Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Bail-Out Funds: Benue Workers Protest Non-Payment

There was drama in Benue state yesterday, October 27, as state workers drove away members of the state House of Assembly and their consultants who were out to the 23 local government areas of the state for a staff verification exercise.

The workers were protesting at the non-payment of their salaries from the bailout fund collected by the state government, This Day reports.

In some areas, the workers failed to show up at the venues designated for the exercise while in other areas, they were organised and visibly hostile.

An executive member of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said though the state chairman had compromised and was willing to push the workers into the exercise, they, within the executive, had all agreed to boycott it.

“Other states have paid the bailout as soon as it arrived without any form of screening. The N28 billion was based on the figure we were owed in line with the state’s workforce which was submitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“Yesterday, some workers in Benue State, include former political appointees, threatened to drag the state government before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over suspected fraud in the handling of the N28 billion bailout funds granted the state by the federal government,” he said.

According to a source who pleaded anonymity, the state government had since been granted the bailout fund but they lodged it into two commercial banks in Makurdi with the aim of generating interest.

Paul Terhemen, a former aide of the past governor of the state, who is owed furniture and severance allowances, said the action of the state government appeared fraudulent and must be checked.

He said: “We reject in its totality what the state government is doing and we call on the EFCC to investigate the action of the government.”

However, the speaker of the assembly, Terkimbi Ikyange, said the workers were acting in ignorance, adding that they would soon come back to the assembly and request for the exercise after they must have realised the overwhelming merits of its necessity.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Economic Council gave a directive that the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should arrange a bailout package for the states to offset salary arrears.

Governor Idris Wada of Kogi state has called on the Buhari-led federal government not to play politics with the issue of bail-out funds which was said to have been used as a form of campaign on the side of the APC governorship candidate.