Unpaid salaries: Workers abandon duty posts

THE PUNCH Newspaper

With the inability of many state governments to pay their workers’ salaries as and when due, some civil servants have resorted to abandoning their duty posts or skipping work, Saturday PUNCH investigation has revealed.

Our correspondents learnt that amid the current economic crisis, civil servants in many states have been going to work two or three days a week as a means of coping with the harsh times.

Some of the states were said to have depended on three months’ allocation from the Federal Government to pay a month’s salary.

For instance, it was learnt that many civil servants in Delta State have been going to work three times a week and in most cases, leaving before the official closing hours.

Some of the workers, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said they have also been leaving their vehicles at home because it is cheaper to trek to work.

One of them, who simply identified himself as Michael for fear of being sacked, said: “We can no longer afford the cost of living and transportation. Many of us working in Asaba live in Okpanam community, Ibusa and transportation to work costs N500 from there.

“Our salary is no longer regular, petroleum products are difficult to get, and transporters have increased their fares, so we have no other choice than to go to work at will.”

Investigation also showed that rent increases have added to the financial pressure on the workers.

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, had last week directed the state Head of Service, Mr. Patrick Origho, to always take attendance of workers to know the ones who have stopped coming to work.

Although the governor’s directive was said to have created panic among the workers, some of them continued to skip work.

“We will go to work at our own pace; let the governor sack us if he wants,” one of the workers said.

Civil servants at the Oyo State secretariat in Ibadan said they could not skip work because of some measures put in place by Governor Abiola Ajimobi to expose truancy and lateness.

But their colleagues outside the secretariat have been skipping work. Some of them said they could afford to skip work without being detected.

The last salary paid to civil servants by the Oyo State Government was for November 2015 and it was only for officials on Grade levels one to six. Workers on Grade level seven and upward have yet to collect their November salaries and by next month, they will be owed four months’ salaries.

A supervisor at a local government area in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that workers had been skipping work to enable them to raise money to feed their families through farming and other economic activities.

A primary school teacher with the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board, who identified himself as Adamu, also for fear of being sacked, said he had been experiencing hardship following the government’s failure to pay teachers’ January and February salaries.

He described skipping work as the least of his problems, adding that feeding his family had become difficult. The source said he is only able to provide them a meal daily as against three square meals that they were used to.

Blaming Governor Mohammed Abubakar for the situation, the teacher said he could not understand the essence of a verification exercise being conducted for civil servants as a prerequisite to being paid their salaries.

He said, “The situation is very terrible because we are really suffering. The last time we got our salary was December; since then, we have not been paid.”

Another teacher, who identified himself as Isa, also described his situation as unbearable, adding that he had been struggling to feed himself and his family members.

The Ondo State Government owes its workers three months’ salaries and investigation also showed that some of them have been spending more time doing personal business than their official duties.

Grade Level 8 and above civil servants in Osun State are being paid half salaries since July, 2015.

One of our correspondents learnt that in some government offices, workers have made arrangements among themselves to work on shifts.

It was also gathered that some workers at the local government areas no longer go to their duty posts every day because of the financial crisis.

A local government official said, “I don’t go to work because I do not have transport fare. I can’t kill myself because of half salary. We have just been paid December salary and this is the end of February. How do you want us to cope with that?”

Medical doctors are currently on strike in the state to express their displeasure with the situation and reject the payment of half salaries to them.

In Edo State, Egor Local Government Area workers, who are being owed 12 months’ salary arrears, have been facing challenges going to work.

The council was omitted from the list of local government areas to benefit from the bailout which was released to the state by the Federal Government last year.

Meanwhile, the current economic crisis has also affected the running of state houses, ministries and government offices in some states.

Saturday PUNCHH learnt that the situation has led to the rationing of fuel to power generators in many public offices.

In Oyo State, it was observed that the use of generator at the governor’s office has reduced. A source in the state house described it as one of the efforts being made by the government to manage its meagre resources.

Impeccable sources at the Government House in Asaba, Delta State, said it had become difficult to buy fuel to power generators for public offices.

They said generators are now put on at about 9.30 in the morning and put off by 12noon daily.

In the same vein, an official with the Bauchi State Government House, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Governor Abubakar had stopped releasing money to buy some things there.

“Even the buying of newspapers on a daily basis, especially for the Press Unit, has been stopped because of the financial situation,” the source said.

The source, however, said the governor “releases money to fund some unnecessary things like the rebuilding of the VIP 8 and the governors lodge inside the Government House for his two wives.”

Saturday PUNCH investigation has also shown that public offices have not been given imprest for over one year in Cross River State.

As a result of the development, most ministries, departments and agencies cannot function effectively.

Most government offices rely solely on the irregular public power supply for the use of vital equipment because of lack of funds to buy fuel to run the generators.

The situation is also biting hard as commissioners, special advisers and all other political appointees had yet to receive their salaries since assumption of office about seven months ago.

An official in one of the departments confided in Saturday PUNCH that the situation was affecting the motivation of the affected appointees.

The official said, “You do not need a prophet to tell you that the situation is bad. Government is about the people and for the people to work, they must be given the right tools.”

Yet, another civil servant, Mohammed, said, “My commissioner does not come to work because there is no money. The governor has not released money and my commissioner is lamenting every day. There are so many pending proposals from individuals which have not been attended to because there is no money.”

An official in the state ministry of information said after non-payment of imprest for one year, the state government only started paying slashed imprest three months ago without recourse to the payment of the backlog.

The source said, “Yes, the government pays salaries but it is our right to receive it. They should stop politicising the matter. What about the imprest that has been slashed? For one year, no imprest was received. It is becoming difficult to run the offices.”

Just last week, 200 retirees protested to the governor’s office over the non-payment of their gratuities.

A source at the Ondo State Government said running of the state house and the secretariat had been challenging.

The source said some apartments, which were used to having regular supply of electricity, now experience blackout when generator is not put on.

This, the source said, was to reduce the quantity and cost of fuel for the generator.

Similarly, the source described the situation as worse in the government secretariat, saying that some commissioners and public officers in the state now find it difficult to run their offices.

He said so many office electrical equipment and electronics had not been working because there was no supply of electricity to put them to work. According to the source, generators are only put on in some public offices when there are important assignments to be done.

The source said, “The economic situation has affected us seriously; we have not experienced this kind of a thing before. Some commissioners’ offices and some other public offices are becoming difficult to maintain because there is no money.”


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