Opinion: Endless Wait for Salaries, Kogi Civil Servants Crying in Silence

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The issue of unpaid salaries in Kogi State calls for the declaration of state of emergency. Aside the indisputable¬† ‘award-winning’ salary debtor in Osun state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Kogi State governor is a national leader when it comes to unpaid salaries and pensions. I agree with the summation of a former Governor of Kogi State who described Governor Yahaya Bello as a ‘Legend of unpaid salaries’.

Last week was a week of vain hope in Kogi State. Wearied workers and retirees hoped against hope. They encouraged one another that the state government will pay them before end of last week. Last week came and gone, no word from government.

The most worrisome is the fact that labour leaders are nowhere to be found! Who will speak out on behalf of the sad, burdened workers who still have to find their ways to their respective offices whether they can afford it or not.

The situation is so bad that we now have a notorious ‘I no get transport fare’ junction at the state secretariat in Lokoja. Here, civil servants wait under the sun and beg for lift. They also hang around here to beg for a low as N200 to enable them meet domestic obligations.

For the avoidance of doubt, the last time workers and pensioners got a dime from the government was during the last Sallah celebrations in August. precisely, August 16. Workers in tertiary institutions were paid April 2019 salary while some selected MDAs got May 2019 salaries. Omitted MDAs got their after Sallah. These are civil servants who are fortunate to be on GYB monthly salary schedule. So many who are not privileged are owed between 12 and 31 months salary arrears. How they manage to go to work every Monday-Friday since Yahaya Bello assumed office as governor is the 8th wonder of the world.

After August, two different monthly allocations have been received by the state government from the federal account but no single worker was paid from these cash inflows! It is worthy to note that no single project has been embarked upon within this time frame, the few ongoing projects are stagnant. Where did these allocations disappeared into? The only project embarked upon within this time frame is the recently conducted All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries.

The huge amount of money expended on APC primaries in Kogi State shows that our government have more interest in building personal political empires that see the state working as it should through well motivated civil servants.

Workers are breaking down and are inflicted with sickness like never before. I challenge anyone to visit the public and private hospitals in Kogi state to confirm this. My last visit to a public health centre in the state capital brought me to tears. I was number 136 on the queue that day so I had much time to watch sick people coming in and going out. You will hear patients begging hospital officials that they don’t have money. With unpaid salaries, workers are not eating fine, have to trek through long distance instead of paying for Okada transport and most aggravating is that workers are indulging in excessive thinking on how to make ends meet, especially paying children school fees.

At the moment, Kogi workers have no defender. Our former defender, Senator Dino Melaye is now an endangered soul as assassins are watching his every move. Our labour leaders are nowhere to be found. Workers are crying silently, praying that we won’t any of our colleagues in these trying times.

– Titi Balogun writes from Lokoja.

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