Osun State Finances and Non-Payment of Salaries:
Osun State Finances and Non-Payment of Salaries:
Aregbesola Government Excuses Are Ridiculous and Untenable
The attention of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State Chapter has been drawn to a statement credited to the governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, as reported by the Punch and Guardian newspapers, during the inauguration of the new State Assembly that the reason the government wickedly denied workers their salaries for months is because of increases made to workers’ salaries since 2012. This is an attempt to shift the blame on non-payment of workers’ salaries onto workers themselves. We in the SPN reject this hypocritical excuse of the government.
In the first instance, the governor did not tell the public whether the so-called increased workers’ emolument includes the huge salaries paid to political appointees in the state. This clarification is necessary because it seems the governor is trying to hoodwink the public. How will the workers’ wage bill increase by 93 percent (N1.4 billion to N2.7 billion), according to the governor, when in the real sense, just about 30 percent rise was effected in the salaries of most workers after a long battle with the state government for implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage? It is either the governor is patching up the figure, or political appointees must have been converted into state’s workforce. It is a known fact that political appointees earn salaries in multiples of what workers, who actually do the work, earn as salaries.
For instance, each member of the undemocratically-formed Caretaker Committees for the thirty Local Governments earn as much as N300, 000 per month; bringing a total of N90 million per month and N1.08 billion per annum. This is aside from salaries, other emoluments and perks of office for several other appointees including commissioners, special advisers, special assistants, personal assistants, members of boards of agencies, institutions, committees and commissions, and the hangers-on of these people. One can imagine how much of government’s resource going to this sector alone. Therefore, the excuse of the governor that extremely meagre salary increase the government was forced to effect on workers’ salaries is the main cause of the non-payment of salaries for seven months is simply incorrect.
We hold that it is the monumental wastages and mismanagement that have drained the finances of the state. For instance, according to government sources, N15 billion to the ‘Opon Imo’ project, under the guise of providing free computer tablets for secondary school students. This project has totally flopped, with the computer tablets withdrawn from circulation, while most schools are still in horrible conditions. The “Opon Imo” project was not so much for the interest of advancing learning on a sustainable basis but to enrich the cronies of the government who supplied the tablets.
The same government that wants to blame workers for non-payment of their salaries for months, gave, in just an instance, almost N1 billion to a private garment factory under the guise of procuring free school uniforms for pupils and students. Today, parents have to spend more money to buy the uniforms from the same private garment company, to which the government has now given the monopoly of producing uniforms for public schools. This in effect means using government resources to setup private businesses.
Also, more than ten billion naira committed to O’School project only resulted in less than ten schools being rebuilt while over two thousand schools are in dilapidated conditions. This is apart from huge contracts of roads to crony contractors at exorbitant costs, while the State Ministry of Works is idle. Also this is not to mention several millions of naira the government committed to private ventures such as using public resources for religious pilgrimages.
Therefore, workers should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked with this clearly fraudelent argument of the Aregbesola government. The governor claimed that the current allocation of the state is a paltry N466 million for the month of April, but Ekiti State, with lower federal allocation, got over N3 billion as its allocation for the same month. This simply means that Aregbesola government has mortgaged the state’s finances to financial institutions, in an attempt to implement policies and projects that put more money in the pockets of an already rich few. Today, in spite of billions spent on education, more than 95 percent of public primary and secondary schools in the state are in terrible conditions with no functional facilities for learning and teaching; while tertiary institutions are also understaffed and poorly funded. Public health institutions are also without adequate facilities with medical workers on strike over unpaid salaries. In spite of billions of naira on road constructions, most of the big budget road projects are now abandoned, while many local roads are in deplorable conditions.
All this shows how the state finances have been wasted and mismanaged. Rather than looking for excuses why workers will have to continue to suffer, Mr. Governor should commit his energies to stopping financial haemorrhaging of the state by financial sharks and crony contractors. For us in the SPN, there are enough resources, mineral and monetary, to begin to provide the needs of the people and develop the state.
We challenge the Aregbesola government to open the books for the public to ascertain how the state finances have been managed, where the funds have been channeled including the salaries and allowances of political officer holders, and for whose interest. We therefore call for setting up of an independent panel comprising elected representatives of workers, relevant professionals, community people and independent human rights groups to probe the finances of government in the last 6 years.
We call on the striking workers and their unions to remain steadfast in the struggle. They should immediately stop restricting the strike to a sit-at-home action but organise a series of mass activities like rallies and protest marches in order to mobilise mass support and actively involve the public in the struggle and thereby mount a sustained pressure on the state government.