By Abubakar Al-Sadique
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered state governors still owing workers’ salaries to ensure that all workers are paid before the 2017 Christmas. The marching order was given against the backdrop of the failure of many states to offset workers’ salaries for months, even as the federal government facilitated bailout funds to states for that purpose. The federal government had similarly made refund of huge funds to the states from the Paris Club loan deductions, which runs into billions of naira. The president’s marching order came exactly one year after workers in Bauchi state have long forgotten that salary payment was a problem in the country.
For a state with a population of 7.8 million people, Bauchi state government has reason to be worried with the unrealistic monthly wage bill of over 5 billion naira to a workforce put at over a hundred thousand, because after payments of salaries there is little or nothing left for government to execute other projects. In consideration of the economic situation of the state, which essentially relies on salaries, Governor Abubakar who prioritised prompt payment of salaries refused to divert such monies that accrued to the state to the construction of fancy projects that will glamourize the state while workers languish without salaries for months.
It is gratifying to note that one of the cardinal objectives of the administration of Governor Mohammed Abubakar has been that of ensuring that workers are paid as at when due. He believes that governance is about doing the right thing to make the people happy and according priority attention to workers’ welfare as one of the direct and indirect ways of touching the lives of the entire state.
On assumption of office in 2015 one of the problems that confronted the incoming administration was that civil servants in the state were owed salaries for four months. This is a serious problem, because Bauchi, like most other states, drives its economic activities from workers’ salaries. Within the first two weeks of his assumption of office, Governor Abubakar cleared all the backlog of salaries, even before the idea of the bailout was conceived.
Upon assuming office in 2015, the governor had secured a bank facility, with the approval of the state house of Assembly. The governor didn’t stopped at upsetting all unpaid salaries, from then onwards, he ensured that salaries are paid at the end of every month. He sustained that until early 2016 when it became apparent that government could not continue to top up the federally allocated grants of local governments before their salaries could be paid, which was occasioned by drop in revenue from the federation accounts. Governor Abubakar said Bauchi state is essentially a civil service state, a reason why the entire 8.6 billion naira bailout was utilized to pay workers’ salaries, which injected life into and boosted the economy of the State. Bauchi state received the sum of N8.6 billion from the federal government bailout funds and used N8. 521 billion to offset the backlogs. Bauchi State government cleared all outstanding workers’ salaries in December 2016. The feat was achieved because all resources that accrue to the state are first directed at payment of salaries and other salary-related emoluments before the government looks at other sectors. Apart from the bailout funds, the state also devoted over 80% of the refund it received from the Paris Club funds in clearing the remaining outstanding salaries and pensions, the governor said.
It was in appreciation of this effort that President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Waba flanked by the NLC Chairmen of the North-eastern States, said his visit to Bauchi State was in recognition of the “complete clearance of workers’ outstanding salaries and pensions respectively”. The president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Waba led State Chairmen of the NLC in the north-eastern states paid visit to commend Governor Abubakar for being one of the first states to clear all outstanding workers’ salaries.
Comrade Waba said “You are an exceptional leader. With people like you at the helm of affairs, democracy will thrive”, and pointed out that NLC was aware of the liability of unpaid workers’ salaries since the past administration and “Bauchi is today one of the few States that are up to date”. He assured the governor of workers’ unalloyed support to the government’s anticorruption war, maintaining that they will add value to governance by being dedicated to their work.
The NLC president lamented that despite huge resources received in some states of the federation, payment of workers’ salaries are not being prioritized, and commended the governor for “transparent and accountable” disbursement of the bailout funds and the Paris Club refund. The labour leader observed that the “economy can be kick-started when money is put in the hands of many and circulated”, maintaining that when salaries are not paid, the economy becomes comatose. He urged other States to copy the Bauchi experience in order to mitigate crimes in the country, and commended the governor for executing projects that have direct bearing on the life of the common man in spite of paucity of resources in government coffers.
Being up-to-date in payment of workers’ salaries is no doubt a daunting task because it consumes the bulk of resources of the state, but that did not stop the administration of Governor Mohammed Abubakar from executing project in other critical sectors. The administration had committed 16% of budgetary allocation in the 2016 and 2017 financial years to the health sector, stressing that the 5 point health agenda of the administration, Lafiya Garkuwa, was launched to strengthen primary healthcare services with particular emphasis on diseases affecting maternal, new born and child population as well as routine immunization. The governor had established the Bauchi State College of Nursing and Midwifery and facilitated the accreditation of its courses in order to increase manpower in the health sector, while providing medical care to under-fives, maternal, neonatal, and child-health.
