Abia: Payment of outstanding salaries ongoing
Following the submission of the report of the Labour Unions dominated Committee charged with the disbursement of the N5.715b London Paris Club loan refund to Abia State, the Government has commenced payment of outstanding salaries to affected Abia workers.
It will be recalled that in anticipation of the Paris Club refunds Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had promised to settle all outstanding workers salary with the inflow which was initially expected to be around N14b. Unfortunately, Abia State only received N5.715b from the federal Government, which was far below the projected outstanding wage bill of around N13b.
But in keeping with his desire to ensure early end to the outstanding salary challenge in the state, Governor Ikpeazu directed the committee to apply all the N5.715b to settle, as much as possible, the outstanding salaries of the 24,000 state and 14,000 LGA workers in Abia State.
The committee completed its work last week and after reviews by the Governor he authorized additional funds from the state’s allocation to be added to ensure that more benefits accrue to the hardworking Abia workers and pensioners.
Payment warrants have been released by the Commisioner for finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku, with many of the affected workers already receiving “gbagam” alerts since last week. Others are receiving this week.
1. The money received as Paris Loan refund was not enough to clear all the salary and pension arrears in the state. Abia was expecting N14b but got only N5.715b.
2. MDAs
As at today, payment warrants have been released for salaries of all MDAs in the state and they are now on 100% compliance
Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Abia State Government have effectively received July 2017 salaries.
*MDAs make up 70% of the state work force and they no longer have arrears, as at today.
3. LGA Workers
Local Government Workers had 4 months outstanding going into this process but have received 2 months payment warrants.
It is important to note that ordinarily the state govt shouldn’t have bothered as the LGAs are on their own. But the Governor considered the fact that the current LGA executives inherited the outstanding and the workers are Abians.
*There are about 14,000 workers at our 17 LGAs.
4. Teachers
There are 2 categories of teachers in Abia state: primary school and secondary school teachers.
The salaries and pensions of primary school teachers are statutorily the responsibilities of local governments. It is that of secondary schools that the state pays.
Yet the Governor made an intervention with primary (4 months) and secondary (6 months) school teachers outstanding.
It is now confirmed that secondary school teachers have received 3 months salary warrants while primary school teachers received 2 months.
*Abia is left with only 3 months outstanding for secondary school teachers and 2 months for primary school teachers.
5. Pensions
There are two categories of pensioners with outstanding issues: local government (7 months) and state (8months) pensioners.
Both categories received 2 months payment warrants. Meaning that the state still owe pension arrears of 5 or 6 months respectively.
These 3 institutions are revenue generating and by the law setting them up permitted to use their financial resources to pay their workers. As support, aimed at bridging any gap in revenue, the state pays subventions to the schools.
Clearly these institutions have not been properly managed, historically, and going into this process Abiapoly had 6 months outstanding while ABSUTH had 7.
I am not sure of the situation with ABSU but can confirm that Abiapoly and ABSUTH received warrants to pay off 2 months outstanding each. ABSU also received warrants to cover 2 months back pay.
Again these are revenue generating institutions that ordinarily should use their IGR to pay their workers as at when due.
Health management Board (4 months) is in charge of the state hospitals that make money from patients while College of Education Arochukwu (7 months outstanding) and College of Health Aba (6 months) collect revenue from students as school fees and have other IGR sources. Why should there be unpaid wages at those institutions?
Well, they got money from this exercise to settle at least one month of their outstanding.
The management of the institutions should do more to sort out all issues related to workers salaries. Revenue generating institutions are expected to prioritize workers salary over any other expenditure.
8. ASUBEB and Abia Newspaper
Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) went into this process with 3 months outstanding while Abia Newspapers had 4 months outstanding.
They have received warrants for one month back pay each.
In summary, Abia achieved 100% of the Governor’s target with MDAs that make up 70% of the state’s workforce but couldn’t hit same with all the others before the end of the July 31st set date.
The Commissioner for Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku, is working very hard, under the guidance of Governor Ikpeazu, to ensure that other remaining outstanding are quickly zeroed out as targeted.
But it is important to note that Abia State is carrying the heaviest wage bill in the South East region. It is also the state with the highest non indigenous workers population in the region. Governor Ikpeazu is determined not to sack any genuine worker or slash salaries.
Governor Ikpeazu’s target is to quietly remove all ghosts and those with fake credentials from the payroll, improve state IGR above monthly wage bill level and properly deploy all workers to ensure that everyone is productive and contributing to growth and prosperity of Abia State.
If anyone needed proof of the Governor’s commitment and determination to defeat the outstanding salary challenge in the state, the person only needs to note that he willingly sacrificed N5.715b that belongs to 5m Abians for the exclusive settlement of 38,000 workers in the state. In fact he added to the N5.7b Paris Club Refunds he received to get to the point stated in this dispassionate report.