Enugu Gov. cries for help

Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has said that his administration needs more than N32. 2 billion to off-set the arrears of workers’ salaries, gratuities, pensions and subventions.

At an enlarged meeting with labour leaders in the state, Ugwuanyi said that the debts were accumulated by previous administrations over the years.

He said that the essence of the meeting was to intimate the labour leaders with the efforts to procure the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) bailout funds to off-set part of the debts.

He said that it was important that the workers were carried along to determine the best ways to disburse the fund.

“The essence of this meeting is for you to know that we have formally applied for the sum of N4.2 billion for the purpose of defraying debts owed workers in the core ministries.

“We want you to interface with your colleagues in other states to recommend ways the funds will be managed when it arrives,” he said.

The governor said that the debts were accumulated by previous administrations, adding that he had been consistent in the payment of salaries and subventions to the agencies.

“We have been consistent in the payment of salaries and subventions because we understand that you have to pay salaries to activate the economy of the state.

“We do not have money and if we must continue to do our projects we need to get money from somewhere,” he said.

Ugwuanyi said that the state would not borrow from commercial banks due to their high interest rates.

“We intend to look for funds that will attract single digit interests and that way we can restructure within the life of this administration.

“We promised you accountability at all times and it is important to point out that workers in the local government areas are not covered by this N4.2 billion bailout fund,” Ugwuanyi said.

Also speaking, the Accountant General of the state, Mr Pascal Okolie, said that the bailout was to defray one month arrears of pensions, salaries of non-permanent workers and subventions owed the government agencies.

Okolie said that the state owed the sum of N9.6 billion in gratuities and pensions, N1.8 billion in salaries and N1.46 billion in subventions to the agencies.

Responding, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Mr Virginus Nwobodo, thanked the governor for being forthright in the deliberations.

Nwobodo said they were aware of the financial challenges in the country, but expressed worry that the bailout fund was inadequate to defray the debts owed the workers.

“The economic situation of workers and pensioners in the state is pitiable. Some pensioners have not received pension and gratuity for upwards of 10 years and 20 years.

“Some have died prematurely while the wives of some of the men have left due to their inability to provide for their homes.

“There is need to set up a technical committee to work out the modalities for the disbursement of the funds,” Nwobodo said.

In his contribution, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Chukwu Igbokwe, said the union would release the detailed of debts owed every worker in the state.

Igbokwe said that it was worrisome that some workers had been on half salary for the past three years, while others were owed 36 months of their 50 per cent salaries.

“We want to implore the government to ameliorate this situation even if the payment will be staggered.

“We, therefore, appeal that this technical committee that will oversee the disbursement of the bailout fund should go beyond the disbursement of the N4.2 billion and see how all debts owed workers will be paid,” Igbokwe said.

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