Paris Club Refund: Workers threatens to embark on strike

Ondo State chairmen of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Tayo Ogunleye, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Chairman, Soladoye Ekundayo and Joint National Committee (JNC) Chairman, Comrade Abel Oloniyo, have unanimously threatened to embark on industrial action.

While bemoaning Ondo State’s Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who walked out of a meeting with the government and the union, the state government workers are threatening to strike over an alleged attempt by the state government to divert the Paris Club loan refund by the Federal Government to a fixed bank account.

The workers have made known their intentions to strike should the money not be used for outstanding salaries and leave bonuses of workers.

“On the Paris club refund, we know that the money was paid into the account of the state government but we don’t know what has happened to the N20.9 billion.

“We got the information that the money had been paid three weeks ago and we confronted the state government. We were told that the money had been withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and we asked them to address the issue to douse the tension but the government refused.” the JNC chairman was quoted.

Nairametrics had reported that five Nigerian states would not receive the last tranche of Paris Club Refund. The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed made this known during a briefing with State House Correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The states which comprise of Benue, Rivers, Imo, Osun and Akwa Ibom, according to Ahmed, would not receive the fund until they meet all conditionality set by the Federal Government.

Controversies surrounding the refund

FEC had in September 2018 approved the release of N689 billion balance of the refund to states.

But this was vehemently opposed by workers, under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who appealed to the Federal Government to deny salary debtor states the release unless they commit to instant payment of all salary arrears and other outstanding emoluments.

State governors, however, continued to agitate for the release, saying it was needed to tie them over, particularly as they approach electioneering for the 2019 general elections.

Buhari, reportedly, met with the leadership of Labour, represented by NLC President Ayuba Wabba, and Governor Godwin Emefiele of the CBN, and agreed with them that the only states that were up to date would have the balance of their refund released to them.

However, states that still have salary backlog could only get the fund if they sign ironclad guarantees that the release would be used to clear the arrears of salaries and outstanding emoluments of workers.

Earlier in September, the Federal Ministry of Finance had blacklisted salary debtors, state, insisting they could step forward for their balance if they cleared arrears of salary and commence the repayment of Budget Support Loans granted them in 2016.

The other conditions it gave were, clearing amounts due to the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative as well as a commitment to clear matching grants from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), where some states have available funds, which could be used to improve primary education and learning outcomes.

The federal government had earlier released N766.54 billion in two tranches to the states. N522.74 was initially released in November 2016, followed by another N243 billion.

Buhari had based the release on the condition that a minimum of 75 percent of the fund would be applied to the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions by states that owed workers.



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