AKHERE Godwin, Benin
Local Government Council Chairmen and Councillors 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 Councillors, 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.