In his resolve to put an end to the lingering crisis of unpaid workers’ salaries in the country, especially in several states of the federation, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a comprehensive relief package to end workers’ plight.
The president approved the sharing of about $2.1 billion (N413.7 billion), sourced from recent Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) proceeds to the federation account, between the states and the Federal Government.
Also, he directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to package special intervention fund that would offer financing to the states, ranging from between N250 billion to N300 billion.
This would be a soft loan available to states to access for the purposes of paying backlog of salaries.
The president also directed that a debt relief programme, proposed by the Debt Management Office (DMO), be put in place. This will help states restructure commercial loans currently put at over N660 billion and extend the life span of such loans, while reducing their debt-servicing expenditures.
This third package, by extending the commercial loans of the states, would, therefore, make available more funds to the state governments, which otherwise would have been removed at source by the banks.
Informed government sources explained at the weekend that this package, considered at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of last week, was designed specifically for workers.
President Buhari, it was gathered, reviewed and approved the package in his bid to intervene and alleviate the sufferings of workers, some of who had not been paid for over 10 months.
When contacted, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, confirmed that indeed a special package was on the way for the workers, adding that the president was deeply concerned about their plight.
In his speech while inaugurating the NEC last week, President Buhari had asked the council, which is a constitutional advisory body to him, to, as a matter of priority, consider how to liquidate arrears of unpaid salaries across the country, a situation he observed had brought untold hardship to the workers.
While the over $2 billion sourced from LNG proceeds to the federation account would be shared among the states, using the revenue allocation formula, the CBN would also make available the special intervention fund to states and then negotiate the terms with individual states.
The packages that had been approved by President Buhari is expected to go into effect this week, as the president was said to have directed that release of the funds should be made as soon as possible, to assuage the plight of thousands of Nigerian workers.
At the NEC meeting, the relief measures were extensively discussed between the state governors and top officials of the Federal Government, including the CBN governor and the permanent secretaries from ministries of Finance and Petroleum Resources.
Other agencies actively involved in the process included the DMO and officials from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
Media reports last month said no fewer than 12 of the 36 states of the federation were facing difficult times as the salaries they owed their workers was approximately well over N110 billion.
Osun, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, Benue, and Bauchi states are among affected states.
However, informed sources said the Finance Ministry and the CBN may have pegged the amount needed to settle all the outstanding public workers salaries at about N250 billion.
The package would also address cases of workers in the Federal Government’s employ whose salaries had not been paid for months.
Source: The Herald