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

Weekly Trust - - Interview - He ad­min­is­tra­tion of the im­me­di­ate past Gov­er­nor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, was known to have owed work­ers’ salaries for some months. Suswam served un­der the PDP, the party you rep­re­sent. Why then are you com­plain­ing now that the in­cum­bent gov­er­nor i

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

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