The Benue Government has adopted stringent measures to reduce its monthly wage bill from N7.8 billion to N4.5 billion, Governor Samuel Ortom said on Monday in Makurdi.
Mr. Ortom, who disclosed this during the monthly stakeholders meeting, said that Benue was third among states with the highest wage bills, going by the recent figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The governor also promised to prosecute the cabal behind the over-bloated wage bill which, he said, had made it difficult to pay salaries.
“Benue is a civil service state with peasant farmers and a meagre Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); we cannot cope with such huge wage bill.
“There is the need to either reduce our workforce or adopt strict checks that will lead to a figure we can cope with.
“Already, we have set up a Staff Verification Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu. The committee will work out ways toward a salary figure we can comfortable pay,” he said.
He said that the committee had already suggested the disengagement of contract staff, removal of medical students from state government’s payroll and the reduction of salaries paid to workers in tertiary institutions.
“We are also looking into other options like laying off contract staff of Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) who were later converted to civil servants, and sacking medically unfit civil servants.
“We are also thinking of merging state-owned institutions like the College of Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS), with the Benue State Polytechnic. We also want to yank off allowances enjoyed by some state workers,” he said.
In their contributions, Jack Gyado and Mvendaga Jibo supported efforts to reduce the wage bill, but differed on how to achieve that.
While Mr. Gyado suggested that workers salary be reduced by 50 per cent, Mr. Jibo advised government to look inward toward weeding out ghost workers who, he claimed, were largely responsible for the over bloated wage bill.