As federal allocation to states dwindle, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, on Wednesday painted a gloomy picture of his state’s economy, declaring that it had become impossible to pay workers’ salaries.
Bello said this while speaking with State House correspondents shortly after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The Governor addressed reporters saying:
“We have laid the cards on the table; we are not hiding anything. We are very transparent as much as we can but the truth of the matter is that I cannot give what we don’t have. I wish I had; personally if I had, I would have paid (salaries) from my pocket but I can’t”.
Disclosing that his government as at May ending was indebted to the tune of N3bn, the Niger State Governor said the state government had been borrowing from banks since January to augment whatever came as Federal allocation.
The Governor stated that his state’s debt profile will have risen to N10bn if the borrowing trend continues till December and maintained that it was not healthy to continue borrowing to pay salaries, adding that there were other pressing issues that needed his government’s attention apart from salaries. He said:
“I think we should go back to the table. Of course, we can’t give what we don’t have. We are facing difficult times now, so let us sit down and see what we can do. I really think it is unhealthy to keep on borrowing just to pay salaries. Apart from that, we are not just there to pay salaries, there are a lot of issues.
“I got a call this morning from one Girls’ Secondary School that their roof is off in six out of seven dormitories. Where will they sleep? Now if I take the whole revenue and pay salaries, how am I going to fix schools, hospitals?” the governor wondered.
Governor Abubakar Bello revealed that the N1.5bn given to the state from federation account is not enough to pay about 40,000 people on the state’s civil service payroll, hence the need to borrow in order to make up the salaries. These 40,000 is only a fraction of over three million people that needed to be catered for in the state, he said.
While saying that nobody should be blamed for the sharp drop in oil price which has brought untold hardship on the state, the Niger State Governor said everybody should be ready to make sacrifices. Hear him:
“I am willing to make sacrifices, all my appointees are willing to make sacrifices. We have shown example by cutting down our expenditure, we have cut down the expenses of the Government House from N150m a week to between N20m and N25 million a week.
“So we have cut down Government House expenditure by over 70 per cent and I mean these are all sacrifices”.