From: Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Poised by the need to address the problem of non-payment of monthly salary to workers, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said that his administration is set to reduce the monthly wage bill of the state from 7.8 billion to N4.5 billion.
Governor Ortom also promised to prosecute the cabal behind the over-bloated wage bill in the state which had made it very difficult to pay workers salary as and when due.
Speaking on Monday at the monthly stakeholders meeting held at the Government House, in Makurdi, the governor noted that going by the recent figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics, Benue ranked third among states with the highest wage bill in the country.
He said going by its status as a civil service state with peasant farmers and meager Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), the state cannot continue to grapple with the payment of such huge wage bill monthly, hence the need to either reduce its wage bill or its workforce.
“After analyzing the situation in the country, we decided that for us to be comfortable with the allocation accruing to the state and the state IGR, we must reduce our wage bill from N7.8 billion to N4.5billion. If this is done, workers can get their salary before month ends.”
Governor Ortom also said already a staff verification and biometrics Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, had been set up to look into how the wage bill of the state can be trimmed down to a manageable level.
Briefing the stakeholders at the meeting, Abounu who disclosed that so many anomalies were discovered during the ongoing Staff verification exercise said the committee painstakingly looked at many grey areas including disengagement of contract staff, removal of medical students from state government’s pay roll, reduction in the salary of tertiary institution staff and screening of pensioners.
Other areas to be considered, according to the Deputy Governor are the laying off of contract staff of Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) who were later converted to civil servants, laying off of medically unfit civil servants, merging of the state’s owned College of Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS) with the Benue State Polytechnics as well as the payment of SIWES allowance which hitherto had been dubiously enjoyed by some state workers monthly to a yearly allowance.
In their responses, speakers, including Senator Jack Gyado, Prof. Jerry Agada, Prof. Mvendaga Jibo and Godwin Donko among others agreed to the plans to bring down the wage bill of the state but differed in their submission on how to achieve the feat.
While Gyado suggested that workers salary be reduced by 50 percent, Prof. Jibo urged the state government to look inwards and see how best to tackle the issue by weeding out more ghost workers who he noted, were largely responsible for the over bloated wage bill of the state.