47 INSIDEPOLITICS Why we can’t let Ortom sack workers – Iortyom
Mr Bemgba Iortyom is the Benue State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he faulted the decision of the state governor, Samuel Ortom to sack workers due to the huge monthly salary bill. Excerpts: The PDP, as the m
First of all, let me correct an impression. Former Benue Governor, Gabriel Suswam only owed workers two months’ salary, and the reasons for that are known to everyone. You will recall that the former administration had taken it upon itself to increase workers’ salary even before the national minimum wage bill was signed into law by the Federal Government. This, he did when he increased it from N4, 800 to N8, 500.
As could easily be found out, this increase by Suswam was not solicited or demanded by labour or from any quarters. The then governor did so owing to his trademark of being humane and his plans to enhance the wellbeing of workers, considering the economic realities of the time. He was among the very first set of governors to implement the minimum wage of N18, 000, in spite of Benue being on the lower rung of statutory allocation from the Federation Account.
Everything is wrong with that decision. Why are other governors not sacking their workers? The claim by the government of Benue State that it wants to sack workers to bring down the wage bill is outrageous. There is definitely more to it than meets the eye. The motive has absolutely nothing to do with the need to free resources to foster development.
The government has been enmeshed in controversy over payment of salaries and wages to workers. They must have created the confusion as a way to divert attention. The administration which has not paid workers for upwards of over 10 months in some departments does not have a definite figure on the strength of the workforce and the bill of salaries and wages due to them on a monthly basis.
The governor has variously given conflicting figures as to what the wage bill of the state is, while at the same time claiming to have pruned down the number of workers under government employment in a series of staff audit exercises. Yet, inexplicably, despite the numerous staff audit exercises, the wage bill has steadily increased far above what it was during the time of the immediate past administration of Gabriel Suswam.
Public records show that the Suswam administration adopted standardised administrative practices to prudently manage the salaries and wages of workers in the employment of the state government, such as catering for their welfare as much as available resources permitted.
Go to Benue and find out. Suswam has remained the darling of the people of Benue State, as you can easily find out. The records are there. Under Suswam, preparation of the payroll of workers was not only computerised, but a biometric registration of all workers on the state’s payroll was made to eliminate incidents of ghost workers and also enhance the effective and efficient management of the payroll.
Despite the two instances of salary increase, there are verifiable records which show that the total sum of salaries and wages paid to workers on the payroll of the state civil service stands at N159, 882, 516, 369.36 only. This is in contrast to the figure of N253, 737, 786,385.00 only being claimed by the Ortom administration as the total sum which was paid as salaries and wages by Suswam.
It is possible to obtain a guide on the monthly wage bill of the state civil service under the Ortom administration. If anything, the wage bill as at this moment should be less than the figure paid in June, 2015, and not more, considering the numerous staff audits and the acclaimed consequent discovery and deleting of thousands of ghost workers off the payroll. Every administration is under oath to be transparent and accountable to the people at all times, as it is the people’s fundamental right to know how their common wealth is being managed.
They first have to render detailed account of management of the salaries and wages payroll of the state’s workers from the time of his assumption of office to date. Secondly, they should give detailed headcount of workers on the payroll of government during this time of the administration, detailing the total number of genuine workers and number of ghost workers discovered and deleted after each round of staff audit exercise. Thirdly, they should indicate method of payroll management and staff identification system being utilised by the administration and the extent of its efficiency. Anything short of this by the Ortom administration would amount to gross violation of the oath of office it took, hence an abuse of the mandate of the people entrusted to its care.
The PDP, as the main opposition party in Benue State, stands with the impoverished workers of the state, and will be bringing out facts and figures detailing how the Suswam administration paid salaries and wages to workers on a monthly basis throughout its tenure in office. We challenge Governor Ortom to do the same thing concerning his management of the payroll of workers in the state, as we believe this will serve to throw light on the darkness covering the salary and wages issue, in furtherance of the quest for good governance and better quality of life for the people of Benue State.
As could easily be found out, this increase by Suswam was not solicited or demanded by labour or from any quarters. The then governor did so owing to his trademark of being humane and his plans to enhance the wellbeing of workers, considering the economic realities of the time.
Mr Bemgba Iortyom