Eunice Nnachi, Yenagoa
Workers under the umbrella of the local government system in Bayelsa State would soon heave a sigh of relief as the eight councils in the state begin modalities to pay the new minimum wage and salary arrears owed council staff.
The workers including primary school teachers, non-academic staff and health personnel would also be paid their salary arrears from 2016 on monthly instalments with effect from this month.
These were part of resolutions taken at the end of an enlarged stakeholders’ meeting involving chairmen and principal officers of councils, labour union leaders, and some top government officials, which was presided over by the State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, in Government House, Yenagoa on Friday.
It was also resolved at the meeting which lasted for about three hours that N5 million should be set aside from the monthly statutory allocation of each local government for the payment of the salary arrears.
Declaring the meeting open, Senator Ewhrudjakpo, restated the present administration’s determination to reposition the state local government system for effective service delivery at the grassroots level.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor, Mr Doubara Atasi, noted the stakeholders also resolved that the 2022 senior and junior staff promotions should be conducted without any further delay.
To this end, the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC), and the various Junior Staff Management Committees (JSMC) were directed to immediately commence the 2022 staff promotion exercise for all workers that are due for promotion.
Furthermore, it was agreed in principle that the full computerization of the councils’ payrolls should begin, as a step in the right direction to sanitize the system and checkmate sharp practices within the system
On the implementation of the new minimum wage for councils, it was resolved that the report from the Committee on the new salary should be thoroughly looked into, with a view to working out the necessary modalities for commencement of implementation as soon as possible.
Presenting the report of the Committee on Local Governments Implementation of Minimum Wage Projection, the Technical Adviser to the Governor on Treasury and Accounts, Mr. Timipre Seipulu, disclosed that the aggregate monthly wage bill of the councils would rise to about N1.2 Billion once the new wage is implemented.
He said this figure represents more than 76 percent of the average federal allocations that came into the coffers of the eight councils in the state for the first three months of this year (January-March, 2022).
Addressing the press at the end of the meeting on behalf of the council chairmen, the Chairman of Ekeremor LGA, Dr. Perekeme Bertola, assured that the eight councils would take every necessary step to ensure the full implementation of the resolutions.
According to Dr Bertola, under the able leadership and supervision of the Deputy Governor, council chairmen will work hard to address some of the challenges affecting workers at the third tier of government before they bow out in August this year.
He said, ‘We resolved that, beginning from next week, the Local Governments should commence the promotion exercise for 2022 by the Local Government Service Commission for the senior staff and for the junior staff the various Junior Staff Management Committees will be responsible for their promotions.
“We also resolved that a minimum of five million naira will be set aside every month to clear the salary arrears, depending on what is available to each Local Government. This means in a case where the resources are higher, the LGAs can increase their threshold in order to clear arrears.
“For the Thirty Thousand Naira minimum wage it will be a consequential increment. A committee has been set up in that regards to consider a 20% increase.
“With regards to the computerisation of the payrolls, a vote was taken by the principal members of the eight (8) Local Government Areas and majority of them voted in favour of it (payroll computerization).”
Also speaking, the State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Julius Laye, gave applauds to the State Government for midwifing the entire process towards making the local government workers enjoy the benefits due them according to law.
He assured that labour would cooperate with other relevant agencies to ensure a successful implementation of the resolutions reached at the meeting.
In his remarks, the Chairman, Bayalsa Wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Richman Otobo, expressed delight at the resolution to computerize the payrolls for local government workers, especially primary teachers, noting that it would help in checking issue of irregularities in the payroll system.
While the Director of Administration and General Services, Brass LGA, Mr. Clement Etifa, said the N5 million to be set aside every month for settlement of the salary arrears would be prudently disbursed based on the agreed modalities.