Benue State Deputy Governor Benson Abounu yesterday denied any plot by the Governor Ortom-led government to slash salaries of workers in the state saying rather, there is increased interest on how to regularize the payment of workers’ salaries as and when due.
Engr. Abounu who is chairman, State Emergency Committee on Salary Payment disclosed that the main agenda of the committee is to work out modalities that will ensure the regular payment of workers’ salaries as well as the payment of the back-log of arrears.
He stated that at no time did either the governor or himself contemplate slashing workers’ salaries, adding however that the government is considering looking at and standardizing the salary structure established by the past administration, which he partly blames for the high wage bill of the state.
He said they met a salary structure on ground that made prompt and regular payment of salaries practically impossible as the wage bill was exceptionally high and unsustainable, adding that the former governor, Gabriel Suswam, even admitted to the mistake of agreeing to the salary structure which consequently exploded the total wage bill making it exceptionally high.
Engr Abounu explained that whereas the idea behind the N18,000 new minimum wage was to raise the earning of the lowest paid civil servant from whatever it was to N18,000 per month, the same percent that was used to raise the salary of the lowest paid worker to N18,000 was used across the board to increase the salaries of all workers, even to those on grade level 17.
The deputy governor stated that aside from the salary structure which is against all norms, the salary payment system is bogged down by several leakages caused by criminal collusion between some corrupt government officials and bank officials; issues which the on-going screening exercise is expected to address.
Engr. Abounu who said that the total number of people drawing salaries from the government is far in excess of the actual workers of the state, assured that the committee will get it right this time and called for the understanding and support of Benue workers, noting that it is in the best interest of the Benue people that only genuine workers draw salaries from government.
Abounu who said the government is not oblivious of the challenges and difficulties facing workers and pensioners in the state, disclosed that government is looking for any organization that will buy over the indebtedness and liability of the state and the state finding a way of paying back the organization.
On the anti-open grazing law, Engr Abounu said the decision is irrevocable and that anyone that desires to rear cattle in the state must get ranches for their herd in keeping with international standard.
According to him cattle rearing and modern agriculture cannot coexist on the same piece of land not when the cattle go about destroying the farmers’ crops.
The deputy governor who described as rude and shocking, the killing of Dr. Tavershima Adyorough by yet to be identified gunmen said, the late Principal Special Assistant to the Governor on Knowledge Economy and Investments lived a simple and quiet life and never raised his voice against anyone, wondering what could be responsible for his killing more so that nothing was taken from his residence by the gunmen.