By Amuda Dan Sulaiman Fab
Workers under Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi State are crying for help over the failure of the State Government to pay their November salary.
National Watch in this special report takes a look at how the crisis in Bassa land has caused pensioners and workers in the Local Government pains.
Bassa Local Government has been enmeshed in crisis since 2016, with several people killed, houses destroyed and many indigenes displaced. The crisis is between Bassa Komu and the Egbira Mozum. National Watch gathered that both tribes have been at each other over disputes over fish ponds.
The government had set up a commission of enquiry to look into the crisis but nothing had been done. This development further compounded the problem of the people working in Bassa Local Government.
This newspaper learnt that Local Government workers and pensioners have been collecting percentage salaries. Some Local Government workers, including pensioners allegedly take 20 percent, while some workers’ take home pay on a monthly basis is N1,200.
Speaking to National Watch, a Local Government Worker in Bassa, LGA identified as Mohammed described the action of the Government as wicked and unacceptable.
According to him, the State Government allegedly withheld their salaries because of the communal crisis in the Local Government.
He maintained that the Government should come out clean on the reasons for withholding their salaries.
Explaining further, Mohammed said, “How will a Government say they are not paying Local Government workers in Bassa salaries because of the pocket crisis in some part of the Local Government. As I speak to you, we are now begging for food.
“They said if they pay us, we will use the money to finance the crisis. How on earth will they come up with such a flimsy excuse? How much are they paying us? What of the innocent people who know nothing about the crisis ravaging our Local Government?
“The Government should come up with another excuse. Let us talk of Borno State that Boko Haram has been causing mayhem for many years. Why didn’t Governor Zulum seize Local Government workers’ salaries? This is corruption in the highest order. This is our money.
“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to help us intervene. Christmas is around the corner. We don’t have anything to buy food or clothes for our children”.
A lawmaker in Bassa Local Government, who never wanted his name mentioned, told National Watch that councillors were affected by the non-payment of November salaries by the Government.
“I can’t imagine myself as a lawmaker here in Bassa suffering and smiling. It is not as if the Government is doing any road here or providing relief material for the people. The relief materials we received are from NEMA. This money they are hoarding, are they saying when the crisis stops, they will pay us our outstanding salaries.
“Every other Local Government in Kogi State has collected their salaries, why is Bassa LGA different? We can’t continue like this. Some people in this Government are allegedly sitting on this money. They are using Local Government workers’ money and pensioners to enrich themselves. They should not forget that what goes around comes around. They won’t remain in power forever. We are just rubber stamp councillors”.
Kogi NUP reacts:
The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in Kogi State confirmed the failure of the Government to pay pensioners of Bassa Local Government their November salary. The State NUP Chairman, Engr. Clement Ohida told National Watch that he felt the pains of the pensioners, stressing that efforts were still ongoing to see that their salaries were paid.
“November pension has not been paid. My finding is that the pension board is still discussing with the government on how to pay them what they are entitled to. I will not speculate on why they have not been paid, but it is not unconnected with the security situation and in-fighting going on there. You know, if the pension board wants to pay them, the funds come from the Local Government.
“If the DLG and Treasurer are not able to function properly, it will definitely hamper the movement of funds to pay them. It is pathetic. I will appeal to the Government to look into it and ensure that they are paid promptly. Stakeholders in Bassa should also look inward and maintain peace so that all that is needed to be done to progress their lives, and facilitate the celebration of Christmas is done on time. Indigenes of Bassa both at home and outside the environment should put heads together to maintain peace,” he said.