Our attention has been drawn to claims by two national newspapers (ThisDay and The Sun) last week (Thursday 14 September), that Enugu State government is owing salaries and arrears of salaries to its workers.
This claim was based on a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey which listed Enugu as one of the states in Nigeria yet to utilize their share of the second tranche of the Paris/London Clubs refunds.
The newspapers appear to have concluded that since the state is yet to utilize its second tranche and since the federal government had asked that a lion share of the refund be used to offset salary and pension arrears, Enugu State must therefore be owing salary and pension arrears.
We regret this unfortunate conclusion which could have been avoided with a little fact-checking.
For the avoidance of doubt, no civil servant in Enugu State is being owed a kobo as salaries or arrears of salaries since the assumption of office of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Enugu State public workers’ salaries used to be paid promptly on the 25thday of each month. However, beginning from three months ago, Gov. Ugwuanyi ordered the accountant general to move forward the payday for civil servants and they are now being paid on the 23rd of the month.
By this executive stroke, Enugu State has become the first state in Nigeria to pay its workers,with effect from three months ago.
It must be pointed out that Enugu State sits fifth from the bottom of the table on share of monthly federal allocations. However, through prudent management of its resources and an aggressive IGR drive, the Gov. Ugwuanyi administration has been able to fully discharge its obligations to workers and still embark on massive projects to promote its agenda of employment generation, development of the rural areas, provision and maintenance of social services, and management of security and peace.
Enugu has yet to utilize its share of the second tranche of the refunds because the State does not have a pressing need to immediately utilize the funds, since it is not indebted in any way to her workers and pensioners.
What the state does each time it receives her share of the refunds is to immediately call for a meeting of the stakeholders – the two labour unions (NLC & TUC), representatives of pensioners, leaders of traditional institutions and community based associations, and development experts – to decide how best utilize the refund.
It is also at this meeting that a sharing formula is established between the states and local councils.The portion reserved for salary and pensions payments is kept aside and used to pay workers and pensioners as and when due.
Considering that many states are not in a hurry to share the refunds with their local councils, we think that Governor Ugwuanyi should be commended rather than visited with unverified and false stories.