By Mumini AbdulKareem and Mike Adeyemi
The Kwara State Governor, Alh. Abdulfatah Ahmed has concluded arrangement to secure a N4 billion facility as part of efforts to clear the backlog of salaries owed categories of workers in the state, National Pilot, can authoritatively report.
To this end, the Governor, it was gathered, have held meetings with various stakeholders and relevant bodies on modalities for the disbursement of the fund.
Also, Ahmed reportedly said “there is hope for the sourcing of additional money” to be used to further defray the remaining arrears of workers in the state.
The arrears for all the affected workers have reportedly run into billions of naira.
The development may be seen as a major demonstration of the present administration to improve the welfare of workers and to resolve the protracted salary crisis in the state.
According to a source, who, preferred not to be named, the paperwork for the money are almost concluded while disbursement is likely to begin, this week.
It was gathered that while N2 billion has been earmarked for the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) is expected to get N1.5b and the past elected council officials N500,000, a bank source confided in our reporter.
Another source said the money for SUBEB may also include payment to some contractors owed for previous projects executed.
There are however concerns whether the money to be allocated for payment of past council officers is for the immediate past elected officials alone or the previous third tier administration are included. Advanced meetings at the “highest levels” are said to be going on regarding the issue.
The government before now had been reportedly releasing the sum of N16million monthly for the payment of the ex-council chairmen and councillors across the 16 local government areas in the state.
Responding, the Kwara State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Comrade Musa Abubakar, disclosed that action of the government was a fallout of the last meeting with Governor Ahmed.
He added that the development was part of the reason the union shelved its proposed strike after the expiration of its 21-day ultimatum.
“We met with the Governor about two days ago and we all saw the level of his commitment towards our plight. I think by March, we will begin to see changes in our arrears. The state government has decided to take a loan facility of N4billion to pay part of the arrears of our members.
“I want to believe that by the time this facility comes, it will go a long way to clear part of the outstanding the government owes.
“You will remember that our union sometimes ago issued 21-day ultimatum to the state government about our plight in the state. Now that the ultimatum has expired, the executives of our union met recently and we have looked at the situation diplomatically.
“I think we are already seeing some level of development on the part of the government as regards the issue of promotion letter which has been given to the affected staff,” he added.
On his part, the Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Com. Hotonu Rafiu said the facility is meaningless.
“The information available to us is that only one month will be paid while we continue to service it for another two years. By this, the facility has no meaning.
“The total outstanding of local government workers today is N4.5 billion of which we are made to realise that the N4billion is meant for teachers, local government workers, pensioners, political office holders and even ex-councils officials. The implication is that the loan cannot pay more than a month… compared with local government workers that are being owed over 10 months’ salary.
“The best alternative to settle salary backlog is for government to take over payment of Junior Secondary School teachers and use other inflows to the state such as Paris Club refund,” he submitted.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the Governor, Dr Muideen Akorede confirmed that the facility is N4 billion against the N6billion being reported in some media.
He said they are waiting on the banks in-charge of the facility before making any categorical statement.
“The amount is actually N4 billion and not the N6 billion as some media have reported. We are waiting for the banks now and until the money comes, we can’t begin to speculate. You know how banks work, but when it comes, we’ll announce it”, he said.