CSOs decry unpaid salaries in states in spite over N2.8trn bailout funds

By Angela Atabo

Abuja –   The “Say No Campaign’’, a coalition of four Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has expressed worry over unpaid salaries in some states in spite receiving N2.8 trillion bailout funds from the Federal Government.

A Co-convener of the group, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, made this known when the organisation paid a courtesy call on Mr Garba Abari, the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Abuja.

Nwagwu said that the group was worried about the level of corruption and impunity going on in the country.

According to him, the Federal Government’s fight against corruption should be a collective one.

He urged Nigerians to support President Muhammadu Buhari in his fight against corruption to enable it succeed.

Nwagwu said the people needed to be involved in the fight against corruption because they were the victims that suffered the consequences of it.

“If you go to the North-East for instance, there are people taking advantage of the misfortunes of other citizens.

“People are sharing away donations meant to preserve lives.

“Even people who have been kept to protect the victims in camps rape them, and in spite of the government’s directive to fish out the perpetrators, none has been caught.

“As we speak, 1,900 public properties, and government projects amounting to trillions of naira have been abandoned across the country.

“For example, if you go to Rivers State, the 24 kilometres mono rail project the government is constructing at N50 billion was completed half way with N3.3 billion and abandoned,’’ he said.

Nwagwu said that the National library building project under construction now for 11 years, the Niger State Mega Hotel worth billions of naira have all been abandoned after gulping billions.

He urged citizens to ask questions and interrogate implementation process of projects for accountability purpose.

He called for a process or law that would not allow the award of new contracts till old ones were completed.

Nwagwu said that partnering with NOA would help create awareness on the level of corruption in the country so as to make citizens own the fight.

Mr Jaye Gaskiya, another convener of the group blamed the root of corruption on the lack of accountability and transparency, adding that the government needed to push further its open government initiative.

Gaskiya said that as at 2012, the figure of abandoned projects was put at one trillion naira, and that the amount had increased since then.

He said that state governments across Nigeria were facing challenges of paying staff salaries and pensions, yet bailout funds was provided since 2015 by the Federal Government.

“We are aware that there had been two funds negotiated by the government to clear salaries, pensions and gratuities.

“The first one being about N3.38 billion and there was another of about N660 billion that was supposed to be for salaries but they were not paid.

“We have not talked about the Paris fund that about N750 billion of it had been released.

“Our big concern is that when we put all of that together, in two years nearly N2.8 trillion has gone to state governments extra budgetary disbursement outside their statutory allocation and annual budget,’’ he said.

Gaskiya said that yet Nigeria still had crisis of payment of salaries and pensions.

He said the situation had made it imperative that the fight against corruption must be owned by the citizens, adding that NOA with its grass roots reach was better positioned for partnership.

Responding, the Director-General of NOA, Abari said the visit by the CSOs was timely as the agency was rallying support for the campaign against corruption in the country.

Abari said that CSOs had been left to do what the government was supposed to be doing for a long time, adding that the partnership would help tremendously.

He said the agency had initiated a programme in local government areas that would make the people hold office holders accountable.

According to him, there is not enough information on the depth of corruption in the country to enable citizens know what to do.

He said the partnership with CSOs would bring about genuine change in the fight against corruption in the country. (NAN)

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