NIGERIA: Oshiomhole Frets over States’ Inability to Pay Workers’ Salaries

Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has raised the alarm that state governments may soon be unable to pay the salaries of workers and meet other financial obligations, should the federal government continue to delay monthly allocations.

Oshiomhole, who raised this concern at the 9th Triennial Delegates Conference of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) in Abuja, said the drop in crude oil production in the last six months was worrisome and disturbing. He blamed the drop on incessant crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, noting that the drop has led to a decline in revenue thereby delaying allocation to state governments.

He urged labour to rise up and challenge government on the incessant crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, noting that a drop in revenue will affect development projects particularly the provision of power supply, good road networks and other infrastructure.

He warned labour leaders not to remain silent on national issues that affect the future of their children but to insist that things should be done right.

“You now know that for this year, our budget has not been performing. All the debates about oil bench mark and speculations by analysts. At the end the National Assembly resolved it. You know our analysts often put their reputations on the line depending on the next consultancies that they want. They tell us that the world economy is going to come down and that the Americans have discovered new fuel, that there are things happening in China and the economy is stagnating therefore, the oil price would drop.

“I have always said that when they talk like that they talk as if the world is static, it is not. Those nations who are said to be creating these problems are not sitting on the problems; they are working to change those conditions. Six months into the New Year, oil price has performed over and above the oil bench mark. So, what happened to all the forecasts?

“Oil is performing between 20 and 25 per cent more than the budget. Yet, we are not able to receive our share of the federation account as at when due. They say we cannot fund the budget. Why, because we are selling less. It is not a classified state matter; it is not a classified security matter. Oil is selling over and above the budget, so why is the budget not performing?

“Now we are told it is because of the level of crude theft. I read in one paper that as much as 600,000 barrel of crude is stolen per day. And because of the amount that is stolen, what is left is now below the budget export volume. So, are now going to make national budget to factor in stealing? Is that the option? So, if it is not about the price, it is about the volume of theft. You can ask a question, can your wife tell you that the two legs of the elephant are missing from the pot of soup?

“I want labour to stand up on this issue. Who is stealing this oil? It is a major national issue because you are not going to get your wages as at when due if crude oil is being stolen at the volume as it is. I am worried, very worried about this.
“So, I think Nigeria has got to a point where all of us who have children even those who do not have to try and begin to assist all of us in government to put on our thinking cap and protect national interest. Those oil thieves must be caught; they must be exposed and must be dealt with according to law.

“A vessel cannot come to Nigerian water, the size of the vessel that we see and sail off with stolen crude and it is not caught. What is the Nigerian Navy doing?  I d not understand, even as a governor, I do not understand”, he added.

He called on organised labour to take side with forces of progress, stressing that “if we want changes we must define the character of the change and identify the change rightly. It is not going to be easy anymore. It is either you fight with progressive forces and we are defeated and we learn or we stay by and watch when the ship sinks, we will all be drowned.

Quoting Fidel Castro, the former President of Cuba that “when the ship carries too much weight of injustices with only few people in the first class and all the rest are abandoned in the cargo, the ship cannot be balanced and if the weight of injustices keeps increasing, there is no question about the next destination. The ship will sink and all shall perish.

“So, I ask us as organised labour to redefine the cabins of the Nigerian ship to move all people from the cargo into other sections. I do not mind somebody in the first class because somebody must be there, there will even be a pilot. But this ship can sail to destination when all of us insist that the right thing is done”, he added.

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