The Bayelsa State Government has said that the delay in the release of the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds by the federal government is frustrating its plans to clear backlog of workers’ salaries and implement infrastructure projects.
Civil servants in the state are still being owed six months’ salary arrears from 2016 despite the fact that the state received about N99 billion in allocations from the federation account.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Jonathan Obuebite, told journalists in an interview on Tuesday that the state government had satisfactorily disbursed the first tranche of the refunds.
He said: “Already, the government has taken a decision on how to expend the money. When the first one came, we used it to clear some months of salary arrears.
“We want to use this one for the same purpose but it has not yet come. As a state, we are worried that the money has yet to come,” the commissioner stated.
Obuebite said that labour leaders in the state are aware of the decision of the state government to spend the money on clearance of salary backlogs.
He maintained that Bayelsa State was not among the states that diverted the first tranche of the funds, adding that on the contrary, the state government was given a pat on the back for its judicious spending of the initial disbursement.
The commissioner said the federal government may be delaying the release of the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds in order to make sure that states will use them for the intended purpose.
“We are yet to know the reasons why the funds have not been released. We believe it is the federal government that is holding the fund for the reason best known to them. We are only recipients,” he said.
“We had wanted to use it to pay last month’s salary, but we did not know why it had not hit our account. I think it is a national issue.
“But if it enters, we will inform our people as we have always done, stating the amount and what accrues to the local governments.
The commissioner revealed that a number of states are currently being investigated for allegedly diverting the funds.
“The governor, Seriake Dickson, told us that some states are being investigated, but Bayelsa is not part of them,” he said.
The chairman of the Bayelsa State chapter of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, Tari Dounana, said the union had been intimated that the state was yet to receive its own share of the refunds.
“We are following up the matter with the help of our national body. The money has not been paid to the state. If it has been paid, we would have taken it up to ensure that workers are paid,” the labour leader.