The Chief of Staff to the Akwa Ibom State governor, Ephraim Inyangeyen, has reacted to agitations by civil servants in the state who did not receive their December salaries prior to Christmas Day.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that civil servants in several states like Oyo, Delta and Cross River had been paid days before Friday. It is the same situation in some federal parastatals.
It is believed that the early payment is to enable workers prepare for the festive period and have the means to celebrate with their families.
In Akwa Ibom, a predominantly Christian state, many workers lamented their inability to provide for their families on Christmas Day.
“There is hardship in this place, and people always ask what the government is doing with the huge revenue that comes into this state,” a state worker told PREMIUM TIMES Friday, asking not to be named for fear of victimisation.
Another worker said what surprised most people in the state was how the government seemed unbothered by loud complaints by workers and retirees for payment of salaries and benefits.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, the governor’s chief of staff, Mr Inyangeyen, suggested the Akwa Ibom government did not pay workers ahead of the date because it was not yet the end of the month.
He said the Akwa Ibom payroll system does not work like those of other states.
“Nobody is a state. We should ask questions on salary basis by the end of the month. End of the month is 31st. Today is December 25,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
When PREMIUM TIMES called his attention to the practice by other states and federal parastatals who paid before Christmas, he said: “That is not the way it is done in Akwa Ibom. Anybody who has worked from January till November should have made arrangements for celebrations.”
While it is unclear if the decision of the state is owing to a fiscal reason, it is not reflective of the fact that the state is the second highest earner of the monthly federal allocation after Delta State.
In November, Akwa Ibom got N12.32 billion, which amounts to 6.35 percent of the total N194.03 billion net allocation disbursed to the 36 states.
However, the Deputy Chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Iboro Ibara, said the union was more worried about the state of retirees who are yet to get their entitlements.
“There are a lot of demands being discussed with the state government. The major one is how to get palliatives across to the old citizens, the pensioners in the state,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
He noted that the failure to pay might be unconnected to the economic effect of COVID-19 which has assailed the globe in the past 11 months.
Mr Ibara also told this newspaper that the workers will give the government a benefit of doubt until December 31.
“In fact, some of us need the salary for our children’s school fees and not Christmas celebrations,” the union leader further said.
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