Organised labour in the country on Wednesday implored President Muhammadu Buhari not to release further bailout funds to governors of the 36 states of the federation until they are made to account for the funds already released to them.
The workers under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) also vowed to begin massive protests in states that have refused to use the bailouts funds released to them by the federal government to settle workers’ salaries.
A delegation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) were at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday where they met with President Buhari to demand for the release of the 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club refund to states.
Chairman of the forum and Zamfara State governor, Abdulazeez Yari, told journalists after the meeting with the president that the governors came to plead with Buhari as the father of the nation to see to it that the 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club refund is paid to the states not later than next month in order to enable them factor the money into their 2018 budgets.
At the meeting with the governors, President Buhari had bitterly expressed his displeasure with the inability of some of the state governors to pay workers as well as pensioners their salaries and pensions, despite the bailouts given to them.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the development yesterday, said the president has shown clearly that he understands the plights of the workers.
In a telephone chat with our correspondent, Wabba said, “We understand that their going to the president was to ask for further bailouts but clearly this has shown that it is not about just releasing money to them. They must first give account of what has been released to them.
“Let me give you an instance, Jigawa State did not access the bailouts and the state government does not owe salary or pension. But look at Bayelsa State; despite its 13 per cent derivation and bailouts funds released, it is still owing workers. The president must ask for proper audit of funds already released”.
He declared that the workers will fully mobilise to shutdown activities in states he accused of deliberately not taking the plights of workers seriously.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday, TUC president, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, said TUC and NLC have jointly written to President Buhari, urging him to stop any further release of bailouts to governors still owing workers salaries.
He said, “The NLC and TUC have written a joint letter to President Buhari. Our request is that governors should give a proper account of the monies they have received, especially those who got the bailouts and still owe several months”.
Kaigama said the two labour centres will be taking further actions against the governors and ensure that workers get their salaries.
The TUC also commended President Buhari for voicing out his displeasure to state governors over their failure to pay salaries and pensions, despite federal government’s interventions in the state.
It took a swipe at the governors for asking for the release of 50 per cent of the Paris Club loan refund, even when some of them could not account for the tranches already released to them.
In a press statement signed by its national president, Comrade Kaigama and Secretary General, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the Labour leaders lamented the plight of workers in the states and the need for urgent attention as many of them could barely survive.
“For us the president Muhammadu Buhari was right when he expressed surprise on how some governors manage to sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months. The president even wondered how the workers feed their families; pay their rents and the school fees of their children”, TUC said.
Kaigama noted that the Congress believes the president asked these vital questions because he still has his conscience intact, noting that most of the country’s leaders have sold out their conscience.
His words: “They don’t feel our pains neither do their children and cronies. What is N18, 000 (Eighteen thousand naira) when juxtaposed with the prevailing economic realities in the country? It is a pity our governors prefer statues of foreigner to our health, children’s education, job creation and other meaningful activities that help build a strong a society.
“The confidence we had when this administration was coming on board has gradually waned. We believe in the president but he alone cannot do it. Efforts to fight corruption have become a mirage. Experts have argued that one way recession can be addressed is when the wage of workers is increased; unfortunately the last wage increase we had was in 2011.
“Though due for review but some forces who take delight in using our children as political thugs have refused. They want the status quo to remain- (master-servant relationship). They tell us that the economy is in recession yet it does not affect them”.
The statement made available to LEADERSHIP further noted: “Nigeria’s case has become that of one-day one-trouble-kind of. Only last week some ministers made case for No Work No Pay doctrine. Their argument was that they want to check the public service workers in the country.
“Just imagine: how do you tell a worker that has not been paid for six months to continue to borrow to fare himself or herself to job? How do you explain it that a country that is broke still pays twitter lawmakers over N29m on a monthly basis? This is inhuman, wicked, derogatory and devilish”.
The TUC leadership charged the federal government to hold on to the money until the workers and pensioners are fully paid, just as it accused the governors of stockpiling the released fund somewhere to be used for 2019 election campaign.
In the same vein, president of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN), comrade Francis Johnson, said it is ungodly for any governor to still owe workers salaries, despite collecting bailouts from the federal government.
He said, “It is sad that while we are yet clamouring for an upward review of the minimum wage, some governors are still not paying the N18, 000 minimum wage which is nothing to write home about given the current state of our economy.
“Are the governors being owed? Is there any of their aides or commissioners that is being owed? Yet, you see them living lavish lifestyles to the detriment of the workers who voted them into office.”