The news about state governments owing workers’ salaries is always a sad thing to hear or read about in the papers. It is sad though not a very unusual thing in Nigeria (it’s kind of a non-news to Nigerians). As much as we are all kind of familiar with it, this ongoing one is quite different giving that several states are involved. In the past, not as many state governments owe workers’ salaries at the same time.
Out of the many states, the state that is worst hit is Osun state. The state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has been properly criticized for it too. This brings us to the question, is this horrible situation the fault of the state governor or the Federal Government?
Everyone in the centre of this salary ‘ish’ is playing the blame game instead of looking for a way out of this mess our great nation has been plunged into. The blame game is another thing we all are used to in Nigeria anytime something goes wrong; nobody is ever ready to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. But ask them to take the glory for near successes, you will see them fighting each other to claim the credit. It’s so bad that they credit themselves for things that are to worth taking credit for.
As it concerns this saddening case of workers’ unpaid salaries, state governors who are caught in the web made an excuse for themselves that they were unable to pay their workers because Federal Government slashed their allocation real bad. Federal Government (the past one though) on the other hand defended itself saying when they were going to slash the allocations, they told state governors ‘categorically’ to prioritize the payment of workers’ salaries over every other thing.
A number of Nigerians on hearing FG’s excuse took sides with the big brother of Nigeria’s governing system. Most of them say, ‘after all the state governors were before warned’. Its very true that they were before warned, but wait a second, before you exonerate the FG, you should think about state governments who were undertaking massive developmental projects within their territories (based on projections made with normal allocations that should accrue to their state from the FG). If they had decided to pay workers and abandon the projects, will it not turn out to be the case of ‘money already spent wasted’? Because time will pass on these abandoned uncompleted projects and deterioration will eventually set in.
A state like Osun is one of the states with the highest number of salaries owed. This state despite its very low but improving IGR had a lot of massive developmental projects going at the time their allocation was slashed without prior notice. Some of these projects include the construction of an airport, expansion of major roads, bridges and improved school facilities for students. These projects are separate from several other promises the newly re-elected state governor had made which will require a lot of money to execute. For a state in this kind of condition, would it have been easy to abandon all these projects that would end up bringing investors into the state, thereby improving the IGR, and used the allocation coming in to pay up workers’ salaries? For a state like Osun, the federal allocation they’ve been receiving since state allocations were slashed cannot even pay workers’ salaries.
The thing is, different state governments as well as FG have different excuses for their short coming. But the fact remains that if all of the people at the helms had diversified the economy they control, the fall in crude oil price (which the FG said is the reason for slashing state allocations) wouldn’t have affected the country as much as it did. State governments on the other hand have been too dependent on Federal allocation. If they had looked inwards and worked tirelessly to increase their IGR, the states wouldn’t have been hit this bad by the slash in state allocation.