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500 billion naira Paris Club refund

State governors will have nosey labour leaders to contend with in the
disbursement of the N500 billion Paris Club refunds expected from the
Federal Government.

The money is due for transfer to the state governments’ accounts any moment from now.

The bulk of it is to be used to clear arrears of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ gratuities.

Labour leaders want to avert a repeat of the misuse of the last refunds to the state.

In one instance, a Southsouth governor allegedly diverted $10 million of the sum released to his state for personal use.

He handed over the money to his US-based mistress to help him launder only for the woman to sit on it.

Some other governors allegedly used much of the money to pay contractors.

This time around, labour leaders appear poised to sit on the necks of
the governors to ensure that workers get all their dues from the 
coming refunds, according to investigation conducted by The Nation.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in several states including Enugu,
Imo and Rivers, have set up committees to ensure proper application of
the money.

The Enugu State committee, for instance, comprises representatives of
the NLC, Nigerian Union of Local Government  Employees (NULGE),
Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and other
stakeholders.

Chairman of the local NLC, Comrade Viginus Nwobodo, said the
committee’s task is to  ensure that the money earmarked for the payment
of salaries and outstanding pension arrears get to the real people.

Already, the sum of N3.9 billion has been earmarked for the payment of the salary arrears of LG workers and pensioners.

He said the committee was already auditing and verifying the staff
and would report to the government at the end of the exercise.

It is expected that 75 per cent of the money will be used to pay 
workers salaries while the remaining 25 per cent would take care of
pensioners’ salaries.

“We will make sure that the money clears all the outstanding arrears
of the workers. There is no way the government can misuse the money
because it is mainly for workers,” Nwobodo said.

Imo workers await fund’s arrival

Chairman of the Imo State NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpu, told The Nation  that machinery had set in motion to monitor the disbursement of the fund in the State.

“We have set our machinery in motion to ensure that the fund is not
diverted. Imo State will comply with the directive of the national body.
We are not going to be an exemption,” he said.

“But we are not going to let the cat out of the bag yet. Just be
assured that we are leaving no stone unturned in making sure that the
Paris Club refund is used for the purpose it is meant for.”

Information Commissioner  Obinna Nshirim said the state government
will spend the money “judiciously and transparently” in the interest of
the State.

He said Governor Rochas Okorocha was one of the few state chief
executives  that “openly disclosed the amount of money received in the
first tranche”.

He said:” Imo State got N13 billion out of which N9 billion was used
for payment of pension arrears. So the same thing will happen when the
second tranche of the money comes.

“The Governor will also make it open and use it for what it is meant
for.  I can assure you that there will be nothing like diversion of the
funds.”

We’ll resist any attempt to divert funds

­— Delta workers

The Delta Chapter of the NLC vowed to  “object strongly” to any
attempt by the state government to misuse the Paris Club Loan Refund.

Its  Vice Chairman, Jonathan Jemirieyigbe, said in an interview in
Asaba, the State capital, that the government has already pledged  that
“a reasonable chunk of the money will be used to pay pensioners.

Jemirieyigbe, who doubles as chairman of the  Nigerian Union of
Teachers (NUT) in the state, said the over two-week industrial action
embarked upon by teachers in the state was  over non-payment of
salaries, adding that it “will be untenable for the union to stand by
and watch funds meant for workers welfare diverted.”

He added: “If the money is misused, NLC will not lie low.

”Another area the money will be utilised  will be settling of local
government staff and primary school teachers’ salary arrears.

“The Governor made a categorical statement last week when Trade Union Congress (TUC) executives paid him a courtesy call.

“He made it abundantly clear to Deltans the three critical areas the
second tranche of the Paris Club Loan Refund will be deployed to.

“Firstly, pensioners will be taken care of; pension refund, those
that have retired who have not received gratuity. He said quite a
reasonable amount will be used to settle the payment of our elderly who
have served the state meritoriously and retired.

“Secondly, local government staff and primary school teachers will receive salary arrears from the money.

“Thirdly, it has to do with deductions. Deductions from cooperatives
societies that were not repaid will be paid. The balance of deductions
of cooperative societies will be settled. That is the promise he made
not only to the NLC, but Deltans.

“We are sure that he will not deviate from it. If he wanted to do
that, he would not have made it an issue for public knowledge.”

Chairman, Trade Union Congresss, Comrade Chinedu Nwobodo (TUC), said
the union will monitor government spending of the funds despite
assurances by Governor  Okowa.

He said the TUC will reach out to government once it gets information
that the money has reached its coffers, adding that the purpose is to
serve as reminder on the promises made by government.

Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okowa, Charles Aniagwu, said the
Delta State Government will spend the proposed Paris Club Loan on
payment of salaries, welfare of pensioners and infrastructure
development.

He said Delta State has always used funds accruing to the state judiciously, adding that the first tranche was used as intended.

Rivers workers may protest diversion of fund

The  Rivers State NLC  and TUC may embark on a protest if the money
is not used to pay them, according to the NLC chair, Mrs. Beatrice
Itubu.