Governor Mohammed Abubakar has been consistent in the release of counterpart funding in 2016 while 60% of 2017 for the routine immunization basket funds for the memorandum of understanding with Bill and Melinda Gates and Dangote Foundations has been paid.
In the education sector, 400 teachers have been trained on improved teaching technique and train-the-trainers workshop on effective teaching and learning method, while other 5,414 teachers have been trained in 1,805 schools across the State that seeks to improve enrolment, retention and completion of the Girl-child in schools. Classrooms are being renovated in both primary and junior secondary schools to become learner-friendly, while another 799 classrooms have been constructed or renovated and supplied with 34,876 different categories of furniture under the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB projects just as counterpart funds for 2016 UBE matching grants have been released. The administration has also constructed the faculty of Agriculture of the State University and the permanent site of the University have all been completed.
Efforts of the administration in other critical areas that have started yielding dividends are memorandum of understanding, through public-private-partnership with investors for the establishment of sugar refinery plant and plantation in Warji Local Government Area worth 200 million US Dollars which has the capacity to generate 7,000 jobs and contribute 50 million Dollars to the Internally Generated Revenue to the State, 53 megawatts power supply to the State. About 24 million naira has been released for reconditioning of 3.0 MVA power transformer to serve as standby to the 5.0 MVA power transformer at Gubi Dam, while laboratory reagents and other chemicals are being supplied for the treatment of water.
Through the State Rural Water and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, provision of rural water, including the construction of 1,248 hand pump, boreholes across the 20 LGAs, construction of 15 solar/motorized power water supply schemes and rehabilitation of 72 existing motorized/solar powered water schemes and 1,268 hand pump boreholes have been carried out in various parts of the State. 4,732 jobs have been created for Bauchi State indigenes through the public works components of the World Bank supported Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation, with a monthly stipends of 7,500 naira each, while eleven thousand, six hundred and fifteen youth are expected to be the next batch of beneficiaries. Similarly, conditional grants scheme of 600,000 naira was released as counterpart funding for the 2015 CGS projects under the sustainable development goals, with the construction of 19 primary healthcare centres with staff quarters and VIP toilets, drilling and installation of 33 solar-powered boreholes, drilling and installation of 57 hand pumps, and supply of hospital equipment to 19 PHC.
Bauchi State Government has allocated 60,000 hectres of land for the cultivation of sugarcane and the establishment of 200 million USD sugar milling plant and refinery through public-private partnership Geolo Global Company Limited as the Promoter of the plant and Horley of London as financiers of the project. The proposed sugar milling plant and refinery will produce 5,000 metric tons of sugar per day and create 5,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities in Warji local government area of the State.
Establishment of the sugar milling and refining plant is contained in a memorandum of understanding signed between the State Government and Goelo Global Company Limited on the establishment of the sugar milling plant, refinery and farm for the cultivation of sugarcane. The plant will be producing 5,000 metric tons per day, while 50 million naira revenue will be internally generated and 53 megawatts of electricity to be used by the plant and the entire state through the national grid. Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar explained that the MoU signed is a “testimony to the administration’s resolve to attract investors to the State in the critical areas of agriculture, tourism and solid minerals, which were identified as areas of comparative advantage” and as a good alternative source of revenue to petroleum.
Geolo Global Company Limited promised to contribute to building of the state’s economy, by providing the host community with the needed infrastructures in schools, clinics, portable water, and electricity, through corporate social responsibility programmes. Under the memorandum of understanding, 200 graduates are to be trained to take over the management of plant in the future, saying the State government takes 25% stake in the company, while 80% of sugar to be produced by the plant will be exported and the remaining 20% will be left for the local market.
In area of security, Governor Abubakar had provided 624 hectres of land and paid compensation worth over 400 million naira for the establishment of the Nigerian Air Force Base and provided 25 Hilux pickup vans equipped with modern communication gadgets to security agencies and distributed 30 motor cycles to the Nigerian Army to assist in them in reaching out to places where motor vehicles cannot access due to bad terrain. This was mainly to forestall insurgency, cattle rustling, armed banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities that have dispersed many communities, destroyed economic and social activities and retarded the development of the country in the past few years. While receiving the vans, the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai urged other state governments to also contribute to the fight for the return of peace to the country and thanked the Governor for providing the security vans.
Abubakar Al-Sadique is the Press Secretary to Governor Mohammed Abubakar
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