Ekiti State workers have read the riot act to their new governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, asking him to desist from actions that would further plunge the state into debt.
The workers warned Fayose againstborrowing money to pay salaries, asking him to focus on issues that would enhance the development of the state. They also asked the governor to make workers’ welfare one of his administration’s priorities.
The workers, represented by the Chairman, Trade Union Congress in the state, Mr. Kola Olaiya, and Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress in the state, Mr. Ayo Aluko, told Saturday Punch on Thursday that Fayose would receive the support of relevant stakeholders if he tailored his administration’s priority towards issues that would engender the development of the state.
The union leaders said if the governor would borrow money at all, the money should be spent on viable projects that would generate income for the state.
Olaiya, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, said, “One thing that can stand the governor out is for him to focus on the welfare of workers because when workers are paid as and when due, the problem of the informal sector will be solved as market women and the artisans will get money to trade.
“The new governor should not borrow money to pay the workers in his bid to please them.”
The TUC chairman, who expressed fear over the debt profile of the state, urged Fayose to approach the Federal Government for assistance if he needed money to pay workers’ salaries.
He said, “What I will advise is that Fayose should approach the Federal Government for assistance so that his administration can do something about its debt, after-all the Peoples Democratic Party is controlling the federation; the new governor should not have any reason whatsoever not to take care of workers.”
Asked to evaluate former Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration in terms of workers’ welfare, Olaiya said, “Fayemi started well but we did not know what happened towards the tail end of his administration.”
Similarly, Aluko said Fayose’s administration should not borrow to pay for recurrent expenditure, but rather for capital projects.
“I support the government not borrowing to pay for recurrent expenditure, but rather for capital projects. In fact, there is a Federal Government policy on it and he is aware of it,” he said.
He, however, said workers would allow the new administration review the state accounts first and look at issues critically.
“Every government has its policies and before any policy is carried out, it has to be scrutinised. And one thing we know is that a new government is coming on board, so there is a change of baton. I am sure the new government will sit down; the labour union will also discuss and look for way forward. One thing we know about this governor is that he has said many times openly that he means well for all.
“We have great expectations from the new governor because he has a vision and a mission, not just the vision alone. He will fulfill everything.”
The NLC chairman expressed hope that the new governor would shun issues that would pit him against the workers.
Aluko said the workers hoped that Fayose would meet their yearnings, especially in the area of their welfare.
The NLC chairman also asked Fayose to critically look into some issues such as arbitrary deduction from workers’ salaries.
He said, “One thing I am sure of is that there are issues on ground that the new governor will look into. We are battling with salary arrears, deductions and other welfare packages. I believe those are the areas the governor will look into. It is now his prerogative to find what it takes to move the state forward.”
On the performance of former Governor Kayode Fayemi, Aluko said, “One thing I know is that one can only try his best. Former governor Kayode Fayemi tried his best. He increased workers’ salaries from N13,000 to N19,000, but now we have salary arrears. But in all, he did his best.”
Fayose had said during his inauguration on Thursday that Fayemi left loads of debt for him.
He specifically said that his predecessor left a legacy of heavy debt running into N60.75bn.
He had said, “I report to you that our state had been plunged into heavy debt dungeon of over N49bn by our own brothers and sisters as follows: bond (capital market) and agriculture loan, N21.2bn; other bank loans, N15.5bn; outstanding salary (two months), N2.4bn; unpaid subventions to parastatals and tertiary institutions, N70m; 2014 leave bonus, N400m; unpaid pensions and gratuities, N3.2bn; unremitted withholding taxes and other deductions, N850m and indebtedness to contractors, N10bn, totalling N57.45bn.”
“Our state has been committed financially up and until year 2020, even beyond my own administration. The proportionate benefits of this huge debt to our people remain to be seen or felt by the ordinary man and woman in our state.”
A former Chairman of the Ekiti State chapter of the NLC, Mr. Joseph Arogundade, asked the new governor to reciprocate the people’s trust in him by taking care of them.
Arogundade said the people, especially workers supported Fayose because of the belief that he would cater more for their welfare.
He said that since they had thrown their weight behind Fayose, the governor should use the mandate to better their lot.
Arogundade said, “People choose whoever they want to govern them and they decide who they want to give their mandate. Automatically, the governor must use the mandate to better the welfare of the workers.”
The former NLC leader believed that the workers might have suspended their two-week strike because of the assurance that the new governor would listen to them.
He said, “The governor spoke with the workers and I believe that they must have reached an agreement before the workers agreed to suspend their strike because they would want to know that their welfare is guaranteed.”
It will be recalled that the workers suspended their two-week strike a few hours after Fayose’s inauguration.
The workers had embarked on the strike to push for the payment of their outstanding two months salaries and allowances.
The Ekiti State Joint Negotiating Council Chairman, Comrade Oladipupo Johnson, said in Ado-Ekiti that the workers agreed to suspend the strike in order to honour Fayose after a meeting with the Head of Service, Mr. Bunmi Famosaya.
He had said, “We met at the Labour House and agreed to suspend the strike in order to allow the new government settle down in office so as to find solutions to pending issues with workers.
“That is the position as at now. We have directed all the striking unions under the JNC to ask their members to resume on Friday. We want to allow him to put an end to all the bad policies where salaries of workers will be paid and the government will be withholding deductions, and other related issues.”
Johnson, however, advised Fayose to exercise caution over borrowing to pay workers.
He said, “We won’t advise him to go and borrow basically. “They have been paying through short term overdraft from banks pending the time the allocation from the Federal Government will come.
“If they made the payment of salaries of workers a priority, this problem would not have occurred. If they gave it utmost priority, they won’t owe salaries.”
Johnson said government could obtain overdraft from banks to pay workers if it was genuinely interested in workers’ welfare.
“If the new governor obtains overdraft from banks, the money will be paid once the allocation comes. By this, there won’t be problems.
“The allocation is enough to settle the salary of workers if they are not misappropriating the money or doing something illegal. It is not a difficult thing, it is something, we have been doing before.”