THE 36 governors under the umbrella of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, yesterday, denied reports that President Muhammadu Buhari gave them an order to pay workers their salary arrears before Christmas.
Meanwhile, there was a discordant tune between the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State on whether President Buhari ordered those salary arrears should be paid before Christmas.
While Okorocha said the order from the President, on Monday, was to clear the salaries with the expected payment of 50 percent Paris Club balance, El-Rufai said the Paris Club refund was not enough to offset the salary arrears especially for states that were owing as there was no additional money to be given to such states apart from their fair share of the refund.
This came on a day that some governors said they were not owing salary arrears with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC insisting that some governors are owing. While Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa said they were not owing, Governor Rauf Aregbesola said he was not paying workers half salary and had been paying regularly what the state government agreed with workers.
The NGF, in a statement by Abulrazque Barkindo, head, Media and Public Affairs, said, “no mention of all workers arrears was ever made by President Muhammadu Buhari.” The statement quoted the President as saying, ‘For Nigerians without sources other than their salary, I am concerned that workers should be able to pay rent, school fees, buy drugs and take care of their families.
I am so much concerned that people should have something to eat for Christmas.’ It continued: “the governors had appealed to the president to once again authorize the Finance Ministry and other officials to hasten the payment of the remainder of the Paris and London Club loan refunds as they had factored the monies into their 2018 budgets.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s instruction that the money be paid before Christmas, however, draws its background from the series of delays in the previous disbursements to the states by the Finance Ministry, which by commission or omission had exacerbated and indeed increased the number of months that workers are owed salaries.
“For example, the first bailout that President Buhari approved was not paid until October, four months after the president had given approval for the money to be paid. It was the same practice with the first tranche of the Paris-London Club repayment, which was approved in mid-2016 but took until December 2016 to hit the states’ accounts.
“It is imperative to add that the Paris–London funds were legitimate funds of the states and not loans as several sources had thought. “Barring any such happenstances, however, governors, who are equally very worried about their workers’ plights, are ready to wipe away workers tears by paying their emoluments before Christmas.”
The governors pledged to work assiduously towards ensuring that they make workers happy by paying their emoluments before the commencement of the Yuletide season.”