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9 August 2017

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Aregbesola Government Owes Workers and Pensioners

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State, hereby condemns the statement widely credited to the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, to the effect that the government he is leading does not owe workers and pensioners. This statement is, at best, unfortunate coming from the governor of the state. We suspect that the statement is aimed at denying workers and retirees arrears of their salaries and pensions owed over twenty four months. Nothing exemplifies this more than the fact the governor was making the reported statement days after acknowledging the receipt of Paris Club refund to the tune of over N6.3 billion. One of the conditions for the release of the refund to states, according to the Finance Minister, is that state governments agreed that seventy percent of the refund would be used to offset arrears of salaries and pensions (Kemi Adeosun Interview with Money Line on AIT).

Therefore, the statement credited to the governor claiming the government does not owe worker or pensioner is a betrayal of the condition for release of Paris Club refund. We ask; if the government owes no worker or pensioner, why did not the government collect the Paris Club refund, which was released basically to offset salaries and pensions? It is either the governor is being economical with the truth or trying to divert the refund to other purposes. If this position of the governor is not refuted, it will be used as basis to deny workers and pensioners arrears of their salaries and pensions. Interestingly, barely had the governor made the comment that the Hassan Sunmonu-led committee, set up by the government to administer the illegal half salaries and half pensions, announced that two months' arrears (July and August 2015), out of twenty four (24) months, of salaries and pensions will be paid.

If the government does not owe workers and pensioners, why is the government paying arrears of salaries and pensions, albeit of July and August 2015. Worth of mentioning is the fact that the Sunmonu-led committee, aside administering illegal half salaries and pensions, is also a drain on the resources of the state, as members of the committee are reportedly paid hundreds of thousands as sitting allowances. Moreover, it is condemnable that union leaders who should be fighting for full payment of salaries, pensions and allowances, is cozying up with government to administer the fraudulent half salary and half pension policy.

For the avoidance of doubt, the reality on ground is that the government has been paying half salaries and half pensions for workers and retirees above Grade Level 7 since July 2015. This section of workers and retirees include teachers, majority of civil servants and about half of local government workers. Also, medical doctors and health workers, as well as staff (teaching and non-teaching) in the state-owned polytechnics and colleges of education were forced to collect half salaries, even when their leaders were not party to the rotten arrangement. It was few months' ago that the government increased the salaries and pensions of those between Grade Levels 8 and 12 to three-quarters of their salaries and pensions, while those on Grade Levels 12 to 17 are left out. In fact, the increase was a kind of a scam, as the government was to pay full salaries and pensions after receiving a tranche of bailout from federal government. Rather, the government only paid three-quarter salaries and pensions to selected few workers.

However, medical officers, health workers and tertiary institutions' staff are still being paid the illegal half salaries and half pensions. Therefore, the government of Ogbeni Aregbesola owes majority of workers and retirees arrears of salaries and pensions for twenty four (24) months. This is aside thousands of retirees who are on contributory pension scheme, whose pension bonds and deductions have not been paid to their Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) by the Aregbesola government several months after retirement. Furthermore, the government has not paid gratuity of a single retiree under the government pension scheme.

It is left for Aregbesola government to explain to the world how a state that earned over N300 billion as allocations and incurred over N250 billion as debt within five years is still unable to pay salaries and pensions. It is on record that all the projects like the road projects upon which the hundreds of billions were spent are still uncompleted, even when their completion periods have been exceeded.

We call on all workers and retirees to pile pressure on their leaders to lead the fight for the full payment of their salaries, pensions and allowances, and to pay the arrears of salaries and pensions. We call for full probe of the Aregbesola government's finances by democratic committee comprising representatives of workers, pensioners, communities, professional groups, government, etc.

Alfred Adegoke
State Coordinator
Kola Ibrahim
State Secretary