The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has raised the alarm that the number of states owing workers’ wages has increased to 35.
Its President, Bobboi Kaigama, who made this known to reporters after the congress’ National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Lagos, said only Lagos State was up-to-date on salary payment and other benefits.
It warned state governments against diverting money meant for workers’ salaries and other benefits into electioneering expenditure.
Kaigama said, with the exception of Lagos, every other state in Nigeria owed one form of benefit or the other, including salaries, despite the Federal Government’s bailout and Paris Club refunds.
He said: “We want to say without fear of contradiction that the only healthy state in this country that has no arrears of salaries and other wages or unpaid benefits is Lagos State. All the other states have one issue or the other in terms of salaries, wages or benefits of their workers that have not been paid. There is no exception.
“You will find out that, if it is not one month’s salary that is not paid, it would be 13 months of gratuities or pensions that have not been paid. Or that contributory pension deductions are not being remitted or that there are certain promotion arrears and death benefits that have not been paid. So, I am telling you, taking this issue holistically, we can only say Lagos State is the only healthy state in this country.”
The TUC leader added: “We keep saying that, if state governors cannot meet their obligations to their workers, they should just resign and leave the stage. We have continued to argue that, apart from the first generation states that were created by the military, there is no state that was created thereafter that did not have its submission that the state had the capacity to pay the wages of the workers in the state and other things. Ours is that probably those who are saying that we should go back to regional government are not misplaced because the trust we have in state government has been eroded. So, if it is just for the purposes of payment of salaries, no other developmental issues like infrastructure, health facilities, roads, rails transportation and so on, we are better off with regional government.
On the ability of states owing the existing N18,000 minimum wage to pay a new minimum wage expected to be higher than the present one, Kaigama said it was corruption that made governors to owe workers.