President Muhammadu Buhari has been reportedly mislead by Aminu Masari, the governor of Katsina state, where the president hails from.
The charade by the governor was done with the aim of obtaining N11 billion bailout, stipulated to pay salary arrears for workers in the state.
According to an investigation by Premium Times, Katsina state feigned insolvency and applied as one of the 27 states in need of bailout from the federal government to pay workers owed salaries for months.
Masari, in a letter to the speaker of the state’s House of Assembly titled: “Bailout on Outstanding Salary for Workers of the State and Local Governments” with number S/SGKT/154/3, dated August 26, 2015, said that as of the time he resumed office in May 29, his government inherited two months outstanding salary of workers of the state and local government from the previous administration led by Ibrahim Shema.
The governor stated in the letter that the state and local governments in Katsina, owed workers two months’ salary to the tune of N11,086,632,741.32.
According to Premium Times, a breakdown of the debt showed that Katsina state owed a sum of N3,646,943,099.80; while the 34 local government councils were indebted to the tone of N7,439,689,641.32; giving a sum total of N11,086,632,741.32.
Masari said: “It is in the view of the need for the State Government and Local Governments to meet their obligation in the payment of outstanding workers’ salary, considering the lean resources inherited from the former administration, that it has become necessary for the State Government to apply for the bail out on behalf of the State and Local Governments.”
However, the recent investigation revealed that the state had no business being among the group of insolvent states in need of federal bailout to pay workers salary arrears.
The report shows that Katsina state civil servants, as well as workers in the state’s 34 local governments, as of May 2015 when Masari became governor, had received their full salaries and allowances.
Abdul Labaran, a press spokesman to the state, said the Katsina state workers were not owed and their salaries were completely paid up to August.
Expressing surprise at the development, Oluwabusola Olawale, a former media aide of the immediate past governor, Ibrahim Shema, was quoted as saying:“Throughout the tenure of Ibrahim Shema, workers’ salaries were paid latest on the 25th of every month. As at May both the state and local government salaries were paid on the 25th. So he left office without owing any worker any salary. So this news is strange to us. We don’t know what could have necessitated this letter.”
He said: “There is definitely no justification to ask for a bailout of two months salary.”
Meanwhile, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state has been accused by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of diverting for private use, the bailout fund which was received from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The PDP alleged that Aregbesola lodged the sum of N34.988 billion bailout fund which the state received from the CBN in an unspecified commercial bank.
It is the fear of the party that the suffering of the state workers and pensioners who have to go through hardships due to non-payment of what is due to them will continue.
This allegation is coming amid calls by various groups that Aregbesola must be probed.
It is recalled that President Buhari authorised the N338 billion federal bailout, paid by the CBN, to help insolvent states that had failed to pay workers for months, a loan which is to be repaid with an interest of nine per cent over a 20-year period.
By August 31, Kwara, Zamfara and Osun states received the bailout to clear their backlogs of salaries, an aid which not less than 27 states are expected to receive.