The immediate past Minister of Interior, Comrade Patrick Abba Moro, has given a strong warning to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State not to apply the latest tranche of the Paris Club refund for any other purpose, except for the payment of salaries and allowances owed workers in the state.
The Federal Government recently released a state-by-state breakdown of another tranche of the Paris Club refund amounting to N243.8 billion where Benue State got N6.8 billion.
Moro, a top member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the Ortom-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government in Benue State, cannot continue to misapply the bailout funds and Paris Club refunds released to the state for the payment of the backlog of salaries and allowances of workers.
The ex-Minister who spoke in an interview in Abuja, noted that the non-payment of workers’ salaries have inflicted severe pain and suffering on civil servants in the state as they could no longer afford to cater for their immediate needs.
His words: “I would honestly advise Governor Ortom this time around to prudently and judiciously apply this latest tranche of the Paris refund that has been released to Benue State. By the records of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the 6.8 billion to Benue state must be strictly applied for the payment of salaries and allowances of workers of Benue State. I insist that Benue state is a purely agrarian state, a purely civil service state. And the concomitance of the non-payment of salaries and allowances to public servants like I keep saying is that children of public servants cannot go to school. It means that public servants cannot pay their health bills and those of their children and family members. And like I said before and I want to repeat here, it means that common ailments can kill any one of them because they cannot afford the bills for hospitals. So, I think that it is in the interest of the APC-led government of Benue State that this latest tranche of the refund is applied strictly for the payments of salaries and allowances of workers in Benue State and Local Government workers. This is about the third tranche of bailout now that Benue State is receiving. Previously various excuses have been advanced as to why salaries are not paid.”
The PDP Chieftain wondered why Ortom was threatening to sack workers as if that was going to solve the problem of non-payment of salaries.
“It is unfortunate that the Benue State government having declared a state of emergency on salaries is still threatening to sack workers. Definitely, that is not going to be a solution to the problem of non-payment of salaries. Threatening to sack university lecturers, professors, PhD holders, lecturers of various categories definitely cannot solve the problem of non-payment of salaries because the allowances and salaries that people are complaining about are already earned. And so if you sack them you must pay them. So, you cannot run away from that. And besides you don’t pick professors of university from the street. They are not there. PhD holders in the university certainly are not employees that you pick from the street. So, it is my hope that the governor and government of Benue State will have a rethink in their threat to sack such unique segment of the public service in Benue State. But I think that what is important here is that as the President has consistently advised all bailout funds should be applied to the payment of salaries of workers in all the states. There is no excuse for not doing that,” he stated.
Moro lamented the situation where Benue State under governor Ortom has always been in the news for the negative reasons, noting that it was not good for the image of the state. According to him, “It is very unfortunate. Benue `State has always been mentioned in the negative all the times. When they mention states that are not paying salaries, Benue State is there. If they mention states that have misapplied bailout funds and funds accruing to the states, Benue State is there. Benue State doesn’t deserve that. We can do better than that.”
Speaking on the issue of ghost workers in Benue State, he said: “Each time the Benue State government keeps complaining about ghost workers. But the question I keep asking is where are these ghost workers? Two years on is enough for a serious government to identify who is a ghost worker and who is not. And if we still have ghost workers two years on after assumption of office of the present administration in Benue state, the question that readily comes to mind is who is paying these ghost workers and where are these ghost workers, because by our understanding from that part of Benue that I come from, a ghost is not a human being. So, which human public servant in the present administration in Benue State is paying ghosts salaries two years on? These are questions that somebody must ask. But of course, you know if you ask salient questions, realistic questions and you offer constructive criticisms in the hope that things will change, they come after you. They abuse you. And that is not the solution to the problem at hand in Benue State. Abusing Abba Moro is not going to offer any solution to the myriad of problems of infrastructural decay and non-payment of salaries that have characterized the landscape of Benue State today. It won’t help them. And of course, I am not going to obliged them in response. They can abuse me for all I care. But the point is that I am a citizen of Benue State and when things are going wrong I reserve a right to ask questions because I demand answers since the government of Benue State is not a family enterprise. It is government of Benue State for Benue people. And I cannot sit idly by if things are going patently wrong in my state. I must speak! And I will continue to speak.”