Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, linked his inability to pay workers’ salaries in the state as and when due to rising cost of overhead, the inability of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to remit funds to the Federation Account as well as low income generation occasioned by the worsening insecurity in the state. Besides, the governor exonerated his predecessor, Senator Gabriel Suswam, fromwidespreadreports that he had masterminded the recruitmentof over3,460ghost workers on the payroll of the state government, which he cancelled on assumption of office. He has directed the sacked workers to come back and do documentation for possible recruitment into the state civil service. Governor Ortom who addressed the media at the Government House, Makurdi, also disclosed that the state’s total wage bill, including local governments, has risen to about N8 billion.
He noted: “Several factors have contributed to the issue of non-payment of salaries in the state. One, the rising cost of overhead; two, inability of NNPC to remit money to the Federation Account and the other factor can be attributed to the low IGR which is as a result of insecurity.
“It has been difficult to coordinate the collection of IGR and even where they are collected, the turnover is very low because of insecurity that has sent over 1.5 million to IDPs in various camps. Their inability to do business and to do farm work to complement salaries that are paid to workers has created a lot of difficulties in trying to put money together to pay salaries the way it should be.” Ortom added that he had made several efforts to borrow money and pay workers, but such efforts hit the rock as he was restrained until he obtains necessary approvals from the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Debt Management Office (DMO). He disclosed that the wage bill of the state, including that of the local governments, is about N8 billion, adding that he has a huge backlog of unpaid salary arrears at the third-tier, including teachers.
“The actual wage bill of the state is slightly above N3 billion; at the local government level which includes teachers, it is about the same thing, butwhenyouaddalltogether and the overhead and the other compulsory things that must be done, it goes up to about N4 billion. So you are talking of about N8 billion every month that we are required to pay both state and local government staff. “Apartfromthesecommitments, wehaveothercommitments like judgment debts that we have to pay. There are also garnishee orders that come in periodically; so these are the problems,” the governor stressed.