Benue’s Alia, Abia’s Otti to battle months of unpaid salaries, pensions
The 17 newly-elected governors face an uphill task to stimulate the economies of their respective states as they will inherit at least N2.1tn in domestic debts and $1.9bn in external debts from their predecessors.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH showed that some of the first term governors-elect would also be confronted by many months of unpaid workers’ salaries and mounting pension liabilities amidst agitation for the implementation of the nationally agreed minimum wage, rising inflation, escalating prices of goods and services, and dwindling purchasing power.
Following the governorship election that was conducted in 28 out of the 36 states of the federation on March 18, 2023, a total of 16 governors-elect emerged to take over from their predecessors, who will complete their constitutionally approved second term in office, while a first time governor lost his re-election bid to the candidate of an opposition party.
As of September 30, 2022, the Debt Management Office put the country’s total domestic indebtedness at N21,551,924,507,448, while foreign creditors were owed $39.66bn.
In Abia State, Dr Alex Otti, who emerged as the only governor-elect of the Labour Party, will take over from Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party on May 29 and will inherit total domestic debt of N104,573,334,025.73 and external debt of $95,632,239.04. Health workers and teachers in the state are currently owed between 10 months and 27 months’ salaries.
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, will be leaving behind for his anointed successor, Umo Eno (both of them are of the PDP), N219,617,660,991.63 in domestic debt and $46,569,647.22 in external debt, provided no new debt is accumulated between September 2022 and May 28, 2023.
As high as the enthusiasm and jubilation that greeted the emergence of Abba Kabir of the New Nigeria People’s Party as Kano State governor-elect are the state’s debt profile. Kabir will inherit from Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC N125,186,662,228.72 and $109,422,176.85 owed domestic and external creditors, respectively.
In Katsina State, the transition between Governor Aminu Masari and Dr Dikko Radda should be smooth as both men belong to the ruling APC. However, the incoming governor will inherit domestic debts adding up to N62,374,809,154.32, and liabilities to foreign creditors amounting to $55,824,330.35.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the Kebbi State governorship election inconclusive, what is in no doubt is the debt profile being left behind by Governor Atiku Bagudu of the APC. The state owes local contractors and others N60,131,306,074.57 and has foreign obligations totalling $42,403,327.93.
Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, will bequeath to his fellow APC man and successor, Umar Bago, N98,262,195,557.88 and $69,266,186.30 in domestic and external debts, respectively.
The Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, will not only hand over the reins of government to Mr Caleb Mutfwang of the opposition PDP, he will be leaving behind N151,903,415,543.09 in domestic debts and $33,735,927.81 in liabilities to foreign creditors.
The leader of the aggrieved PDP governors, otherwise called G5, Nyesom Wike, will hand over to his anointed successor, Siminialayi Fubara, as Rivers State governor domestic debt running into N225,505,011,356.00, while the DMO puts the external debt of the oil rich state at $140,177,828.95.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, who will complete his eight-year two-term tenure under the PDP on May 28, will hand over Sokoto State to Ahmed Aliyu of the APC a total of N85,584,818,029.23 in domestic debt and $37,127,361.58 foreign debt.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, will hand over to his fellow PDP man, Kefas Agbu, domestic debt of N90,807,647,838.11 and external debt of $22,280,666.87.
Cumulatively, the 17 states, where new chief executive officers will take over on May 29, 2023 owe domestic contractors and other creditors N2,103,343,925,388.89 and foreign creditors $1,755,968,311.36.
Some of the governors-elect will also contend with unhappy workers and pensioners due to the failure of their predecessors to pay as of when due.
In Abia State, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Uchenna Obigwe, said, “The state ministry workers are not being owed. Those owed include workers of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba; Health Management Board, Umuahia; Abia State Polytechnic, Aba; College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu; secondary school teachers and the Abia State Universal Basic Education Board, as well as pensioners.
“None of them is owed less than 10 months, particularly Abia Poly, Arochukwu Technical, ABSUTH and HMB workers. Some are owed more than 20 months.”
Obigwe expressed doubt that the Ikpeazu administration would be able to pay the outstanding liabilities before leaving office, stating, “If the administration has the intention to do something, it would have done it before the election to appeal to the workers to vote for the ruling party’s candidates.
“That would have been the time they would have done that. But they didn’t do it. Even the leave allowance, they didn’t pay it.
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