* Say states now buoyant with release of FAAC, Paris Club refund at once
• FG, States, LGAs share N1.142trn in less than 2 weeks
• No carryover of salary arrears to 2018, Labour insists
Following the release of another tranche of the Paris Club Refund to the 36 states and the release of statutory allocations for November to the three ties of government , some experts have argued that the state governors should have no excuse over the payment December salaries to their workers in order to celebrate Christmas.
For these reasons, the experts and labour unions have challenged the governors, particularly the debtor- states, such as Benue, Kogi, Osun, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Oyo Ondo, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, among others to keep faith with President Muhammadu Buhari’s admonition, asking the 36 state governors to pay salaries owed civil servants before the Christmas to enable them enjoy the Yuletide.
Reacting to the development, an economic expert and former President of Nigeria Economic Society, Prof Ben Aigbokhan, said that refusing to pay salary by the state governments may affect full recovery of the economy from recession.
Aigbokhan said that state governors, who refused to pay their workers are deliberately holding back the money, which would not help in growing the economy through increased money in circulation.
He also alleged that, “they are diverting the money to contracts in which they take huge share; and are also diverting funds to political parties with a view to funding 2019 elections.”
He, however, warned that the implication is that aggregate domestic demand required for full economic recovery will just be rising; adding that if workers are not able to pay the school fees of their children, the development will in turn affects human capital development.
Another economist, and Head of Economics Department of the Nile University of Nigeria, Dr Gylych Jelilov, said that some states may have used the money to pay their huge debts.
He said, “They might have used their allocations for debts they owed. But considering the huge amount received by the states, payment of salary should not be a problem.”
The minimum wage paid to the Nigerian public servant is N18,000 per month just as there are growing agitations by the workers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to raise the minimum wage to N55,000.
The Daily Times recalls that sequel to the plight of civil servants who are owed backlog of salaries running into billions of naira and the attendant socio-economic challenges facing the workers, such as malnutrition, hunger, poverty and deaths, Buhari had directed the state governors to pay their workers before Christmas.
One of the governors, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai had, while responding to Buhari’s order, said that payment of salaries before Christmas depended on the release of the Paris Club refund to them. The governor, who is at dagger drawn with labour in his North West State over his threat to sack over 21,000 teachers for incompetence, emphasized that release of the fund was critical for the survival of the states.
But The Daily Times learnt that only Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade has not only complied with the President’s directive by paying civil servants in the state, but has even gone ahead to pay additional month as an incentive to its workers.
Indeed, the continued reluctance by most state governments to pay workers’ salary despite the huge inflow of revenue from the federation account to the three tiers of government, has raised stiff reactions from economic experts, NLC and other concerned citizens.
According to the experts, if states don’t pay workers salary, it may affect the full recovery of the nation’s economy from recession.
They pointed out that states now are buoyant with releases of FAAC and the Paris Club Refund, therefore, should not have any excuse on payment of salaries in December.
The Daily Times checks revealed that within the last two weeks, the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) distributed a whopping N1, 142.716 trillion to the three tiers of government asides the last tranche of the Paris Club Refund paid to 27 states within this period.
The FAAC had on December 7, 2017 distributed the sum of N532.758 billion to Federal, States and Local Governments as allocation for the month of October.
From that allocation the Federal Government received N218.619bn, States N147.396bn, while the Local Government Councils got N110.58bn.
A week later being Saturday December 16, 2017 a total sum of N609.958bn was also shared amongst the three tiers as November allocation.
Giving the breakdown of the Saturday allocation, the Federal Government received N259.808bn bringing its total allocations received within two weeks to N478.427bn.
The state governments received from the Saturday’s allocation, N164.509bn, bringing the total allocations within the last two weeks to N311.905bn, while the 774 local government councils received N124.09bn from Saturday’s allocation bringing its total allocations within two weeks to N234.67bn.
This brings the total amount received in two weeks by the states and local government councils to N546.575bn.
