by Nicholas Ibekwe
The governor of President Muhammadu Buhari’s home State, Katsina, Aminu Masari, lied to the president to get more than N11 billion bailout supposedly to pay workers’ salary arrears, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
Feigning insolvency, Katsina State applied as one of the 27 states in need of bailout from the Federal Government to pay workers owed salaries for months.
In a letter to the speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, titled: “Bailout on Outstanding Salary for Workers of the State and Local Governments” with number S/SGKT/154/3 dated August 26, 2015, Mr. Masari said when he took office on May 29, his government inherited two months outstanding salary of workers of the state and local government from the previous Ibrahim Shema administration.
“I would like to request for the Honourable House’s consent for the State government to collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria for a Bail Out of outstanding workers’ salary in the State and Local governments,” Mr. Masari wrote.
“Mr Speaker may wish to know that at the time of the take-off of this administration, the State and Local Governments in the State owed workers two months’ salary to the tune of N11,086,632,741.32 broken down as follows: Katsina State: N3,646,943,099.80; 34 local government councils: N7,439,689,641.32; Total: N11,086,632,741,.32.
“It is in the view of the need for the State Government and Local Governments to meet their obligation in the payment of outstanding workers’ salary, considering the lean resources inherited from the former administration, that it has become necessary for the State Government to apply for the bail out on behalf of the State and Local Governments.” he added.
However, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation revealed that the state had no business being among the group of insolvent states in need of federal bailout to pay workers salary arrears.
Katsina State civil servants as well as workers in the state’s 34 local governments received their full salaries and allowances up to May when Mr. Masari became governor.
In fact, the governor’s chief press secretary, Abdul Labaran, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that workers were not owed and that their salaries had been completely paid up to August.
“Katsina State government doesn’t owe anybody any salary,” Mr. Labaran said over the phone after a long pause.
He also answered in the affirmative when asked if he meant that the state government had paid workers in the state up to August. “That is correct,” he said.
However, when confronted with questions about why the government requested a bailout as contained in the letter to the state assembly from his principal, Mr. Labaran refused to answer saying he was not aware of any such letter. He also refused that the letter to be read to him.
“I don’t know the letter you’re talking about. How do I know you’re quoting from the letter. You could be quoting from anywhere,” he said.
Oluwabusola Olawale, a former media aide of the immediate past governor, Ibrahim Shema, seemed shocked when asked if the last administration bequeathed two months unpaid salaries to the present administration of Mr. Masari.
“Throughout the tenure of Ibrahim Shema, workers’ salaries were paid latest on the 25th of every month. As at May both the state and local government salaries were paid on the 25th. So he left office without owing any worker any salary. So this news is strange to us. We don’t know what could have necessitated this letter,” he said.
“There is definitely no justification to ask for a bailout of two months salary,” he said.
The N338 billion federal bailout, paid by the Central Bank of Nigeria, was authorised by President Buhari to help insolvent states that had failed to pay workers for months.
The loan is repayable with an interest of nine per cent over a 20-year period.
By August 31, Kwara, Zamfara and Osun States had received the bailout to clear their backlogs of salaries.
Twenty seven states are expected to receive the aid.
Amongst other conditions for the accessing the credit, the CBN requires the resolutions of the respective state executive council mandating the loan, and an approval from the House of Assembly.
Also, the state must issue an Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPOs) to ensure timely repayment of the loan from the state’s Federation Account allocations.
The CBN said it gives approval for the fund to be released within 24 hours after a state meets all the conditions.