The first challenge that welcomed the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions and gratuities.
There were uncontrollable ripples of news of protests, some which were violent across over twenty seven states of the country.
The condition of the workers in those states invoked unprecedented pity as many worked for seven, eight months without salaries. Retirees were worst hit by the criminal and permanent neglect.
Government machineries were grounded to a noticeable halt. Hope of survival looked distant. It became unavoidable albatross that hung on government neck.
Boldly, the federal government faced it and quickly improvised what it called ‘’BAIL OUT’’ for interested States. Like bees, they swarmed on it, indicating positive interests. They promised heaven and purgatory, to qualify. They were granted. Workers heaved a sigh of relieve. They collected and went home to ‘’presumably settle every dangling arrears of salaries and pensions’’. More than twenty months after, the hues and cry over non payment of salaries and pension continued. They used it for projects.
Curses continued to be rained on Mr President, a man who did his best to change the status quo, though to no fruition. Buhari this, Buhari that, while an unbroken chain of fund disbursement to states, silently continued.
Presently, there more questions than answers, as workers hardship continued un abated. Even politicians themselves are becoming unhappy on the presumed misappropriated bailout.
Committees have been set up by the federal government through the ministry of finance to go round the states and investigate on the proper usage of the bailout. Political parties have followed suit; Vanguard Newspaper of February, 7th 2017 reports;
Bailout funds: CNPP, civil society groups to begin assessment tour of states
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, is to commence an appraisal tour of the states that received bailout funds from the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Also to join according to VANGUARD report in what the CNPP called a fact-finding tour is a coalition of civil society groups drawn from all states of the federation, as part of efforts to hold state governors accountable on the bailout funds utilization.
CNPP’s Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, who disclosed this in a statement, yesterday, commended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for judicious use of the bailout fund according to its findings and reminded other governors that the money was strictly meant for payment of salary and pension arrears.
It may be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN said on Friday that 19 of the 36 states of the federation have so far benefitted from the workers’ salary bailout package.
According to it the states that applied for and received various sums from the aid include Kwara, Zamfara, Osun, Niger, Bauchi, Gombe, Abia, Adamawa, Ondo, and Kebbi, the CBN states.
Others include Ekiti, Imo, Ebonyi, Ogun, Plateau, Nassarawa, Sokoto, Edo and Oyo which were granted their packages this week.
CBN spokesperson, Ibrahim Mu’azu, said the bailout, which was in line with the recent resolution by the National Economic Council, NEC, was to enable the affected states to pay the backlog of workers’ salary arrears.
The package has a 20-year repayment tenor for all states, except Ogun State, which opted for a 10 year tenor.
Mr. Mu’azu explained that contrary to reports that Ogun state accessed N20 billion from the bailout, the state actually received a total of N18.9 billion.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC had on Thursday pledged to work with the Independent Corruption Practices and related offence Commission, ICPC to monitor the use of the N338 billion total bailout meant for use in paying workers.
The Congress directed its affiliate councils in the states to serve as whistle blowers to report any criminal diversion of bailout funds by the state governments.
The states that benefited from the funds, which the NLC said it would monitor include:
Oyo( N26.606bn )
An analysis carried out by the Independent Corrupt Practises and related offenses Commission (ICPC) has revealed that most of the states that received bailout funds from the federal government diverted the money for other means.
23 states received bailout fund from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to pay the salaries of their workers out of 27 that applied from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Vanguard reports that in the analysis signed by the commissioner for public enlightenment of ICPC, the investigation was carried out by the agency in conjunction with the Nigerian Labour Congress.
The breakdown revealed that most of the states that claimed to owe their workers’ salaries lied while others failed to pay workers and diverted it to other use.