TEN states have misspent the bail out funds and the Paris Club refund, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said yesterday.
The NLC made good its threat to “name and shame” states that refused to pay workers or make public the bailout funds and the Paris Club refund they got.
The congress also warned the government against approving another increase in electricity tariff, saying it will mobilise its affiliates, social partners and other Nigerians to resist any further increase when Nigerians were yet to get a good service foe the previous increase, which has been declared illegal by the court.
NLC President Ayuba Wabba, who spoke at the National Executive Council meeting of the Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) in Abuja, said six of the 10 states were in a terrible situation, pointing out that the congress had directed all states chapters whose members are owed more than three months salaries to declare an industrial action.
While reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s disappointment with the governors over the utilisation of the funds, Wabba had told The Nation that the congress was compiling a list of governors who failed to spend the funds on workers’ salaries.
Wabba said: “Out of the 36 states, we have 10 bad case scenario and out of this 10, we have six terrible ones. We have promised to name and shame them. Those states include Imo that has been paying workers salaries in percentage and has not declared utilisation of the bail out fund and Paris Club refund. It is part of the states that ICPC has mentioned in fund diversion.
“They paid 40 percent pension to their pensioners without their consent and provided a form for them to sign under duress. That is not allowed in law. We have Bayelsa, which has between five to 10 months arrears. Ondo is owing between four and six, Ekiti (five to eight), Benue (five to eight) and Kogi, which is the worst case scenario.
“We have three categories of workers in Kogi. We have 40 per cent that are being paid up to date, we have 25 per cent that has not been paid between eight and 16 months and another 25 per cent that has not been paid between eight and 21 months. In all, the sectors, they have categorised the workers into three categories.
“We also have the case of Osun which is also paying in percentage, but is up to date. Ebonyi, unilaterally, without discussion with the union tried to reduce the salaries by certain percentage and have also not made available records of utilisation of the Paris Club refund.
“We have the case of Zamfara, which is the only state that has not implemented the minimum wage and all attempt (including agreements they have signed) to get them to make available records of utilisation of those funds have failed. The last one is, Abia which has a problem with the parastatals. On the average, other states are above board.
The NLC chief went on: “As I speak to you, both Zamfara and Benue are on strike and I am aware that Kogi has issued a notice, which is in conformity with the decision we took at our last NEC meeting that any state with liability of more than three months should start an action and we will be there to support them.”
Speaking on the statement credited to the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Power that one of the problem in the power sector was low electricity tariff, Wabba said workers will not accept any further increase in tariff.
He said: “A few days ago, I received a letter from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission informing us that they want to hold town hall meetings where they want consumers and other stakeholder to contribute. What immediately came to my mind is an attempt again to increase tariff when we have not been able to get out of the one they illegally increased by 45 percent.
“The twin issue of fuel price increase and electricity tariff has made nonsense of the minimum wage. We have not been able to justify that 45 percent increase, but now, they are coming again. Let me say emphatically that NLC as an organisation and all our affiliates will resist any attempt to increase the electricity tariff again.
“We have gone to court to challenge their action and the court made pronouncement that the process they followed to effect the last increase was illegal and, therefore, set it aside. Here we are; even to respect that court order has become a problem. We must continue to respect the rule of law. We are still on that issue because no court of law has set aside that judgement.
“Let us warn those people again because, for them, they must continue to feast on us. If this happens, it means more industries will close and it also means more darkness because the more they increase the tariff, the more darkness we have and more burden on the Nigerian worker. Therefore, we must situate our policies within the context of how it can improve the life of ordinary Nigerian.”
Speaking on the economic challenge facing the nation, Wabba said: “There is no doubt that our country is passing through very difficult challenges and I think those challenges are to strengthen us, give us hope and make us to think more and be able to respond to issues that affect us. Economies do bubble and burst. Therefore we must not be lamenting that we are in recession or getting out of recession.
“What matters is how do we put food on the table of the ordinary Nigerian; how do we drive our processes to ensure that industries are working? Once industries don’t work and we don’t produce, but continue to import, the situation will continue because there will always be crave for foreign exchange for us to import and because we don’t export anything, that issue will continue.
“Our focus must be that our economic model is anchored around the people and around the issues of social justice. Once we don’t do that, then the problem will continue. That is why we have continuously engage the process, including options that are going to work.
“For instance, the issue of taxation. It is only workers today that pay the correct tax while those that have more than enough, including those with stolen funds, don’t pay tax. Why should you continue to overburden the worker that is already paying the correct tax with more taxation?
“If I am paying correct tax through pay as you earn, if means that I am paying correct tax and to introduce more tax means double jeopardy. If we are able to access the stamp duty alone, we will be able to generate over two trillion naira per annum. These are issues that we need to address. You cannot continue to rob the poor to make sure that the rich continue to live large.”
Earlier in his address, NASU National President Comrade Chris Ani said the agitation for restructuring and fiscal federalism were attempts to divert attention from misgovernance and ineptitude the nation has been going through, adding that Nigerians should not be distracted by elements that have actively participated in the looting and mismanagement of our economy and can be found in the two major political parties.
Ani said what workers needed at this point was time is not whether more power should be given to states, but to know how they have managed the power at their disposal.
Congratulating the government and its officials for bringing the economy out of recession, Ani said the union will only join the celebration when workers’ “welfare improves; jobs are secured; salaries are paid in full as and when due; wage increase is de-frozen and other withheld benefits are paid