Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has described the decision by SERAP, a rights advocacy group, to include him in a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged non-payment of salaries to workers as ill-informed and misdirected as well as an attempt to whip up sentiments on an issue of national concern.
Reacting to the group’s petition, Governor Ahmed described it as baseless and lacking a foundation in fact as Kwara State is up-to-date in the payment of salaries to state civil servants and pensioners.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, Alhaji Ahmed said SERAP may have been referring to the local government councils in the state, which receive separate allocations from the federal government and have varying degrees of staff and pension arrears.
Furthermore, the Kwara State Governor said despite experiencing a drop in monthly allocation from N3.2b to N800m, the state government has sustained payment of its civil servants and pensioners through prudent management of resources and revenue reforms which have increased Internally Generated Revenue by more than 100 per cent in less than a year.
Continuing, Dr. Ahmed said he is currently working with local government chairmen in the state to redress salary arrears at that tier of government through measures such as the proposed takeover of Junior Secondary School funding by the state to reduce the financial pressure on local governments.
He, therefore, wondered why SERAP will refer an issue involving contractual obligation between a government and its workers to the ICC which deals with criminal matters and settles legal disputes submitted to it by sovereign states.
The state governor pointed out that while the said LG pension and salary delays are unfortunate and painful, the issue is reflective of the financial gridlock currently confronting the country and is neither intentional nor criminal in nature.
The Governor further dismissed the petition as selective for failing to reflect the federal government position that 27 states are currently unable to pay workers. Additionally, Alhaji Ahmed also questioned the source of SERAP’s data, and emphasised that recent surveys by the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC), respected national media organisations as well as reputable financial watchdogs in the country had given Kwara State a clean bill of health with regards to payment of state workers and pensioners.