From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has disclosed that the State House of Assembly has given him and the executive council the go ahead to look for finance houses that would buy off the salary burdens of the state.
The Governor who disclosed this in a chat with newsmen at the weekend shortly after a meeting with labour leaders in Benue State at the Benue Government House said his administration was exploring possibilities of clearing the backlog of salary arrears owed workers.
He explained that negotiations were already ongoing with some financial institutions to buy off the debt profile of the state and restructure it so that it could be spread over a long period of time in order to make repayment easier.
The governor said what the next line of action after the approval by the State House of Assembly is the approval from the Debt Management Office and Federal Ministry of Finance and he assured that he would not relent until the approvals were given.
The Governor lamented the low internally revenue generation capacity of the state due to suspension of the implementation of the revenue law following appeals from stakeholders to that effect, adding that the federal allocation to the state was also not enough to take care of the huge wage bill in the state.
He thanked workers in the state for their understanding and patience, stressing that prudent management of resources by his administration and series of verification exercises had resulted in the reduction of the state’s wage bill from over N8.2 billion to N7.8 billion even with the implementation of minimum wage for primary school teachers.
According to him, the N69 billion arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities that his administration inherited from the previous one had been reduced to N40 billion, saying the huge figure was as a result of shortfalls from the federation account.
He therefore appealed to workers to resume work and bring creative ideas that could bring a permanent solution to the salary challenge rather continuing with their strike which he said cannot solve the problem.