Some workers in public and civil service in Bayelsa State have turned to begging to survive the hard economic realities in the state.
It was observed that some workers, in a bid to cope with the harsh economic condition foisted on them by unpaid salaries, had devised different means to beg in order to fulfil their financial obligations.
The PUNCH learnt that the civil and public servants being owed about five months’ salaries by the Governor Seriake Dickson-led administration could no longer meet their personal and family obligations.
Many of them were said to be unable to pay their bills, children’s school fees and service their accommodation expenses.
Due to their inability to pay transportation fares, most of them could no longer attend to go to their work places and church activities while persons who managed to go end up begging for fares to go back home.
Some of them said they were dying of hunger, adding that they no longer went to work because of the lack of money for transport and feeding.
They recalled that Dickson had promised to promptly pay salaries of workers, but wondered why the governor, who was no longer executing projects, could not pay workers.
DSSC 2016 Recruitment – Nigerian Airforce Direct Short Service Course
One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said he stopped going to work because the government had not paid him since November 2015.
The source, who is a manager in the government owned Izon Ibe Community Bank, confessed, “I work in the state-owned micro-finance bank, but since November, I have not been paid. I can’t go to work because I need to look for something to do to feed my family. It has been very tough. Surviving in Bayelsa State has become so difficult.
“I wonder why an oil-producing state like Bayelsa cannot pay salaries. We learnt that states like Ebonyi and Taraba, with one of the least allocations, still pay salaries. But here, we are working in an oil-producing state without salaries.”
Also, two ladies working for the state government were sighted on Imgbi Road, on Wednesday, begging passers-by for N100 to go home after attending a morning church programme in the area.
Though many people turned them down, they leapt up in joy when eventually a Good Samaritan gave the duo N500 to go home.
It was, however, learnt that the governor recently approved the payment of a month’s salary for the civil servants, but most of them had no balance left in the accounts after their banks deducted arrears of unpaid loans.
A food vendor, who identified herself simply as Emilia, said the hardship had affected her so much that most of her customers no longer patronised her.
She said, “Before, my small shop used to bubble with patronage. I would finish selling before 9pm every day.
“But everything has changed. I have reduced the quantity I cook, yet I can’t finish selling my food even up to 12am. I carry them home. I am even considering closing my shop.”
However, most residents have blamed the development on the leadership style of Dickson, saying he stifled the economy on assuming office as the governor for the second term.
An angry resident, identified simply as Emmanuel, wondered why the government was claiming that the state is poor when Dickson said he opened a dedicated account “where he saved for the rainy day.”
“The rain is now falling. People expected the governor to start using the savings of the state in paying salaries and rejuvenating the economy. Bayelsa is not supposed to be suffering. It is supposed to be a model state.”
Commenting on the situation, the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Bayelsa State, Mr. Ndiomu George-Diepre, said the Congress was disenchanted with the development.
Though he appreciated the economic situation in the country, he, however, appealed to Dickson to pay the workers so that they could meet their personal and family obligations.
George-Diepre said, “The Congress as usual is still on the struggle. Right now, we are on the air, calling on the government to pay the unpaid salaries.
“While we understand the economic situation in the country and how it also affects the states, we are still asking that the government should pay all the outstanding salaries of workers, particularly the pensioners and of course, the local government workers.
“There are also a lot of scams and ghost workers suspected in those areas, and the governor is saying he wants to do verification and after that they will pay. But the Labour is saying that they should be paid because they have suffered for a long time.”
However, a top official in the Governor’s office said Bayelsa State was not the only state that was owing salaries, rationalising that some states were owing between seven and eight months.
The official, who did not want his name mentioned, said, “So, why is Bayelsa State so peculiar that journalists want to do a report on it?
“The Federal Government is owing. You heard the Secretary to the Government of the Federation saying the FG is owing N6bn every month. Is that not scandalous for a nation like Nigeria? Is it not more news worthy than workers resorting to begging? Check the fact, we are owing just three months.”