It is now clear that the hope of Abia workers to receive the arrears of the salary is dashed as the chairman of Abia State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Uchenna Obigwe says, with the financial situation of the state government it has become obvious that the arrears would not be cleared.
In a chat with newsmen in Umuahia Tuesday,Comrade Obigwe disclosed that the state government would need to commit between N20 and N25 billion in order to clear all outstanding salaries, gratuities and pensions that had accrued to workers and pensioners over time, stating that as at last year, the arrears of salary, pension and gratuity stood at over N15 billion.
If so, it then means that the hopes of the Abia workers following the promise of the state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to clear all outstanding salary and pension arrears by July ending has faded as there are pointers that this is not realizable.
Comrade Obigwe explained that the state governor’s promise was probably based on the expectation that the state would receive as much as N11 billion in the second tranche of the Paris Club refund instead of N5.715 billion it received.
As a member of the committee set up by Governor Ikpeazu to disburse the Paris fund, Comrade Obigwe explained that this was why the salary and pension arrears would not be cleared by the state government.
“I know that he (Ikpeazu) has never told us lies, but my heart bled” when it became clear that the refund money was not enough to clear the arrears, stating that having known the truth about the financial situation of the state,
“there is no reason for labour to start agitating over the non-payment of all the outstanding salary and pension arrears. In labour we fight against unwillingness to pay workers. We don’t fight unavailability”, Obigwe said.
According to him, the committee has diligently disbursed the N5.715 bn Paris Club refund and paid the much it could cover in clearing the arrears of salaries, disclosing further that all ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs have been paid up to June salary while the Abia State Polytechnic got a month subvention while the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) and other institutions would get theirs on Tuesday next week.
The NLC chairman however pointed out that state government decided to withhold the three months salaries of secondary school teachers pending the conclusion of the ongoing verification exercise, and pleaded with the state government to start paying teachers already verified instead of delaying the salary payments till the end of the verification exercise.
Sunday Nwakanma – Umuahia