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Benue Bogged Down By Huge Wage Bill – Ortom Says…

The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, said on Thursday the state government has suspended execution of projects and declared state of emergency on payment of workers’ salaries.

He said the state has been bogged down by huge wage bill he inherited from the last administration.

The governor said the state did not mismanage bailout funds and London-Paris Club refunds.

He said the upward review of workers’ salaries by his predecessor contributed hugely to the fund challenge currently facing the state Civil Service.

Ortom said as a leader, he was greatly pained that his workers are owed salary arrears in a civil service state.

He, however, said Camp Commandant of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) at the International Market has been removed over alleged diversion of relief materials for flood victims.

He said the commandant was currently under investigation.

Ortom, who made the disclosures in a chat with a select group of journalists in Abuja, said one of the problems facing his administration is the huge wage bill he inherited from the last government.

He said efforts were being intensified to address the salary challenge as soon as possible.

Ortom said: “Ideally, wage bill should not take more than 30 percent of your allocation, but today, you pay more than 100 percent because you often forced to borrow. We applied 80 percent of the last Paris Club refund despite the fact that the President said we should apply at least 50 percent. But because of our peculiar challenge, we did needed be done, yet it was not enough.

“Because of this, all my projects are suspended. We have declared state of emergency on payment of salary by making it a priority.

“We have challenges and our people must understand this, Nigeria is passing through some difficulties, especially financing and funding the economy of this country. The times are difficult, for instance, in my state, just like many states, I cannot even pay salaries of my workers as and when due.”

Ortom said although he accepted responsibility as a leader, he will do everything to clear the salary arrears.

He added: “It is painful but this is something I am responsible for as a leader. I take responsibility because I am the governor today but I’m looking for everything possible under the sun to surmount this. This is because the economy of my state is being driven by the civil service.

“So, when salary is not paid, an average person in Benue State is affected and that is why we are open to suggestions from everyone on how to surmount the challenge. I say this because when I came in, I inherited N69b arrears in salaries, pensions and gratuities.

“The Federal government did intervene by giving us a loan, which is the bailout fund of N28b. We appropriated it very well and because of the screening approach we adopted, out of N12.5b that was allocated to the state service, we are able to save N1.6b which we injected back into the treasury.”

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