The Governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson, yesterday confirmed receipt of N10 billion share of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund from the federal government.
He made the confirmation in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson.
According to the government, N919 million of the refund would go to the local government areas. Part of it, the government said, would be used to pay one and a half month salaries of civil servants.
The governor directed his Commissioner for Finance, Maxwell Ebibai to immediately release the local councils’ share.
According to Iworiso-Markson, the governor, who spoke in Yenagoa at a parley with labour leaders at the Government House, directed helmsmen at the council areas to use their portion of the windfall on their financial obligations, especially the outstanding salaries.
The governor warned that the money for the councils should be properly utilised and should not be shared by a few to enrich themselves at the expense of local government employees.
Dickson was quoted as saying: “I have directed that the money should be transferred to them latest tomorrow (Thursday). As for this money, let me make it clear that is not for them to share and chop. It is not free money. So, those who will be celebrating that money has come to be shared will be disappointed.
“One of the greatest problems we have in this state is the fact that people always think that any money that comes is free money for them to share and chop.
“They don’t want the state to be developed; leaders after leaders and years after years. Twenty years after the creation of the state, it is now we are building good schools and health institutions.”
He thanked the union leaders for their support and understanding, adding that the disclosure of the fund’s receipt was in line with his administration’s open policy on public finance since 2012.
He said: “You people should know me by now. I have been here for almost six years and any money that comes we always announce it.
“Month after month, we disclose our income and expenditure in the Transparency Briefing. And I think we are the only state doing that.”
The statement also quoted Information & Orientation Commissioner Jonathan Obuebite as saying that the labour leaders had agreed with the government that part of the money should be used to clear backlog of salaries.
He said: “I am happy to announce that after a peaceful, fruitful and candid meeting, it was resolved that the government will use part of the fund to pay one and a half month salary.
“Initially we had thought that it was N14 billion that will come in so we can pay two months but that was what came in. Pensioners are also going to be paid.”
The local chapter Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, John Ndiomu and his Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) counterpart, Tari Dounana, commended the government for disclosing the share of the state and for interacting with them to discuss on how to utilise the money.
They assured all workers that every outstanding salaries owed by the government would be paid to them and urged them to continue to do their best.