The Osun State government on Thursday cleared the air on the usage and disbursement of N16.6bn Paris Club refund recently released to the state, amid allegation of illegal diversion.
The Commissioner of Finance, Bola Oyebamiji at a press conference in Osogbo, the Osun State capital explained that the refund, with additional N3.2bn have been earmarked to settle salaries and other emoluments of workers in the state.
According to him, the amount, totalling N19.8bn will cover the full salaries of workers for the month of August 2018, the arrears of the salaries and pensions for September, October, November and December of 2015 and leave bonuses.
“Governor Rauf Aregbesola gave this directive after consultation with labour unions and other stakeholders in the state.
“This is not the first time that the State Government will commit a lump sum receipt to payment of salaries and workers emoluments. You will recall that in November, 2016, the state government received N11.74 billion as refunds from the Paris Club. The following month, N13.6 billion was paid to active and passive workers as salaries, pensions, leave bonuses and other emoluments.
“These include N8.5 billion to cover the salaries of September, October, November and December of 2016.
Also, N924 million was paid to cover the leave bonuses of September, October, November and December of the same year.
“From the same amount, N2.5 billion was paid to cover the pensions of September, October, November and December of 2016. Lastly, N1.7 billion was transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to cover salaries and pensions.
“Again, in July 2017, the government received N6.3 billion as the second tranche of Paris Club refund and paid N6 billion as salaries, pensions and leave bonuses. They are: N3.76 billion as workers salaries, N504 million as leave bonuses, N791 million as pension and N935 million as salaries in the Local Governments.
“Since the commencement of the Aregbesola administration in November 2010, salaries, pensions and workers emoluments had taken not less than 80 per cent of the total revenue of the state.
“Indeed, a sizeable portion of the state’s debt was incurred on salaries. When the administration came, monthly workers salaries was N1.4 billion while pensions were N200 million. However, with the increase of minimum wage from N9,000 to N19,000 and hiking of monthly pensions to N500 million, monthly salaries and pensions rose to N3.6 billion.
“Though there was a steady increase in revenue till late 2013, however, by 2014, oil price commenced a steady decline, dropping to as low as $22 in 2015 from the height of $100 in 2013. The bottom line is that while revenue nosedived, expenditure, especially on salaries and pensions, has been on a steady climb.
“The option we had then was to right-size the workforce, that is, cut out coat according to our cloth, so to speak. However, in consultation with labour leaders and stakeholders, under the leadership of the veteran but respectable Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, we came up with an ingenious arrangement of modulated salaries whereby workers on grade level 1-7 were paid full salaries, level 8-12 were put on 75 per cent while level 12 and above were pegged on 50 per cent.
“This has sustained us till July of this year when the rise in oil price led to an increase in revenue and we have resumed the payment of full salaries again. For the second month, we have now paid full salaries to all our workers. It is my hope and prayers that this will be sustained, and we will never have cause to modulate workers salaries in Osun again.
“However, the latest Paris refund released to the State by the Federal Government is Sixteen Billion, Six Hundred and Twenty-Three Million, Two Hundred and Ninety-Six Thousand, Four Hundred and Two Naira, Eighty-Two Kobo (N16, 623,296,402.82).
“Mr Governor has approved the disbursement of Nineteen Billion, Eight Hundred and One Million, Three Hundred and Twenty-Eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy-One Naira, Twenty-Two Kobo
(N19, 801, 328,271.22) to clear four months (4) of salary arrears, pension arrears and leave bonus with adequate provision for full salaries going forward.
“Therefore, on behalf of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, I will like to commend and thank all the workers in Osun for their sacrifice, resilience and unflinching support to the government and dedication to duty, even in the midst of daunting challenges. I have no doubt that workers, in their demonstrable good nature and Omoluabi spirit, will reciprocate this good gesture from the government”, Oyebamiji said.