Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa on Wednesday lamented the recall of the N24 billion Paris Club debt refund earlier released to the state by the Federal Government.
Dickson in a radio broadcast attributed the state’s inability to offset salary arrears it earlier promised to the recall.
He told the civil servants that the State Government’s earlier promise to defray the outstanding salaries could not be kept because the Federal Government recalled the fund.
He said: “By now workers in the state would have been getting alerts from their banks. We were surprised that the federal government has taken back the money and we do not know the reasons.
“The Paris club refund is not a gift; it is actually our money they deducted under unclear circumstances. So it is not a favour they are doing to us.”
The Bayelsa government on September 25 announced plans to offset two months outstanding salary and pension arrears with N8 billion from the N24.16 billion refund.
Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the state Commissioner for Information, was, however, silent on how the N16.16 billion balance would be spent, when contacted by the News Agency of Nigeria.
Iworiso-Markson said that Dickson had directed the immediate payment of two of the outstanding three months’ salary arrears and four of the seven months pension arrears owed in the state.
It was learnt that the federal Ministry of Finance directed that the refund be deployed to the clearing of the outstanding salary and pension liabilities across the benefiting states.
Reacting to the development, the state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade John Ndiomu, called on workers to be calm.
Ndiomu, however, pleaded with the federal government to ensure that the remittance of the recalled fund to the coffers of the state government was not delayed.
He said: “We were surprised to hear that the federal government recalled the Paris club refund released to Bayelsa state.
“Before the money was recalled, we were excited that the state government had concluded arrangement to pay two of the three months backlog of salaries to workers.
“While we appreciate the fact that the federal government is trying to use the recall to compel the state to clear the salary backlogs, we beg them to consider the plight of the workers.
“This decision has worsened the economic condition of workers in the state.
“As a union, we call on them to exercise patience as the state government is on top of the issue.”