Local government chairmen and councilors in Edo State are to forfeit their security votes and other allowances until the salary arrears of their workers are paid.
This was the outcome of a meeting between the state government, chairmen of local government councils and leaders of organised labour in the state on Thursday.
The Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, represented the state government, the local government council delegation was led by the state Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Itohan Osahon-Ogbeide, while the state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Emmanuel Ademokun, led the labour delegation.
While announcing the decision of the meeting, Gov. Oshiomhole said he deeply regretted the default in the payment of workers by some local government councils in the state.
“I deeply regret that some local government councils have defaulted in the payment of salaries. The good news is that some local governments are up-to-date in payments to their staff”, he said.
“We have resolved to block all leakages and free money to pay the local government workers. I fully appreciate the pains of our comrades in our local governments.
“Since I assumed duty here in 2008, I have done everything possible to ensure that the local governments operate fully without interference”, the governor pointed out.
Mr. Oshiomhole insisted that local government councils in the state enjoy absolute autonomy, adding that the councils have full control of funds allocated to them from the Federation Accounts.
As part of measures to free some funds to settle outstanding indebtedness to council workers, the governor said security allowance, payment to contractors, overhead and other allowances to political appointees have been put on hold.
Mr. Oshiomhole also directed the council chairmen and councilors not to draw their salaries until workers in their councils are paid.
“If you are not able to pay salaries of workers, then you don’t pay yourselves salaries. You cannot be eating when workers are starving. Let both the leader and the workers starve together so they can feel the pain of the workers”, said Mr. Oshiomhole.
“I will give you all the support you need so that we can free resources for local government to meet their obligations of their employees”.
The governor, however, ruled out a bailout for the local governments saying it is unconstitutional.
On the industrial action by members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, the governor said he has met with the leaders of the union to find out their grievances.
He, however, expressed disappointment that in spite of the fact that all the entitlements of the union members were paid, they still embarked on strike.
“I had a meeting here with JUSUN executives and I asked them, is Edo State Government owning you any salary, are we denying you any allowances? Do they delay your promotion? And they said no,” said the governor.
“If your salaries are being paid as at when due, your allowances are being paid as at when due, your promotion is granted as at when due, and even your members earn more than the rest of the civil service”.
Mr. Oshiomhole noted that the sole purpose of forming a union is to advance the interest of members, adding that the state government approved additional payment for members of the union to underscore the importance attached to their service.