The National Union of Local Government Employees, Bayelsa State chapter, has asked the state government to stop infrastructural projects in the council areas in the state in order to concentrate on clearing salary backlogs of council workers.
It noted that it was high time the government started taking responsibility for clearing the arrears owed the workers at the third tier of government.
The council workers in the state had since on Monday, July 24, 2017, commenced an indefinite strike in all the LGAs to protest months of unpaid salaries and allowances.
The State Chairman, NULGE, Akpos Ekeigha, who spoke in an interview in Yenagoa on Friday, claimed that some council workers were owed up to 15-month salary arrears.
He said Ogbia LGA, for instance, which is the highest indebted council, would find it difficult to offset its backlogs if the state government failed to come to its rescue.
Ekiegha, who faulted some states in the country that operate without the Local Government Commission, advocated the autonomy of the LGAs particularly in the areas of finance, politics and administration.
He called on the State Houses of Assembly to vote and support the move for local government autonomy to be passed into law, adding that the development would further strengthen democracy in Nigeria and make the LG system more effective and productive.
He disclosed that the state government released N919m with additional N300m from the second tranche of the Paris/London refund for the singular purpose of settling the arrears of salaries owed workers.
He appealed to the Federal Government to send LGA allocations directly to their accounts to enable them to manage whatever comes to the council without the interference of state government.
He added that if the payment process was also adopted on teachers’ salaries, the issue of unnecessary arrears would be prevented.
Ekiegha said, “What we are saying is that let the money come to the local government accounts as it is also being sent to the state governments’ accounts so that government at every level will manage their funds.
”The money may not be enough to pay salaries but we know how to manage it. You can recall that last year, the states’ allocations were not even enough to pay salaries but they negotiated with labour to pay half salaries, the same thing should be done with the local government instead of the long arrears.
”There is autonomy at the federal and state governments’ level, so the same should be at the local government to make the 3rd tier of governmen have a feel of governance.”