By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna.
A little over two months after the Niger State Government withheld 30% of the wages for all public workers under it’s payroll, workers on the state nominal roll are now smiling to their banks to withdraw the monies withheld by the government from last June’s salary.
The action of the state government then had drew the ire of the organized labour nay the citizenry as most people condemned the administration for such gross insensitivity in cutting workers’ salaries following shortfalls in revenue generation and subventions to the state.
But the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello led administration in the state had insisted that cutting the workers’ salaries by 30% was the only option left for it instead of reducing the workforce or cut workers’salary as it had earlier tinkered with.
The slashing of the workers’ salaries late June led to huge outcries and a week long industrial action called by the organized labour in the state until some well placed, senior citizens in the state offered to mediate between the aggrieved workforce and the beligrant state Governor.
The resolution arrived at by the mediators for the two, (the Niger state government and organized labour in the state) was that the state government would pay the balance of the monies withheld as soon as it was “practically possible”.
The mediators included imminent persons like a former Governor of the state, Abdulkadir Abdullahi Kure, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Barr. Adamu Usman and few others who brokered peace between the two after which the labour unions called off the strike.
Though the state government had hinged it’s action as an act of necessity, more so that the other two options left to it was to either slash salaries of workers or down size in order to meet it’s growing financial commitments and difficulties, it’s action was not popular nor accepted. It pitched the government against the people and the opposition cashed in to lampoon the helpless government.
But in fulfillment of the terms of the agreement reached by the mediators, Commissioner for Finance in the state, Ibrahim Balarabe confirmed that the state government has made payments of the balance of the workers’ salaries deducted in the month of June.
Mr. Balarabe acknowledged that the decision to slash workers’ salaries last June was a bitter pill for the government but argued that the action was borne out of the overall interest to save the state from going bankrupt.
He recalled that following sharp fall in the federal government subvention to the state and decrease in internally generated revenue of the state, the development had forced the state government to resort to collecting over drafts from commercial banks to augment the shortfall to meet up with payments of workers’ salary.
Balarabe disclosed that since the beginning of the year, According to the state government had to secured such credit facilities of overdraft to make up payment of workers’ salary. He said by June, the state had incurred about N3 billion loan facility from banks.
He argued that as a responsible government, the development was inimical to the future of the state and it’s socio-economic growth”.
“We were afraid that by the end of the year, unless a miracle happens, the state would have incurred debt of over N10 billion for making up salaries of workers alone while capital projects and other developmental programmes and activities would have been grounded at the detriment of meeting recurring expenditures”.
The Commissioner pointed out that it was such considerations to balance between paying workers’ salaries and continue with some projects that made the government to propose a formula of 70/30 percent of the monthly allocation for payment of salary and also for the execution of some key is capital projects.
He regretted however that despite several parleys with leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and chieftains of other trade unions, the organized labour refused to see reasons with the government precarious position and delima.
“Despite repeated assurances to organized labour that the government meant well and that the decision to cut workers’ salary was only a temporary arrangement, the labour called out its members for an industrial action”.
He however noted with delight that the state government had kept to the spirit and latter of the agreement reached between the mediators, the organized labour and the state government.
“Today in fulfillment of the agreement with organised labour, government has redeemed its own part of the deal. The deducted 30 percent has now been paid because government has no intention to denying workers their legitimate earnings. This government is workers friendly” he added.
Our correspondent gathered from a cross section of the state’s public workers that some of them have started receiving bank alerts for deposits made into their accounts.
By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna.