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10 days to election, Aregbesola releases N19 billion to clear salary arrears

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THE Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, has approved the release of N19.8 billion for the payment of salary and pension arrears for the state’s civil servants and retirees. This is coming with just 11 days to the governorship election in the state.

Osun governorship election will hold on Saturday, September 22.

According to Bola Oyebamiji, Osun state Commissioner for Finance, the directive was a demonstration of Aregbesola’s commitment to the promise he made to workers in the state.

“In line with its agenda and fulfilment of its promise to the state workers regarding prioritisation of their welfare above others, the government of the state of Osun has commenced payment of full salary and arrears in line with available resources,” Oyebamiji stated on Tuesday.

“In line with labour unions’ demands and current financial position of the state, the government of the State of Osun led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has authorised payment of four months salary arrears and 2016 leave bonus to its workers.

“Also, Mr Governor has directed that going-forward, workers in the state should be paid their full salary as and when due to demonstrate his commitment to his earlier promises.

“With this, government of the state of Osun has commenced gradual disbursement of nineteen billion, eight hundred and one million, three hundred and twenty-eight thousand, two hundred and seventy-one naira, twenty-two kobo (19,801,328,271.22) as salaries and other entitlements to its workers.”

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Before now, Osun State had been in the news for owing workers several months salary arrears. The state later adopted a payment model which meant that workers were paid percentages of their salaries according to their grade levels. Workers on grade level 13 and above were paid 50 per cent of their salaries; those on levels 8 to 12 received 75 per cent, while those on levels 7 and below were paid in full.

But as the date for the governorship election drew closer, the government announced that it was commencing full payments for all categories of workers, leaving many to wonder what changed in the state’s fortunes all of a sudden.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had alleged that the federal government illegally released the sum of N16.6 billion from the Paris Club refunds to Osun State, partly to bribe highly-placed politicians to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid, and partly to finance the governorship election in the state.

Also, the federal government was criticised after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo went to Osun State to launch “trader moni”, a social intervention programme where local traders were given a collateral-free loan of N10,000 to support their small businesses. Many said the FG used the “trader moni” programme as a disguise to entice voters in Osun State with cash ahead of the governorship election.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ministry of Finance had announced that states that still owe salary and pension arrears will not be eligible to benefit from the final tranche of the Paris Club refunds. Perhaps, many have argued, that is the reason for the decision by the Osun state government to clear its backlog of salary arrears.

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