By Nathan Nwakamma
Yenagoa – The Bayelsa Government has pledged to settle the 14-months salary arrears it owed local government workers currently on strike in the state.
The government, however, appealed to the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) to suspend the ongoing strike by its members.
The state Commissioner for Local Government Administration, Dr. Agatha Goma, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa on Tuesday.
He said that ending the strike was necessary in view of steps taken by the government to address the workers grievances.
“The labour leaders have made their point and government has heard them loud and clear,’’ she said.
Goma explained that the authorities of the councils were working with the government to facilitate the payment.
She said that NULGE’s stance on accountability, probity and transparency in the handling of the finances of the councils in the state reinforced the position of government.
NAN reports that NULGE had in a statement on Aug. 7, backed local government autonomy in the ongoing constitutional review and lauded the state government for not touching local councils’ Federal allocations.
Goma noted that the union was on the same page with the state government on the accumulated salary arrears owed its members.
According to her, the arrears accumulated not because of mismanagement or deliberate ploy to punish workers, but due to drastic reduction in the councils’ allocation.
The commissioner explained that increment in the allocation to the councils for the month of July gave the government leverage to pay up to three months salary arrears.
Goma said that government had demonstrated commitment at ensuring that all agreements reached with NULGE were implemented.
She said that such commitment was demonstrated when the government used part of its Paris Club refund to pay workers salary.
The commissioner, also spoke on delay in the payment of primary school teachers in Ogbia Local Government, saying the affected teachers will receive their salaries before the end of the week.
She also said that the government remained committed to ensuring adequate security in the state to boost economic activities.
“But for the investment in security, we could not have witnessed the relative peace we now enjoy, which has created a friendly environment for oil exploration.”
Goma urged NULGE to work with the local councils to resolve issues of indiscipline, ghost workers and over blotted wage bill.