The National Union of Local Government Employees, Bayelsa State, has asked Governor Seriake Dickson to jettison any plan to reappoint local government caretaker chairmen in the state.
The state Chairman, NULGE, Mr. Akpos Ekiegha, gave the advice during a news conference in Yenagoa, the state capital, on Saturday.
He said the cost of running the caretaker system, coupled with the dwindling federal allocations was responsible for the salary arrears owed LGA workers in the state.
Ekiegha urged Dickson to allow Heads of the LGAs to run the councils as Acting Chairmen for a period of eight months to enable them to clear the arrears owed workers in the various councils.
The NULGE boss stated, “If the Heads of LGAs are allowed to run the system as Acting Chairmen, believe you me, there will be nothing like salary arrears. He cited Cross River and Delta states as examples of state running the same system.
“If civil servants are allowed to man the system, they know their boundaries, they cannot ask for a security vote of N20m but the caretaker chairman will ask for a security vote of between N20m and N40m.
“They (caretaker chairmen) would say there is security problem in so, so community. Therefore, they will say they need N100m to go and solve the problem, but we, as civil servants, have a limit. Our main focus is to pay our workers’ salaries and if any money is left, it will be intact.”
He said within the short period that the caretaker chairmen of the eight LGAs were relieved of their appointments, coupled with little improvement in federal allocations, backlog of salaries owed council workers had reduced to only four and a half months.
The NULGE chairman also appealed to Governor Dickson to keep to his promise that by September this year, the government would take over the payment of primary school staff from the local governments to enable them to pay regular salaries of their workers.
He said the non-payment of the primary school staff by the state government was part of the reasons the LG workers were currently on strike in the state.
Ekiegha also used the medium to debunk the speculation making the rounds that the state government was interfering with local government funds.
“The government of the state has never interfered with the allocation of the councils but has rather ensured that the allocation of the councils are freely given to them for judicious use,” he said.
He further said that it was at the request of the Joint Councils of NULGE and Medical Health Workers Union during the last days of the elected LG chairmen that the Governor directed the withholding of January to March, 2016 allocations.
He, however, said the allocations were subsequently released under the immediate past caretaker committees to pay workers’ salary arrears.
Ekeigha commended Dickson and the Commissioner for Local Government, Dr. Agatha Goma, for the judicious use of the London-Paris refunds and the July allocation that had resulted in the payment of salaries of workers ranging from two to three months depending on the financial strength of the councils.
He advised all LG workers to avail themselves of the ongoing verification exercise in the various LGAs, particularly in Ogbia, where he claimed that massive payroll fraud had been suspected.