Eromosele Ebhomele

President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Rauf Aregbesola

President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Rauf Aregbesola

Human rights activist and Executive Chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, CHRSJ, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman, on Thursday called on the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to rescue Osun State in the western part of Nigeria, particularly the workers and retirees.

Sulaiman asked Buhari to rescue workers and pensioners in the state from the hands of the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola, by taking over the payment of salaries and pension in the state saying that indications had emerged that Aregbesola was unable to continue to perform the simple function of payment of salary as the state governor since the state was not economically viable.

Comrade Sulaiman said he supported his argument with the recent simple agreement between the state government and the workers, through the labour unions, that two months out of the backlogs of seven months salaries would be paid as part of efforts to make the striking workers return to work.

He said the state government’s position was a “prophesy” that it would be difficult for the state government to pay its workforce and retirees for the half of the year of 2015.

Speaking as a guest speaker at one-day summit, orgainsed by the Osun Stakeholders Group in Ile-Ife, the rights activist maintained that Osun State had become bankrupt and a failed state under Aregbesola, urging the opposition “to team up together to rescue the state from the hands of present tormentors led by Aregbesola.”

“I will like to call on President and Commander-In-Chief of Armed Forces, Muhmmadu Buhari (rtd) and his led Federal Government to take over the payment of salaries of teachers, civil servants, local government staff and pension due to retirees in the state, because indications have shown that Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola cannot perform the least function of payment of salaries and pension due to workers and retirees respectively as governor of the state.

“As I’m talking to you now, I believe that Rauf Aregbesola could not pay six months salaries in the 2015 fiscal year.”

Sulaiman who lamented the sorry state of Osun presently, told the gathering: “we have a long way to go in redeeming the state from the shackle of poverty,
hunger, and backwardness which the present administration of Aregbesola represents by craving a place for ourselves in the history of this state as a selfless leader that people could rely on always.

“We are calling on the commercial banks in the country to come out openly, to let the people know the actual debt status of the state in their various banks so as to clear the air on the different figures being alleged that Osun State is owing under Rauf Aregbesola’s government for posterity sake but we heard that Governor Rauf Aregbesola used Osun State to borrow over N100 billion from the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) alone.”

In an earlier defence of his administration, Aregbesola linked his inability to pay salaries to the rapid shortfall in the federal allocation accruing to his state saying this affected his budget for the year.

“But no matter how sad (I don’t want to use the word ‘depressed), no matter how unhappy I am, the truth is that I will not fail to say that it is a situation absolutely beyond my control.

“I led an administration in receipt of regular allocation in which I do my budget. Unfortunately, this allocation started falling in rapid form that totally disorganised my budget and any other arrangement.

“For those who want to be objective, Osun of November 2010 when I assumed office and Osun of today are not the same. People must give credit to the changes that we have brought about in Osun. The changes were not miracles, they were changes occasioned by application of resources.

“But with the unexpected and sharp decline in our revenue, we had dislocation. The result of that dislocation is this quite sad experience.

“Were it to be Osun alone, probably I would not have an excuse. I pray it does not continue. I am not sure if there will be any state that will actually escape from the biting effect of the absolute sharp drop which I call economic disaster that we are grappling with.

“Since my inauguration on November 27, 2010, I had made it a duty to pay salary on or before 25th of every month up until January 2014 when that became practically impossible.

“I have been giving the same staff who today are, regrettably and painfully, not being paid annual bonus that we call 13th month salary. There was no demand for it. I just felt that workers must be encouraged, they must be inspired.

“I did that religiously and faithfully from 2010 to 2013. The development that led to this began precisely in July when we received the June allocation and it was short by 40 per cent.

“Since then, what we have been receiving from the Federation Account is less than the wages, personnel cost. It is far and not mildly less.

“We struggled with it till October 2014. By that time, there was nothing we could do. Add to it is that we could not even go to bank to borrow to pay the wages commitment”, he reportedly said.