Niger State Governor, Sani Bello, has directed the immediate release of March salary to the staff of local government councils in the state.
He hinged the delay in payment on the ongoing verification of the entire workforce on the Niger State government payroll and that of the 25 local government councils of the state.
The Governor gave the directive on Wednesday when he paid an unscheduled inspection to the venue of the ongoing verification exercise of local government staff at the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre in Minna.
Majority of the council workers said that they were not opposed to the staff audit but expressed displeasure at suffering being experienced in the conduct of the exercise.
Moved by the plight of the workers who came from afar for the exercise, Governor Bello directed the release of the salaries of the council workers immediately, in order to ease hardship on their families.
“I want to appeal to you all to be patient, I have directed the release of everybody’s money (March Salary) and you people should go back to your councils,” he said.
The Governor noted that government was not unmindful of the hardship experienced by the civil servant, insisting that the verification must be carried out so as to fish out ghost worker in the system.
“I wish to assure every one of you that the verification exercise was not a punitive measure targeted at anybody (but) the staff audit is a necessity.
“You all can bear with us that since the inception of this administration, we have always paid workers as and when due but we need to get our figures right, hence this exercise,” he added.
Justifying the staff audit, Governor Bello lamented that the revenue accrued to the state from the Federation Account could not accommodate the wage bill of the state.
“We have a very high wage bill we cannot accommodate. This month (March) alone, the whole money we got from (the) Federal Government is 2.69 billion Naira and our wage bill is N2.4 billion. We have to borrow over 400 million Naira from the bank, so, the verification must continue,” he said.
He pleaded with the council workers to exercise patience and told them that the verification exercise would be rested for a while to enable government fine-tune some identified lapses in the exercise and continue it in a more organised manner.