FROM: JOE EFFIONG, UYO
A former minister of lands, housing and urban development, Chief Nduese Essien, has kicked against a wholesome use of the N10 billion Paris Club excess crude refund given to Akwa Ibom State for the settlement of pensions, gratuities and salaries as directed by the Federal Government.
The state commissioner for finance, Mr. Linus Nkan had earlier addressed the press hinting that the fund would be used in accordance with the Federal Government’s directives which were to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities.
But speaking in a radio interview in Uyo, Chief Essien said if all the money that came into government was being used to pay salaries, gratuities, pension and other recurrent expenses of the government, it would be detrimental to the state in terms of capital development as it was not everyone that benefits from government paid salaries.
Essien, a former members of the House of Representatives said: “We should also be considering the fact that there are many others who are self employed, there are those who are not even employed and others working for private companies.
“Less than 20 per cent of the population are engaged working for government. So we should be able to apportion revenue of government to also reach the people who are not working for government.”
He explained that funds originally kept for pensioners were squandered by some persons in the controversial pensions fraud in the country, and advised people not to heap the blames of the woes on the state government, which in this case is only intervening to ameliorate the situation.
“Apart from payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities, the money can be applied for the development and restoration of the infrastructure which is what everybody would benefit from.
“When the infrastructure is developed, there is a possibility that businesses would run better. Instead of companies having to provide their electricity, water, road to their factories, etc, this would be a big relief to the private sector and they can be more effective in managing their businesses.”
The finance commissioner had, however, said the amount would not even be enough to pay the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities because the backlog was enormous since the state sometimes borrows to pay salaries.
“In Akwa Ibom State, our governor has made sure that the salaries of workers are paid monthly., How he manages to achieved that is best known to him and some of us because even when we do not have money we must always find a way out to pay our workers.
“Sometime, we may access fund in anticipation of money like this. Thus it gives the state the enablement to source for funds from financial institutions and at least pay workers their salaries and pensions, so that when money like this comes in we use it to defray the indebtedness, ”Nkan said.