In a classic case of political double-speak, the Bayelsa State Government on Sunday faulted media reports alleging indebtedness of backlog of salaries to civil servants.
For months, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has repeatedly identified Bayelsa State government as belonging to the notorious club that includes Kogi, Benue, Osun, and Ekiti as worst offenders in owing workers.
Recently, NLC President, Mr. Aliyu Wabba said: “They have liability of between five and 12 months. I am aware that local government workers in the state have just resumed the action they suspended and we’re putting that on our priority list.”
The Congress has not ceased to identify the State as one of the mismanagers of the Paris Club refunds and the Federal Government Bail-out funds, as it relates to settling the emoluments of workers and pensioners.
But the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, in a statement made available to journalists in Yenagoa, claimed in one breath the State government was not indebted to workers, but in another admitted to cash flow constraints to meet its obligations.
He debunked the falsehood by NLC, describing it as misleading and mischievous.
He stated that a report in one of the national dailies qouting Wabba was done in bad faith because it lacked substance as it did not reflect the true position of things in the state.
According to him, the story was one-sided, adding that it was tantamount to a hatchet job to discredit the state government.
The Commissioner, however, stated that the government had been most concerned and had over time taken payment of staff seriously and did not owe the civil servants to date.
Iworiso-Markson said, “Those who authored the story failed to cross check their facts before going to press. Nobody called to get the state’s side of the story which is unacceptable and clearly smacks of journalistic irresponsibility.”
He explained that Bayelsa State Government, contrary to the report, remained one of the least indebted states in terms of salary arrears to its workers in the country.
The Dickson-led Restoration Government, according to him, had always fulfilled its salary obligations until recently, because of the free fall in the state’s monthly allocation from the Federal Government.
He said government had to borrow a number of times to make up for the shortfall to ensure that salaries were paid.
He further explained that while borrowing to pay salaries was not sustainable, the government decided to look inwards by taking steps to strengthen the Internal Revenue Board to improve on the state’s Internally Generated Revenue profile.
“As at now, the government is not owing salaries of its workers in the civil service as we have kept faith with payment since beginning of the year till date”, he stated.
The Commissioner however, observed that the situation was a national challenge as he said the Federal Government was also finding it difficult to meet its salary obligation to its workforce.