She said: “I’m just coming from the office of the new Commissioner of
Police in the state.  We sent him a letter against the Rivers State
Government informing the police that we are aware of the Paris Club cash
and we want the government to tell us what they are doing with the 
money.

“We are not resting here. If we discover that the purpose for which
the loan was granted is being abused, we will write to the committee in
charge and take appropriate action.

“You know that Rivers State is not an easy state in this kind of
issue, because any move you make, people will begin to talk to you to
cooperate. But we are not going to be deterred;  we are going to do what
is right.

“We have written a letter to that affect and even communicated to the
national body. Right now, we are working with TUC. That was the reason
we visited the new commissioner of police, because if we are going to
take action now it is him that they are going to use to stop us. For
now, we believe that the police are aware of the whole situation.”

Effort to get the newly elected TUC chairman on the phone to speak on the issue yielded no result.

Governor Nyesom Wike could not be reached. But he had said on
different occasions that  Rivers money is for Rivers people and will be
invested in the development of the  state.

Leader of Lawyers Network for Change,  Mr. Iheayichukwu Zubi Dike,
said his organisation was working closely with NLC and TUC in the state
to ensure that the fund is fully utilised for the purpose for which it
is meant.

Ogun  Labour leaders monitoring Accountant-General

The Joint Public Service Negotiation Council (JPSNC) in Ogun State
said it will not fold its arms and allow the money to be misapplied in
anyway by government.

Its Chairman, Abiodun Olakanmi, told The Nation  on the
phone that the council and government will be meeting on Monday “about
our grievances so that when the money comes, it will be used to address
our needs.

”The government had complained of no fund. Now that fund is coming
through Paris Club refund, it means God has answered our  prayer, and we
are going to write everything in black and white so that when the fund
comes, workers’ issue would be attended to in the state,” he said.

The State Chairman, Trade Union Congress(TUC), Com. Olubunmi Fajobi,
told The Nation that the national body of the TUC has already mandated
them at the state level to “closely monitor the release of the fund.”

Fajobi added that local TUC is closely  monitoring the office of the state’s Accountant – General on the issue.

But the Ogun State Government pledged yesterday that there was no cause for worry on the issue.

Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s Media aide, Soyinka Adejuwon, said his
principal  is “known for prudent management of scarce resources and does
not divert funds.”

Soyinka said that when the first tranche of the fund was released,
the state got N10.6bn and spent N12.5bn on the payment of gratuities,
cooperative deduction arrears and severance allowance of former
political office holders, including those who served the former Governor
Gbenga Daniel’s administration between 2007 and 2011.

”In essence, we added about N3bn to what we got and used it all on
the payment of workers’ benefits. Governor Amosun did that even when the
Federal Government suggested that states use about 50 per cent of the
fund to pay worker’s entitlements,” Soyinka stated.

Anambra Labour ready to monitor fund

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigeria Union of Local
Government Employees (NULGE) in Anambra State are similarly ready to 
give the state government a close monitoring to ensure that their
members are not short changed once the money comes.

Chairman of NLC, Sir Jerry Nnubia, said their aim is to make sure
that the welfare of workers are adequately taken care of, although he
said Governor Willie Obiano is  worker friendly g.

Nnubia, who doubles as NULGE president, said: “Obiano does not owe
workers in this state, and we equally believe that as soon as the money
comes, he will distribute it accordingly.

“Our concern is to make sure that workers welfare is well taken care of including pensioners.”

Bayelsa labour leaders plan to engage govt

Labour leaders in Bayelsa State are looking forward to a parley with
the state government to ensure that salary arrears are give attention
above any other thing.

The Chairman of TUC, Mr. Tari Dounana, said: “It is our expectation
that the government should know that they will engage labour. But on our
part, we are putting together a joint letter, NLC and TUC, to the
government. And we are believing that they will engage us.

“Priority should be given to the payment of all outstanding salaries
before anything. This is a good opportunity for them to clear all that
they are owing.

“We are earnestly looking forward for them to do the needful. Human
life must be given considerations before any other project can be
carried.”

His  NLC counterpart, Mr. Bipre Ndiomu, said: “We plan to engage the
government. Federal government has already pronounced that the money
should be used for the payment of salaries. We will have discussions.

“But we know that the funds are yet to drop. We do not know the exact
amounts coming to the state. After knowing these details we will know
the steps to follow.”

Information Commissioner, Jonathan Obuebite, assured workers that
Governor Seriake Dickson is  committed to the welfare of the workers.

He said though the state is not owing for the current year,
outstanding salaries for last year caused by recession would be
seriously considered after receiving the funds.

“The fear that the money would be diverted should not be there
because the government does not joke with the welfare of workers,” he
said.

We’ll resist attempt to misappropriate it

– Kaduna NLC Chair

Chairman of Kaduna State NLC, Comrade Adamu Ango, said  labour  would  resist any attempt to misapply the refund.

