Salaries: We’re not indebted to workers in Bayelsa – Gov. Dickson

The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, on Monday re-assured workers of the state that payment of salaries for the month of June 2015 will commence this week.

Speaking in a live interview on “Focus Nigeria” aired on Africa Independent Television and monitored in Yenagoa, the governor said he had already authorised payment of the salaries to commence from Tuesday.

Dickson, who lamented the current economic downturn in the country, however, maintained that Bayelsa State was not owing its workers as it was the case with most states in the federation due to the sharp drop in oil revenue.

As part of efforts to meet salary obligations to workers, the Governor said there has been a drastic reduction in government’s expenditure, adding that his office has not received security votes and some other statutory allowances for the past three months.

According to him, Bayelsa State was one of the heavily indebted states upon his assumption of office, adding that the state is now ranked among the least indebted as a result of his administration’s prudent management of resources.

Dickson said: “We are not owing our normal monthly obligations to our workers. Just yesterday, after reviewing the financial reports for the month, I have authorized that salaries for June be paid and the process will commence from tomorrow (Tuesday). But we have been slowed down in terms of execution of most of the massive infrastructural programmes that we got involved in over the past 3 years.

“To that extent there are major challenges facing Bayelsa and indeed all states in the country but not to the extent of not paying our workers because of the structures and mechanisms we have put in place. We need the bailout because of the obligations we have to our contractors towards the completion of ongoing projects.”

Although the state does not owe salaries, the Governor lent his voice to the ongoing clarion call on the Federal Government to provide financial bailout to state governments, including Bayelsa State to enable the state meet its outstanding contractual obligations.

Dickson said: “We inherited a very high debt profile. The bond that was taken by my predecessor (Timipre Sylva) is close to N100 billion. When you add the interest elements, which we are servicing in order to maintain the corporate integrity of the state. But now, I can report to you that Bayelsa is one of the least indebted states.

“So from inheriting a government that was one of the heaviest indebted, now over three years, even in the midst of funding our massive infrastructural and other development projects; because of the way we have been managing the resources of the state, Bayelsa has now translated from being one of the most heaviest indebted to one of the least indebted states.”

Commenting on the inability of local government councils to pay salaries, Governor Dickson absolved the state government from the predicament, noting that there was no time his administration made any illegitimate deductions from council allocations.

The governor, who said efforts were being made by the state House of Assembly to address the issue through its oversight functions, explained that the state government is augmenting the recurrent expenditure of councils by paying 60 per cent of teachers’ salaries.

Dickson said: “My local government chairmen will tell you that since I became Governor, I have not tampered with local government funds. Statutorily, local government councils are responsible for the payment of primary school teachers. But because of our emphasis on education, Bayelsa state government pays 60 per cent of that obligation and allowed the local governments to pay only 40 per cent.

“I am aware that most councils are owing their workers some months in arrears which is not acceptable. Recently, I am told that the house of assembly is conducting a public hearing into the issue and I have directed the chairmen to appear before the house to explain why they are defaulting because I am not owing at the state level.”