Local Government Chairmen and Councilors in Edo State are to forfeit their security votes and other allowances until the salary arrears of their workers are completely paid.
The decision was reached at a tripartite meeting between the State Government led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the Local Government Chairmen led by Hon Itohan Osahon-Ogbeide, Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Edo State and the Organised labour led by Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Edo State Chapter.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole who announced the decision at the end of the meeting said: “I deeply regret that some Local Governments have defaulted in the payment of salaries. The good news is that some Local Governments are up-to-date in payments to their staff.
“We have resolved to block all leakages and free money to pay the Local Government workers. I fully appreciate the pains of our comrades in our Local Governments. Since I assumed duty here in 2008, I have done everything possible to ensure that the Local Governments operate fully without interference.
“Edo LGs are absolutely autonomous, I don’t know what they do in other states, but in Edo State, we do not interfere with Local Government funds; our LGs have full autonomy and full control over their funds.”
According to the Governor, parts of the decisions reached are the stoppage of payment of security allowance; suspension of payment to contractors; stoppage of payment of overhead and all allowances to political appointees and the Councilors, whether appointed or elected.
The Governor also directed the Chairmen and Councillors not to pay themselves until the workers are paid, saying “If you are not able to pay salaries of workers, then you don’t pay yourselves salaries. You cannot be eating when other workers are starving. Let both the leader and the workers starve together so they can feel the pain of the workers.”
He assured the Local Governments of the state Government’s support “I will give you all the support you need so that we can free resources for local government to meet their obligations of their employees.”
The Governor however ruled out a bailout for the Local Governments saying “Edo State Government will not pay salaries of Local Government Workers on behalf of Local Governments. It is not in the constitution, whether in the letter or the spirit that State Governments pay salaries of workers of the Local Governments.
“The primary purpose of setting up Local Government is to in the course of Local Government delivery services to people in their locality to realize the need to employ people to provide those services.
“In Edo State, we do not and we will never interfere or spend the money accruing to the local government. I assure you that I am not a happy person if even one person is not paid.”
The Governor also directed the Local Governments to cancel the appointment of casuals to free money for the payment of the Local Government workers.
The Governor assured the Local Government workers that the arrears of their salaries will be defrayed this month.
It will be recalled that Local Government workers in Edo State have been protesting the salary arrears owed them by some councils.
On the strike by members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the Governor said “I had a meeting here with JUSUN Executives and I asked them, is Edo State Government owning you any salary, are we denying you any allowances? Do they delay your promotion? And they said no. if your salaries are being paid as at when due, your allowances are being paid as at when due, your promotion is granted as at when due, and even your members earn more than the rest of the Civil Service.
‘The purpose of forming a union is to advance the interest of your members. I knowingly approved additional payment for JUSUN because I am convinced that that is the way they can prove they now have a union. If in truth Edo State Government has not defaulted in any of its obligation to JUSUN, why are you on strike and they said they have directives from Abuja that there is a court order that there should be a First Line Charge to Heads of Courts and they are on strike because the Court order has not been obeyed.
“Assuming without conceding that a proper court order has been issued and the order is disobeyed, is it the responsibility of unions to enforce court order? When any of us go to court and gets a court order, the law doesn’t allow us to take laws into our hands. It is not up to unions to resort to self help. I have told them the strike is frivolous, JUSUN has converted itself to a general purpose vehicle for the enforcement of court orders among other frivolous issues and Edo State Government cannot and will not submit to blackmail.
“If they want to shut the court for 1 year and it is within their power so to do, it will be shut. I understand they have gone to Abuja to get court order that they should not been sacked, but if they abstain from working, there is a limit to which a servant can dictate to the master.
“I think JUSUN just found itself meddling in other people’s business. When a union derails and resorts to unethical practices and are being induced to work for the employer who is not a member of JUSUN because Heads of Courts are not members of JUSUN and the constitution talks about remitting Head of Courts and Head of Courts are not members of JUSUN.
“Is it the business of JUSUN whether a witness appears in court or not? Are you the litigant? How is that the business of JUSUN? And because of that you shut down Edo State Courts for 6 months and turn around to say if I can pay you for 3 months they will return; one day I will not pay. I will rather vacate the office with my honor than to keep the office without honor and there will be no honor if I out of fear, out of blackmail, out of political convenience, I take the taxes paid by people who work so hard to keep this state going and I take it to pay workers who are fighting for Heads of Courts.”
Responding, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun thanked the Governor for the steps he has taken to ensure that the salaries of Local Government Employees are paid and appealed to him to take a second look at the JUSUN strike to enable courts reopen in the State.