While being emphatic about funds’ release, Olubunmi Siyanbola, a director at the ministry of finance, said 27 states have received the balance of the Paris Club refund.
Siyanbola made this known on Saturday, while addressing journalists after the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting where N609.959 bn was distributed to the three tiers of governments.
She said the remaining states would get theirs as soon as some processes are completed.
Siyanbola said one of the issues discussed at the FAAC meeting was the accruals into the excess crude account (ECA), which now stands at $2.317bn as against $2.308bn in October.
But Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation, said the FAAC meeting held on Saturday as against the 20th and 25th of the month because of Christmas activities and the need to make money available to workers.
“Institutions found themselves inundated with reconciling figures at short notices and some FAAC officials were at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) till 9pm; and the documents needed got to stakeholders this morning thus prompting today’s meeting so that Nigerians can have better Christmas and New Year celebrations,” he added.
The Federal Government got N248.227bn, states received N125.904bn, local governments were given N97.067 bn, the oil-producing states got an additional N43.215bn, as 13 per cent derivation requirement, while the balance of N15.120bn went for cost of collection and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) refund.
Speaking on the $1bn to be withdrawn from the ECA for the fight against Boko Haram, Idris said governors were part owners of the money; and they can request for money to be withdrawn from the account.
He said, “It is one thing for requests to be made, but there is a process for money to be taken out of an account. As part owners, there will be no objections and we will go with the directive.”
Commenting on the revenue distributed amongst the three tiers, the Chairman of Commissioners Forum, Alhaji Mahmoud Yunusa, said, “November’s figures are higher now, but they can be better off. The states are happy that workers will be paid before Christmas.”
Commenting on the development, the President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, has commended the Federal Government for fulfilling its promise to disburse the final tranche of the Paris Club refund to the state governments.
The labour leader noted with caution, the sensitivity of state governors, towards disbursing the funds to workers in their respective states.
Ajaero, also stressed, during a telephone chat with The Daily Times correspondent, the level of issues the funds will address, relating to salaries, arrears of allowances and pension.
He said, “I hope the new release of funds will solve the entire problem relating to payment of salaries, allowances and pension of workers because, principally, that is the essence of the Paris Club Refund payment. The payment on December presupposes that there will be no carryover of salaries into the New Year, and that has been the prayer of workers in the country.
“The release means there will be prompt payment of salaries, arrears of allowances and pensions”.
Although, the Federal Government, in July, released the second tranche of the Paris Club refund to the tune of N243.79bn, Ajaero lamented over the way the funds were handled by some state governors, and how some states, who collected higher figures, still owe their workers.
“Though, despite the release of previous tranche of Paris Club refund, some governors still refuse to pay the salaries and pensions of workers in their states, they rather channel the resources to other issues that are equally not necessary in the present economic situation. I can only pray and hope that the funds are quickly disbursed to workers before the celebration of Christmas.”
Ajaero stated that there is very little labour unions can do to help ensure speedy disbursement, but as workers, they hope to tackle state governors in order for the funds to be released before the Christmas.
“Though the financial management of funds released to states is not entirely the responsibilities of trade unions, the only problem I see is that, state governors now spend monies without appropriation by state Houses of Assembly only except they work with the lawmakers, that is when such problem can be averted. However, most States Houses of Assembly are mere rubber-stamps to the state executives, that is where the problem lies.
“I pray the funds are judiciously used and as workers, we will maintain some level of vigilance to ensure that these monies are judiciously dispensed.”
But the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has said that it will soon meet on the issue.
The NLC’s General Secretary, Comrade Peter Ozo-Eson, told our correspondent that a meeting has been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday to address certain issues, including the recently released Paris Club Refund.
He said, “The NLC’s National Working Committee will be meeting on Monday (today) and Tuesday; and part of our discussion will be the Paris Club Refund to states governments.”
Ganiyu Obaaro, Joy Ekeke, Lagos and Mathew Dadiya, Nafisa Abubakar, Abuja