Despite the release of the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds to the 36 states in the country, seven of them comprising Borno, Cross River, Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Gombe and Bauchi have still not cleared the backlog of unpaid workers’ wages in their states.
A survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that many state governments across the federation had utilised the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds they received to clear the arrears of their serving and retired workers’ entitlements.
However, in most states where the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities have been paid, some civil servants and retirees, especially those in the council areas, are still being owed.
The survey indicated that some of the workers and pensioners were owed salaries and pensions for periods ranging between two and 11 months.
The federal government in July released N243.79 billion to the states as the second tranche of the refund, having earlier released N388.30 billion to them in December 2016.
The refunds were released following protests by the states against the over-deductions from their Federation Account allocations for external debt services between 1995 and 2002.
The federal government had advised the state governments to use between 50 and 75 per cent of their share of the refund to clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities they owed.
The survey showed that 15 of the 22 (68.1 per cent) states surveyed so far had utilised the money in settling the arrears of entitlements while seven had not.
Those that had paid are Jigawa, Yobe and Adamawa in the North-east; Kwara in the North-central zone, all states in the South-south except Cross River, and all states in the South-west.
Bauchi, Gombe and Borno in the North-east, as well as Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi in the South-east, were yet to offset the arrears.
In Jigawa, for instance, Suleiman Kiyawa, Executive Secretary, Jigawa State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme, said the state government had cleared the arrears.
Kiyawa said the state government paid about N461.4 million as terminal benefits to 339 retirees in the state.
Muhammad Ali, a member of staff of the state Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, said no retired or serving worker in the state was being owed any entitlement.
Abubakar Musa, a retired civil servant in the state, said each time a civil servant retired, he/she collected the entitlements without delay.
In Yobe, Baba Malam-Wali, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said the state had been paying salaries of its workers as and when due and would continue to do so.
The SSG spoke through his Press Secretary, Shuaibu Abdullahi, in Damaturu.
However, payment of entitlements of council workers in the state had been delayed due to a conflict among members of the state Local Government Retiree Screening Committee.
Kachallah Goni, the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), commended the state government for the prompt payment and urged it to intervene in the matter to pave the way for hitch-free settlement of the arrears.
On its part, the Borno State Government said it approved N6 billion to clear the outstanding gratuities and pensions in the state.
However, the concerned workers and retirees were yet to receive the payments at the time the survey was published.
Yakubu Bukar, Head of Service and Usman Zanna, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, respectively said in a statement in Maiduguri that a committee had been constituted to handle it.
In Gombe, Haruna Kamara, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the state government had not settled the gratuity arrears of some retired civil servants.
He said government did not inform the NLC in the state of the release of the second tranche, but organised labour learnt of it via the internet.
“The truth of the matter is that nobody from the government of Gombe State consulted us about the funds and how they are going to use it,” he said.
Abubakar Umar, a pensioner in the state, appealed to the state government to pay the outstanding gratuities.
All efforts to get the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) James Phisagi to speak on the matter proved abortive.