Beyond salary and bailout in Osun (Aregbesola is living in denial) – By Mike Ogundele

Osun Labour leader and Government officials Hos, CoS

Those who thought that the salary palaver in Osun and other states owing workers will disappear with the bailout funds should have a rethink because it will not. Workers and pensioners have been restless for the past one week, expecting to be paid the bailout received recently.

The governor, however, has insisted that payment would be made only after the completion of the verification exercise. True, physical verification has ended but the result is still being collated and the report yet to be submitted, which should form the basis of the new wage bill.

I agree with the governor that ghost workers should not receive the jumbo pay. From investigation, it has been found out that the beneficiaries of payroll fraud in cooperation with the opposition PDP have been blackmailing the governor to heat up Osun and incite workers against the governor.

Workers Welcoming back Omoluabi Governor Rauf Aregbesola (3rd left) acknowledging cheers from civil servants at the Secretariat - KABO O, KABO, OMO A BILE SORO KILE LANU, KABO O
Workers Welcoming back Omoluabi Governor Rauf Aregbesola (3rd left) acknowledging cheers from civil servants at the Secretariat – KABO O, KABO, OMO A BILE SORO KILE LANU, KABO O

Secondly, it was the workers themselves who asked for the verification exercise after disputing the N3.6 billion wage bill the government claims it pays every month, it was never the governor’s idea.

A lot of misinformation has been going on and many innocent workers have been deceived. The N34.9billion bailout received from Abuja represents three values. The first is for salaries for February to June 2015, the second is for pensions covering the same period while the third is for the completion of specific projects, ongoing or new. These funds are not transferable. So it is not true that all the N34.9 billion is for paying salaries and pensions arrears.

The question which has engaged the governor and for which he has proposed half salary for senior staff is what happens after June? Given the dwindling oil receipt and N2.3 billion allocation from Abuja for July, what will be the state of Osun’s finances after the deductions for the bailout loan kicks in? It simply means that Osun’s allocation will be less than N1billion. So where do we go from here? Should we eat everything now and go hungry later or spread what we have to last us longer?

While we still debate this, this is the moment of clarity for the governor and I daresay the workers too. The present wage bill of N3.6b is unsustainable; something must give.

The governor must reduce the wages and pensions bill in the state to a maximum of N1.8 billion. The current workforce of 35,000 is too large and unsustainable. There must be a shift in the anti-development thinking that makes people to say that Osun is a civil service state, or the civil service is the only industry in Osun. This type of thinking will lead to nowhere. The civil service is an instrument of service delivery and not an end in itself. On no account must the government spend more than 40 per cent of the state’s resources running government. This takes courage.

If it were in the private sector, the workforce would have been right sized as back as 2013 when allocation fell from N4.6 billion to N2.6 billion and nobody would be accusing the governor of owing workers eight months salary.

The governor keeps giving assurances that he will not lay off workers. This amounts to living in denial. The bottom line is that he must live within his means. Therefore, he must be prepared to right-size and cut down on wages, especially of the top civil servants who gulp most of the wages or continue to pile up debts and crisis. May God give him the courage to do what is needed.