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A rejoinder to Zara Gift Onyiye’s mischievous odyssey on Salary Payment in Kogi State

A rejoinder to Zara Gift Onyiye's mischievous odyssey on Salary Payment in Kogi State

The recent publication concerning salary issues in Kogi State by one of the Aides to President Buhari on new media, Zara Gift Onyiye is filled with mischievous and concocted lies. I felt the need to respond so as set the record straight and advise her stay away from the affairs of our State. For her commentaries are littered with bias and questionable intents.
Background

During the tenure of Capt. Idris Wada allocations accrued to the state were barely enough to offset the salaries of civil servants, both at the State and Local Governments. At the State level the wage bill ranged between 2.9 Billion Naira and 3.1 Billion Naira. While the allocation accrued to the state ranged between 3.2 Billion and 4 Billion. The latter figure was a rare normally.

At the Local Governments, over staffing by previous administrations had created an over bloated workforce. Furthermore a decline in the revenue accrued to the Local Governments made offsetting their salaries a cumbersome task.

Wada rather than lay off civil servants opted for the humane approach to staff welfare. State civil-servant's received their salaries and entitlements as of when due, without recourse to delays and missed payments. While at the Local Governments rather than lay off the personnel, the Government in conjunction with the Labour Unions agreed to pay percentage salaries pending when the revenue profiles of the Local Governments improved. This policy also affected the teachers whose salaries came directly from the Local Government allocations.

Challenges

Sometime in March 2015 the allocation accrued to the state was 2.5 Billion Naira. Barley enough to offset the wage bill of 3.2 Billion Naira. Rather than deprive the civil-servants of their salaries, the government met with the Labour Unions towards resolving this issue. The government proposed a payment of full salaries to staff that fell between the grades of Level 1 to Level 6. While those of level 8 and above will get 50% of their salaries. Pending when the revenue profile of the State improve. This was so because Levels 1 to 6 constituted the majority of the workforce.

The labour unions vehemently kicked against the proposal, threatening to spill blood on the streets of Lokoja if the government attempted to "Short change" the workers. They further suggested that the government should hold on to the allocation until it had sourced for funds to pay full salaries. This marked the origin of non-payment of Salaries at the State Level. While this was ongoing, the local government staff and teachers were still receiving their percentage salaries.

The Solution

When challenged with raising funds to pay salaries, Wada's Government approached the Federal Government for some succor aimed at cushioning off the momentary financial hardship. Other states also joined in making this demand, hence the establishment of a window to access bailout funds.

While preparing the documentation for the bailout funds, from April 2016 the State Government started accessing a monthly overdraft facility of 1 Billion Naira from Sterling Bank. This facility was used to augment the monthly allocation shortfalls. Thereby enabling the State to pay salaries.

It is on record that Wada's Government was the first to complete documentation and get approval for the bailout funds. He applied for 83 Billion Naira but got an approval for 50 Billion Naira was approved. Of which 6 Billion Naira was meant to offset the arrears owed to the state civil servants and pensioners. While the balance of 42 Billion Naira for the Local Government workers.

Despite Kogi applying for the highest amount among the states who applied, the CBN approved because the State had a very low indebtedness to commercial banks and other financial institutions.

Further Challenges

Despite receiving approvals from the CBN, accessing the funds became a political issue. Several key APC elements who had political interest in Kogi State, led by the Late Abubakar Audu used their access to the center to frustrate the release of these funds. In fact Governor Wada paid several visits to President Buhari, where he promised to intervene to no avail.

The Facts

Capt. Wada went into the November 2015 gubernatorial elections owning one month salary. The month of March 2015 to be precise. After the questionable loss at the polls, the bank connived with the APC leadership and supported by the labor unions to withhold the November and December allocations. Thereby making it difficult for the Government to meet its statutory obligations which included payment of salaries.

As of January 29th 2016 when he handed over to Yahaya Bello, Kogi State workers were being owed three months salary and pension arrears for the months of March, November and December. Bello also inherited three months allocations that was domiciled with Sterling bank. November, January and December to be precise.

Enter Yahaya Bello

Yahaya Bello's first official visit as Governor was to the CBN in an attempt to secure the release of the bailout funds. In May 2016 the CBN release 20 Billion Naira of the requested 50 Billion Naira to the government.

Upon receipt of these funds, the government rather than pay salaries, decided to embark on a screening exercise. One would have thought that the screening of workers should have taken place before the CBN released the bailout funds. Under the disguise of screening Yahaya Bello came up with all sorts of gimmicks aimed at frustrating the civil-servants.

If he wasn't blaming Wada's government for non-payment of salaries, he was blaming the civil servants for their predicament. His administration went as far as eliminating Labour leaders who opposed his apartheid style of managing workers welfare.

Currently the State Judiciary have been on strike for 8 months due to non-payment of salaries. Would you and your "faulty fact finders" also blame Wada for this?

One will wonder where Zara got her misconstrued debt figures from. The low debt profile Wada left behind is, the reason why Yahaya Bello has been able to sink future generations of Kogites in debt.

The hardships experienced by the civil servants is accurately narrated by the responses you've received since you posted this ill-advised piece, aimed at making a mockery of Kogites.

Yahaya Bello is a defective product that was imposed on the citizenry of Kogi State. He doesn't have the capacity nor temperament to manage Kogi State. The APC administration should save Kogites from further destitution by giving us a humane candidate. Yahaya Bello is simply not the option.

Blaming Capt. Wada for Yahaya Bello's failures is a clear sign that Zara has been bewitched by the corrosive "New Direction" bug. For the past three or so years, Kogites have experienced a directionless form of leadership that has put the state at the front burner of National Politics. In a negative way off course!

On a final note, I would advise that you focus on marketing President Buhari and his incoming next-level agenda. Descending down to Yahaya Bello's level will do no good to your current profile. Kogites have rejected him. So should you!

Usman Okai Austin
Kogi State.

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