Civil servants, and pensioners, in Kogi State are groaning over unpaid salaries and pensions by the state and local governments, a situation which has put many of them in tight corner. While majority of the state workers were paid up to January 2019 and currently being owed arrears of about four months – February to May – other categories of workers, especially those affected by the screening exercise embarked upon by the present administration, are being owed over 30 months.

At the local government levels, the situation of council workers and primary school teachers is said to be more worrisome as they have been receiving their pay in percentages over the years. Some received as modest as 17% of the old minimum wage as their monthly salary, thus resulting in a situation whereby their take-home pay could not take them home, quite literally.

Kogi State Chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Thomas Ayodele lamented that teachers who were supposed to be on the first line charge in payment of salaries are relegated to the background.

A primary school teacher, Audu Austin, lamented that the irregular payments of salaries, coupled with the percentage payment over time has compounded his situation. According to him, before the salary is paid, he had taken essentials on credit, such that when money comes, he hardly has anything left. Meeting his obligations to family, has also become difficult.

A civil servant in one of the state ministries, Emmanuel John, said: “We are in the month of June and we were last paid in January 2019 meaning that we have received only one month’s salary for this year. There are some others that did not collect the January salary we collected. I have children some in the higher institutions and I have to pay their tuition. It has not been easy. Government should come to our aid.”

The situation of pensioners is not anything better as the senior citizens too have got bitter tales to tell. Abu Ibrahim, who retired from Lokoja local government in 2012, said life has not been easy since he has been unable to receive pension for the past 28 months.

Ibrahim told Daily Trust Saturday: “We thank Almighty Allah who has been sustaining us, otherwise it has not been easy. I retired from service in 2012 and since the assumption of this administration, we started having some challenge of non-payment of pensions. We went for screening after screening, with cases of omissions here and there. For almost 28 months now, I haven’t taken pension. But thank God. After 35 years of serving your state, and you become a beggar? That’s quite sad. We have children in school; we have aged mothers and other dependants to cater for. But unfortunately, we are handicapped because we are not being paid.

We are appealing to the present administration to consider us because tomorrow, they may find themselves where we are today.”

Joseph Amedu, who retired from service in 2015, said he was last paid his pension in January 2019 just like a majority of civil servants. He said though it has been quite challenging, God has been there, helping. “My last daughter is still in the university, and the fees are quite on the high side. It is not easy and that is why we are appealing to the government to come to our aid in paying our pensions,” he said. He added that retirees lived all their lives serving government and their contributions should be reciprocated by way of regular payment of pensions and benefits.

Kogi State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Onuh Edoka, and other labour leaders, met Governor Yahaya Bello recently at Government House to intimate him on the plight of workers. Edoka said workers were going through hardship due to unpaid salaries and appealed for urgent action, by way of payment of all outstanding salaries, pensions, and other entitlements of workers and pensioners, “To stem this unfortunate tide of avoidable illnesses and death, as well as other deprivations workers and citizens of Kogi State have been subjected to since the inception of this administration”.

But Director General on Media and Publicity to Kogi State Governor, Kingsley Fanwo, said by the end of June, the state government will be owing five months’ arrears. “We hope to defray all we are owing soon. We will pay with the allocation we are expecting, as well as the balance of the bailout which is N30.8 billion naira. The same applies to pensions. The governor has shown commitment to paying all arrears,” he said.

Fanwo said while salary arrears were inherited from the previous administration, “We will keep showing commitment to the welfare of the civil servants who have shown immense understanding and cooperation.”