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The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees has bemoaned the rising indebtedness of state governments to local government workers in the country which it said amounted to over N40bn.
The National President of NULGE, Olatunji Ambali, identified Zamfara State as the worst defaulter with a minimum wage of N7,500, which he said was the lowest in the country, despite the approval of the N30,000 minimum wage by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
It also lamented that the poor remuneration of local government workers had left them impoverished while those who could not cope passed away.
“Some (states) owe as much as N40bn. There is lawlessness in the land. Some of our members are just coming out of a strike. Many (council workers) died because they were unable to provide little medication that would have helped them when they were sick. Some have been pauperised while some died in the process.
“The worst among them is Zamfara State because Zamfara, as of today, still pays a minimum wage of N7,500, which is the lowest in the country,” Ambali said.
“It is followed by Ekiti State; incidentally, the governor is the chairman of the (Nigerian) Governors’ Forum. He is also one of the biggest debtors owing local government workers between six and eight months. The best among the states is Jigawa State, followed by Rivers State.
“Although Anambra has a new governor, the former governor owed us a lot of money. Enugu has yet to pay the minimum wage of N30,000, and the money paid by Ebonyi is less than the minimum wage and there is no regular promotion. The states owe us despite collecting the Paris Club refund,” he added.
Efforts to get the Zamfara State Government to react to the allegations were unsuccessful as the Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara did not pick up calls and had yet to respond to a message sent to him via SMS and WhatsApp as of the time of filing the report.
However, the Ekiti State Government said though the indebtedness to local government workers was incurred by the previous administration, the incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi, was doing his best to address the problem.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Olayinka Oyebode, said, “Since the inception of the present administration, not a dime has been owed to the workers at the local, state and teaching service levels. If they (NULGE) say the state is owing, yes, the government is a continuum.
“Can the state afford to pay those salaries in a month? No. So, what the government has done is to see once in the month that when there is a surplus somewhere, we mobilise. In the month that we had a surplus, we took care of one of the outstanding salaries.”
But speaking on the situation in Zamfara, Ambali said, “It is the unwillingness to pay, not the inability to pay because it takes political will to do something. Why does the Zamfara State Government collect allocations like the Lagos State Government but refuse to pay the minimum wage? You can see that it speaks volumes about greed and the lack of priority for human capital development. The Zamfara case is a problem upon problem.
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