From: Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Government has pleaded with striking local government workers to return to work as the government would ensure their salaries arrears are paid.
The Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) had called out its workers in the eight local government councils including Maritime and the Health workers to proceed on strike due to the inability of the councils to pay local government salaries running into nine months.
Acting governor, Rear Admiral John Gboribiogha Jonah, who made the plea, on Tuesday, during the Transparency briefing of funds received by the state government for the month of May and June said the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson administration has demonstrated sufficient sincerity for local government workers to know that it is concerned with what is happening at the eight local councils.
According to him the state government first obligation is to the civil servants in the state and based on availability of funds it is only then it would be able to support the local government councils.
He lamented what he called the continuous padding of the wage bill of the local councils, stressing that the leadership of the councils must be sincere to work with the state government to bring the figure down,
Jonah pointed out that a situation whereby all the funds that accrues to the local councils would be used to pay workers salaries is no longer acceptable.
He disclosed that Dickson has directed that extra funds be made available to add to the eight local councils of the Paris Club fund so as to be able to pay one month salaries.
“Our share of the Paris club fund was N10 billion out of which N919million is for the eight local councils. But the money for the councils would not be enough to pay the workers in the eight councils so Governor Dickson has approved that the funds be made available so that the workers can collect one month salary. For the Civil servants in the state, they would be paid one and half month of salaries arrears. We are concerned with what is happening in the local councils. The wage bill figure is not realistic. We have said it severally that the figure needs to come down. To bring it down was the first war we fought when the Dickson administration came on board but people fought us to standstill. This administration has shown enough sincerity and the authorities of the councils must work with government to expose the wage bill fraud. The padding of wage bill must be stopped”
Jonah expressed optimism that the industrial action would be called off soon because government is engaging the leadership of the labour unions in series of dialogue for them to show understanding with government.
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