The Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, Tuesday disclosed that he had cut his salary and that of other political office holders in the state by 25 per cent to enable him address the problem of teachers and other financial issues bothering the state.
He made the disclosure while reacting to the over six-month strike embarked upon by primary school teachers in a radio programme in the state.
Suswam said he would continue to negotiate with the teachers to end the strike to enable pupils resume classes, adding that the state government had no money to implement the teachers' demands for the implementation of the new national minimum wage because of the high wage bill for the teachers which stands at over N1.1 billion besides that of local government staff, which according to him is N1.9 billion.
"The minimum wage the teachers are asking me to pay is N1.8 billion and if you put that together with the salaries of local government staff, you have over N4 billion, so where will I get N4 billion every month to pay the salaries of local government staff and teachers? It's not that I am collecting huge amount of money and telling people stories. The allocation for each state is always published in the national dailies for everybody to see.
"So it is either that people decide that we should close down government when I woke up and when the money comes, I pay salaries and go back to the governor's lodge and sleep till next month. So there is no way that I can pay that money, the money is simply not available.
"I told the teachers if they go on strike, I am not paying them until they come back, we are not expending their money, which is N1.1 billion and since the past five months that they have been on strike we are keeping it, but then I will not pay any person without working, the International Labour Law says if you don't go to work, you won't receive your pay and so that is what is happening," he said.
He also stated that some of the projects he needed to complete with the cut in salaries were those he initiated while in the House of Representatives including the construction of a bridge across River Buruku to ease movement of goods and people, which he said still untouched.
The governor also seeking the support of the federal government to develop the state.
He appreciated President Goodluck Jonathan for facilitating the construction of the gigantic N17 billion dam in Otupko while promising to complete other ongoing projects initiated by his administration before leaving from office next year.
"The road from Vandeikya to Obudu in Cross-River State is also ongoing and it is a federal government project, the Makurdi-Gboko road is equally going on and contractors are on site. There are other projects that the state government has forwarded to the federal government for necessary action and we hope something will be done," Suswam said.