The immediate past Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, has counseled the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, to stop further lamentations and settle down to pay Benue State workers their entitlements.
Comrade Moro stated that Benue State workers who worked hard to get Ortom elected do not deserve the ill treatment being meted out to them by the governor.
Moro, a top member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Benue State, made this assertion in Abuja while reacting to the warning strike embarked upon by workers in the state public service.
Workers in Benue State under the aegis of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate unions had, last week Tuesday embarked on a one-week warning strike to drive home their demand for the payment of months of wages owed them by the state government.
The PDP chieftain lamented the inability of Governor Ortom to pay workers their salaries and allowances and his failure to execute and commission any meaningful project that would impact on the lives of the people, despite the huge sums of funds that have accrued to the government since he assumed office as governor.
“It is not a lie when people say that as much as Three Hundred Billion Naira (N300b) has passed through this (Ortom’s) administration since the last two years that it came to power. In fact, the combined effect of the statutory revenue allocations, bailout funds, Paris club refunds, loans that have been taken and internally generated revenue amounts to well over three hundred billion naira that has accrued to the Benue State government since the inception of the APC/Ortom led government. How much is the cumulative amount of salaries and allowances of Benue State workers and pensioners?” Moro asked.
The former Interior Minister challenged Ortom to publish item by item what Benue’s money has been used for that the government could not pay the salaries and allowances of workers.
Comrade Moro insisted that “the people of Benue State cannot continue to be pauperized while individuals and their businesses are growing by lips and bound. Benue people are wallowing in abject poverty. Benue people are hurting. This is not acceptable.”
“Sadly, the governor stated that the payment of salaries and allowances were not his priority since he was not elected just to pay salaries and allowances. The tragedy of the Benue situation is that no meaningful projects have been undertaken, executed and commissioned since the inception of the APC/Ortom government in Makurdi. Unless there are things that other people know that I don’t know. While other states are executing and commissioning people- oriented projects, all we hear from the Benue State government are lamentations of paucity of funds and blaming of the past government even on a natural disaster such as flooding. Where have the funds accruing to the government of Benue State taken flight to?” the PDP stalwart queried.
Wondering why the labour leaders were just waking up from their slumber, Moro said: “As a matter of fact, for some of us onlookers, the warning strike embarked upon by the NLC and its affiliate unions is long overdue. It is a very, very sad development that Benue State workers have not been paid for upward of twelve months going by the governor’s admission that he had agreed with the unions to pay salaries every other month. Given that Benue State is purely a civil service agrarian state, the consequences of nonpayment of salaries on the ability of the people to pay school fees for their children and settle hospital bills for simple ailments are better imagined. So, I do not know how those who are presiding over the affairs of the people in government house Makurdi feel when Benue people have become virtual beggars for monies to sustain their lives.”
The ex-minister faulted the governor’s claim of co-opting union leaders into the state’s joint accounts allocation committee describing it as an aberration.
He concluded that “such unwarranted gesture from the governor could have been responsible for the ‘loud’ silence displayed by the union leaders in the face of the obvious refusal of the governor to pay workers their entitlements. This is a very sad development for union leaders to allow themselves to be cajoled into being part of the profligate government in Makurdi. Now that the union leaders have realized that they were hoodwinked into being part of the sleaze in government in Makurdi, it is expected of them to resign and withdraw immediately from the state government’s joint account committee so as not to become fait accompli in the mismanagement of the funds of Benue State and nonpayment of worker’s salaries and allowances.”
He challenged Governor Ortom and members of the Benue State House of Assembly to publish their last pay slips to show that they have not been paid for as long as workers have not been paid.
Moro said he was pained that Ortom became his governor as averred by the governor’s media aide because he knew that the Benue helmsman lacked the capacity and competence to administer the state effectively, adding that “everybody who knows this fact should be pained.”
Continuing, he said: “Electing Ortom governor was a grave mistake for which Benue people especially Benue State workers are dearly paying. Electing Ortom was a serious mistake that Benue people and Benue State workers have to live with for the next one year plus.”
The PDP adherent advised Benue workers and people to look inwards to sustain their lives, as according to him, “Looking up to the government in Makurdi for survival is increasingly becoming a mirage as the government has run out of ideas for governance.”
Maintaining that he has nothing personal against governor Ortom, Moro stated that “I am very worried that Benue State that the founding fathers laboured so hard to build was tilting towards a failed state. Ortom should either rise up to the challenge of governing Benue State effectively or resign honorably.”
He urged “Benue people especially the youths to braze up to the challenge of 2019 to elect a better, functional, efficient and effective government in the state.”