INTERVIEW: Kogi will pay salary arrears before Christmas – Governor’s aide

INTERVIEW: Kogi will pay salary arrears before Christmas – Governor’s aide

An aide to the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Olorunfemi Fanwo, has stated that the governor is set to pay salary arrears of Kogi workers before Christmas. Mr Fanwo, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with AljazirahNigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari,  had ordered State Governors to pay workers before Christmas. The President gave the order while meeting with the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Excerpts.

Can we meet you, sir?

I am Kingsley Olorunfemi Fanwo, Director-General of media and publicity of the office of Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello.

Can you brief us on the achievements of His Excellency so far?
The governor, as constituted in the state under the leadership of Alhaji Yahaya Bello inherited a government that was marred by corruption and poor leadership.

 On assumption of office, the present administration came up with a blueprint to achieve the new agenda of government, and so far, it has been so good. The primary areas of this agenda include education, health care, job creation through small and medium enterprises (SMEs), tourism and agriculture as well as security and infrastructural development, and so far, the administration has done justice to all these.  For example, in education, we have been able to stabilize academic calendar in our higher institutions of learning. For example, in Kogi State  University, Kogi State Polytechnic, The College of Education, Okene, and the School of Nursing and School of Health Technology, we have been able to bring stability to the academic calendar of these institutions.

The governor went around the institutions and this is the first time it is happening in the state. The governor does not just sit in his office and gets report from his officials, but he went to have first-hand information about the challenges that are confronting those institutions. He sat down with all the stakeholders of the institutions to proffer solutions to the challenges. Apart from that, the administration has been able to put in place a lot of structures in those institutions to support the educational infrastructure of these institutions.

We are putting up a lot of structures as seen in the state university, the polytechnics, colleges of education, the school of nursing, and of course, we are changing the face of infrastructure in our educational institutions. After that, we have also identified some modern secondary schools in the state and put them in proper shape with legacies of excellence such as the Titan college in Egpa and a lot of modern schools in the state. We are remodeling these schools to unity schools. As we speak, hundreds of millions have been spent to improve the infrastructure at the schools and to restore their past glory. Also, what we refer to as the G Y B modern primary school is ongoing in all the 239 walls in the state. This will phase out the old structures in those primary schools and the intention of the government is to ensure that public schools are better than private schools in Kogi state.

You talked so much about education, what about agriculture and other vital areas that could enhance the economy?

In fact, education is the number one priority of this administration and His Excellency has not ruled out agricultural development. But that is not to say we are not also going to those sectors of the economy to improve the standard of living of the people and to be able to diversify the economy especially in the way of agriculture. Agriculture is one of the focus of this administration and we have been able to invest heavily in agriculture. We have organized agricultural summits; the first in the history of the state.

We brought all the stakeholders under the roof in the agricultural sector to speak about the way forward in the agricultural sector, and to find practical solutions, set timelines to what the administration set to achieve in agriculture in the state, and as we speak, we have been able to practically turn around a lot of things. Now we have dams that we are using for irrigation, and we have a lot of fishery going on and a lot of our youth are positively engaged.

We have also put in place a lot of programs to engage youth directly in agriculture across the 21 local government areas in the state. The governor has given modeling orders to the commissioner of agriculture that lands are opened in all the 21 local government areas. The governor has mandated the commissioner to engage at least 700 youth in each local government to ensure that they are able to be on ground in their own farms while the government will provide all the necessary incentives to encourage the youths. Government will encourage them with the products so that marketing would not be an issue and rural agricultural projects will help to open a lot of rural roads.

Bean production in Kogi state has never been bad. We have the soil and the climate, but bad marketing has slowed us down and these are parts of the challenges we are working on. Hundreds of tons of cassava are also wasted on the farm across the state. Now our farmers get their fertilizers as at when due which means the end users now have access directly to fertilizer.

 

Report has it that Kogi state is one of the states owing between 8 and 11 months salary backlog, how does the Governor hope to pay the workers’ before Christmas, as mandated by President Buhari?

Nothing has been so controversial in the issue of salary as it affects Kogi state. We are not owing up to 8 months as you have said. I am sure that civil servants in the state have received their salaries up till July this year. What we are owing workers is four months and we are working on it. That is also not to say that some civil servant may lay claim that they are being owed for  11  months, i need to explain that for people to understand perfectly. What happened was that when we came in, we met a civil service that was in a mess and is engaged in unimaginable corruption and what we decided to do was to embark on civil service reforms and the first thing is to ascertain the number of people that are on the payrolls and that is what led to the staff verification exercise.

 Along the line, we discovered some people are not supposed to be on the payroll and they were removed but we also opened the window of opportunity for people to appeal and that led to the setting up of an appeal committee for people to come and defend the accusations levelled against them. While some were able to scale though, some were uncleared but when the governor saw the number of those that were affected, he decided to grant amnesty to some categories of some offenses that were committed and that led to integrating back these set of workers to the payroll. Those who have been granted this amnesty are the ones just coming back to clear their names and therefore people are saying they are being owed for 8 months or 11 months’ salary. Others who are clamouring for payment of salaries are found to have used fake certificates to join the civil service. However, I want to assure you that these set of people will be prosecuted in the law court because what they did is something against the law. Those who are just integrated back knows that they are only owed by a few number of months because they just came back after being pardoned and reinstated back on the payroll.

We are already working on that before the president’s directive. There were a lot of resolutions as to how to clear the arrears depending on the number of months owed a worker and this will depend on if the person was cleared or pardoned by the government. We are working hard on that and we have entered into an agreement with a lot of financial institutions to be able to achieve that because if you work, you deserve to be paid and now that we are expecting the Paris Club refund, it shows that we will be able to pay some of the workers.

Are you saying now that before December His Excellency will pay the workers?

Yes, I think that you are aware that the governor is the first political son of the president and if the president gives the directive then the governor will go all the way to ensure that the directive is followed to the latter and I am saying on behalf of the government of Kogi that we will clear a significant number of months owed the civil servants before Christmas and New Year celebration

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