…As Adeosun, Ngige, labour leaders meet Saraki
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Amidst claims that Nigeria was on its way out of the crippling recession, the Federal Government yesterday declared it was broke and presently unable to pay the huge salary arrears owed its employees.
The revelation came at a meeting of leadership of the Senate with Ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and her Labour and Productivity counterpart, Chris Ngige, to find ways of addressing the issue of huge salary arrears owed federal workers.
At the meeting, the representatives of the Federal Government announced the administration has no money to pay arrears for now. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, who was also at the meeting, listed fresh challenges to the new minimum wage to include the task of amending existing laws as well as that of budgetary provision.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the closed door meeting along with House of Representatives’ Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, was said to have urged stakeholders to brainstorm on how to arrive at a workable solution to the problems.
Briefing newsmen immediately after the meeting, Ngige disclosed that the major obstacle was that government lacks sufficient funds to pay the arrears.
He said: “We are here to discuss issues relating to things that generate industrial disharmony in the public sector. As you are aware, the labour federations have said the governors have not been treating them well. One of the cardinal issues of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is to give our workers decent jobs and we decided to discuss with them.
“Its a tripartite negotiation. What we are doing here is tripartite plus because we have involved the National Assembly and when you do any such negotiations it is plus. We looked at the issues of salary arrears, promotion arrears, death benefits, location expenses and transfer allowances, which over time, have accumulated and had ran into billions and this is what are owed to federal public servants and we started the meeting today to find a solution.
“So we made progress today and we have adjourned to reconvene tomorrow; all sides are to go back and come back tomorrow with possible solution to the identified issues, which is that government doesn’t have enough fund for now to tackle the issues. So tomorrow, we convene here and sort it out.”
In his own comments, Wabba said, “we have discussed issues bordering on arrears of allowances, which have accumulated for some time and running into billions, which they have not paid.
“Also, alongside is the issue of pension, particularly the issue of bonds, and the fact that some of the contributions by workers have not been remitted for some time.”
Those are some of the issues we thought the National Assembly has led the process to bring all stakeholders on board and look at how these issues can be resolved in a win-win situation without allowing the industrial relation process to break up.”
He hinted that the challenges facing the demand for new minimum wage included the issue of amendment to laws, and budgetary provisions.
He said, “those are the totality of issues we are working on and it is a holistic process, which you know that the processes requires laws; they also require some budgetary provisions.”