“We are following the Paris Club Fund issue keenly, and if there is
any attempt to use the funds for something else, we shall resist it,” he
said on the phone.

Government officials told The Nation that the State Executive Council
has already decided to use much of the refund to clear arrears of
pensions and gratuity.

“Since Kaduna is not owing salary, the government is not even looking
at the area of salary. But I can tell you that a substantial part of
the fund will go to settle pensions arrears and gratuities,” one source
said.

“The Governor recently flagged-off the payment of pensions and
gratuities to retirees in the public service, where he pledged to settle
inherited arrears of pension and gratuity of the civil servants since
2011, totalling N15 billion.

“The interest of pensioners and the sustainability of government
pension obligations are uppermost in the mind of Mallam. That is why he
championed the passage of the Kaduna State Pension Reform Law 2016.

”The reason advanced by the state executive council while deciding to
use the Paris Club Fund for pensions was that  it is not fair that
pensioners should face delay  in receiving their dues  or be subjected
to the perennial stress of physical verification, often in arduous
conditions.”

Focus on pension in Niger

The Niger state NLC Chairman, Comrade Idris Ndako, said that civil
servants are not having any salary issue with government as salaries are
paid up to date.

The problem,according to him,is payment of pensions and gratuities.

He said: “Once the fund is released, we will pay a visit to the state
governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, and tell him we want it  to be
used for the payment of pensions.

“Many civil servants have retired and they are yet to get their
benefits, so the Paris Club refund should be used for this purpose.”

Asked what the state Labour might do if the governor refused to grant
the wish, Ndako said: “He has no choice. The money is not meant for the
governor. It is meant for the state and the workers in the state. He
has no choice but to grant our wish. He also has no power to divert it.

“We have our ears to the ground. Once it comes, we will take action
and monitor how the fund is expended. And if it is not done to our
satisfaction, you will hear from us.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity,
Mr. Jide Orintunsin, said the issue of diversion of the fund does not
arise.

“Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has the interest of the civil servants
in the state at heart. Since the refund cash is supposed to address
their problems, the Governor has said  that he would do his best to
ensure that it will be used judiciously and all party would be
satisfied.”

Orintunsin said that despite the economic crunch, the state government has not defaulted in paying the salaries of workers .

“To this end, the civil servants are assured that the Paris Club Refund Cash will not be misappropriated.”

 We have confidence in Gov Lalong 
­

—Plateau NLC

Like their Oyo State counterparts, Plateau State NLC is confident
that Governor Simon Lalong will not disappoint workers when he receives
the refunds.

Chairman of Plateau NLC, Comrade Jibrin Bancir, said: “Definitely,
there is an outstanding welfare issue that we need to resolve with
government. The governor himself promised to resolve it as soon as the
economic base of government improves.

“We thank God that another tranche of the Paris Club refund is being 
expected and we are eager and hopeful that Governor Lalong will do the
needful and clear all outstanding welfare issues.

“We are talking of four-month salary arrears which accumulated due to
“no work, no pay” rule applied by the immediate past administration
following a strike action.

“Due to the application of that rule, primary school teachers and
local government workers in the state are being  owed four-month
salaries; workers of tertiary institutions are owed five  month
salaries.

“There is the last batch of leave and transport grants. Then we have a
lot of outstanding gratuities unpaid, that is retirees of local
government staff and primary school teachers.

”Apart from the outstanding salary issues, the governor himself
promised to acquire land for workers housing scheme, so we expect the
governor to fulfill all the promises over workers welfare as soon as
this fund in received.”

Ekiti TUC boss: Cash will be spent on workers’ salaries
The Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Ekiti State, Comrade
Odunayo Adesoye, has no doubts that the state’s share of the Paris Club
refund will be spent on  arrears of workers’salaries and retirees’
gratuities and pensions.

Adesoye said Labour has been monitoring the development with the
state government and ensure that workers and retirees get what is due to
them from the impending windfall.

The TUC boss said: “Although the money has not arrived,when it
arrives, we will ensure that it is used to pay salaries, gratuities and
pensions. But the only fear being envisaged is that the Federal
Government should not give conditions.

“The Federal Government should leave it to the state government and
any responsive government should not use it to do other things. We have
expressed our feelings to the governor and he is a governor that loves
workers.

”We believe that when the money comes, the highest percentage of it
will be used to offset outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities.”

The state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ade
Adesanmi, said Labour was part of how the first tranche of Paris Club
refund was disbursed and the same situation will obtain again.

Adesanmi said further: “We don’t know how much the Federal Government
will release this time around and they had agreed at the Nigerian
Governors’ Forum that 50 per cent will be used to pay salaries,
gratuities and pensions.

”When the money comes,we are going to sit down with the government to
ensure that the right thing is done. I am giving our workers 100 per
cent assurance because it the matter is not a hidden thing.

”We already have our request and that is what we are going to table before the government by the time the cash arrives.”

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