory pensions deducted from workers’ salaries.
“Government has refused to pay its own counterpart fund of the scheme. The government owes gratuities from 2011 for local government staff and 2014 for state workers.
“There is also zero remittance for national housing fund thereby denying workers from benefitting from the housing scheme from the Federal Mortgage Bank.”
We’ve paid N8.4bnm workers’ deductions, loans – Abiodun
But the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, said his administration had paid N8.4bn out of the N14.4bn owed workers from May 2019 to March 2022.
The governor said his government would soon pay the outstanding N6bn.The governor disclosed this at this year’s Workers Day celebration held at the M.K.O Abiola Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta.
He stated, “I assure you all that in the coming months and as the economy improves, the payment of the outstanding balance of N6bn will be accelerated, while efforts will be made to ensure regular monthly payment of deductions going forward.
“The second and third are leave allowances which were paid last in mid-2015 and the issue surrounding Contributory Pension Scheme Law. I can assure you that within the shortest possible time, all these issues will be resolved, with your cooperation and positive attitude they shall be history soon.”
The Chairman of the Enugu State TUC, Ben Asogwa, said dwindling resources had affected the state government.
The labour leader stated, “Economically, a lot of things are working against the system. For instance in Enugu here, the governor initially approved N100m per month for the gradual payment of gratuities. He was releasing the money monthly until a point when the federal allocation together with internally generated revenue could not carry the full load and everything. It was at that point he made us know that he would not be able to release the money on a monthly basis until things normalise.”
Abia workers, families passing through difficult times – NLC
The Abia State NLC Chairman, Uchenna Obigwe, also said that the dwindling economy was worsening the plight of the workers.
He said in Abia, “Civil servants are being owed. Where the government owes huge amounts are Abia State University Teaching Hospital and secondary school teachers.
“The Abia State Polytechnic and the state universal basic education board are also some of the places where the state government is owing heavily.
At this year’s Workers’ Day celebration, the union gave a breakdown of salaries the state owed workers. The NLC stated, “ABSUTH , 25 months; Abia Polytechnic, Aba , 24 months; ASUBEB – primary (one and half month) and LG workers, health authorities, two and half months. Workers and their families are passing through difficult times.”
Ondo owes workers five months salary arrears
At Workers’ Day on Sunday, the TUC in Ondo State called on the state Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, to pay civil servants’ five months’ salary arrears.
The state chairman of the TUC, Helen Odofin, stated this at the Workers’ Day celebration, held at Gani Fawehimi Arcade, Akure, the state capital.
She said, “Payment of salary arrears from December 2021 till date including outstanding leave bonuses, should be given a serious thought, as every labourer deserves his wages.”
NLC, TUC demand increase in civil servants, armed forces’ salaries
Meanwhile, the NLC and the TUC have asked the Federal Government to increase the salaries of civil servants, police officers, armed forces and para-military agencies.
The unions argued that it was only fair to adjust upwards their emoluments close to those of employees in other segments of the public service.
Presenting the demands during the 2022 May Day celebrations at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Sunday, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, also asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to direct relevant agencies to implement the salary increment announced for teachers and police officers last year.
While cataloguing the failures of the government in education, economy, health, security and the energy sectors, among others, the unions vowed to mobilise workers to participate in the 2023 elections.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his speech said the nation was moving steadily towards progressive development and called for continued support for the government.
Edo pensioners protest over unpaid gratuity, Obaseki increases minimum wage to N40,000
In Edo State on Sunday, some pensioners who retired in 2012 protested the non-payment of their gratuities at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium venue of this year’s Workers Day as Governor Godwin Obaseki announced a new minimum wage of N40,000 for the state civil servants.
The pensioners who wore black clothes and carried placards appealed to Obaseki to rescue them by paying their gratuities.
One of them, Irene Aiguobarueghian, said since their retirement, they had only been getting their monthly payments but had yet to get their gratuities.
She said, “We have come here to beg the governor to pay us our gratuities. He has not said anything about our gratuities. We are begging him to pay us. We have been receiving monthly pay but he has not said anything about our gratuities.”
But Obaseki said to avoid such cases of pensioners being owed, his administration had keyed into the contributory pension scheme, saying his administration had paid all pension arrears and would soon commence the next stage which is the various adjustments that had been made in the past.
1,157 Borno pensioners yet to be paid – TUC
Also, the Borno State NLC and TUC called on the state government to as a matter of necessity implement the N30,000 minimum wage for local government workers and teachers.
The state TUC Chairman Hamma Babayo and his counterpart for the NLC, Inuwa Yusuf, stated this at this year’s Workers’ Day celebration in Maiduguri on Sunday.
Babayo said “We wish to appeal for the implementation of promotion so that those due for retirement will have a sense of belonging.
“About 1, 157 pensioners in the state have, in the past four months, not received their pensions despite them being cleared by the verification committee.”
The organised labour in Ebonyi State called on the state government to take urgent steps towards reviewing of salaries of civil and public servants in the state.
The organised labour made the demand in a joint address presented by the NLC and the TUC for the 2022 Workers’ Day celebration, which was read by Mr Leonard Nkah, Chairman of the NLC in Ebonyi State, on Sunday, in Abakaliki.
Labour commended the state government for the recent release of workers’ promotion interviews and regular payment of monthly salaries but regretted that the take-home pay of the Ebonyi worker was no longer sustainable.
It, therefore, called for a salary review to enable workers to cope with present economic realities.
“The take-home pay no longer takes workers home and we are therefore calling for an urgent review of workers’ salaries to enable us to cope with the existing economic realities.”
Our fate in God’s hands- Imo pensioners
Pensioners in Imo State also decried the poor state of their welfare.
One of the leaders of pensioners in the state, Fabian Agba, said, “ The story of Imo pensioners is pathetic. There are lots of inconsistencies in the payment of pensions and gratuities to pensioners by the state government. The whole thing started with the administration of Rochas Okorocha. As I speak to you, pensioners are being owed. There are pensioners who have not received theirs in years. Our fate is in God’s hands.” PUNCH