The National Union of Local Government Employees, Bayelsa State chapter, has asked the state government to stop infrastructural projects in the council areas of the state in order to clear the backlog of salary of council workers.
It noted that it was high time the government took responsibility to clear the arrears owed the workers.
The council workers in the state on Monday, July 24, commenced an indefinite strike in all the local government areas to protest against non-payment of salaries and allowances.
The state Chairman, NULGE, Akpos Ekeigha, who spoke with reporters in Yenagoa on Friday, claimed that some council workers were owed up to 15 months’ salary arrears.
He said for instance in Ogbia council area, which is the highest indebted council, it would be difficult to offset the salary arrears if the state government failed to come to its rescue.
Ekiegha, who faulted some states in the country operating without the Local Government Commission, advocated for local government autonomy, particularly in the areas of finance, politics and administration.
He also called on the state Houses of Assembly to vote and support the move for local government autonomy to be passed into law, adding that the development would further strengthen democracy in Nigeria and make the LG system more effective and productive.
The NULGE chairman disclosed that the state government released N919m with an additional N300m from the second tranche of the Paris Club refund for the purpose of settling the arrears of salaries owed workers.
He appealed to the Federal Government to send LGA allocations directly to their accounts to enable them to manage whatever came to the council without the interference of state government.
Ekiegha said, “What we are saying is that the money should come to the local government accounts as it is also being sent to the state governments’ accounts, so that government at every level will manage its funds.
“The money may not be enough to pay salaries, but we know how to manage it. You can recall that last year, the states’ allocations were not even enough to pay salaries, but they negotiated with labour to pay half salaries. The same thing should be done with the local government.
“There is autonomy at the federal and state governments’ levels; the same should be at the local government to make the third-tier of government have a feel of governance.’’