The organised labour in Cross River State has accused the state government of misappropriating the N19 billion meant for the settlement of gratuities, salaries and other labour-related matters in the state.
Giving an update on the utilisation of the bailout and the Paris Fund by the state government, state Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Clarkson Otu, said: “Both the bailout funds they got and the two tranches of the Paris Club Refund have not been deployed for the purposes they were meant.
“Particularly, the first tranche they got, about N11.3 billion, I can tell you that they have applied just about N1.1 billion to pay part of 2013 gratuity.
“We went on strike when we came out with the implementation of things we had agreed on and the governor had promised that he was going to use 50 per cent of it to offset gratuity for 2013 and the following years, but unfortunately, that was not done and we went on strike.
“As I speak, gratuities for 2013 are still pending. They paid some and after exhausting the N1.1 billion, they stopped. Then, the second tranche of the Paris Club Refund came in, about N6 billion. As I speak, not one kobo has been deployed for any purpose, to my knowledge.
“But when they got that money, they quickly went on air to say they were going to use it to offset 2014 gratuity. Not one person has been paid. They have paid pensions up to date, at least for state retirees. For the severance allowance, he decided to pay the 2014 to last year’s batch, but the previous batch before that has not been paid.
“My greatest concern is that we, as Labour, have been taken for a ride, because we have tried to show tremendous understanding. We have tried to give this government co-operation, but at every point in time we agree on an issue, they would throw it back at us and refuse to do the simple things we agreed on.
“As a labour leader, everyday, I receive numerous calls, so I am disturbed.” He advised the government to do those things they had agreed upon, adding: “We are under tremendous pressure. We would not continue to wait and wait when nothing is being done. You have gotten money. So, what are you waiting for?
“We are not saying take this money from allocation or internally generated revenue; this is money federal government has given it to you as part of your refunds. Why not deploy it for that purpose?”
“We know the liabilities are huge and the money may not be enough to defray all of them, but pay to a reasonable extent and we will understand. But not to pay at all is quite disturbing.”
In a reaction, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) and the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Christian Ita, said: “The government inherited gratuity right from Donald Duke’s time, totaling over N20 billion, and we have paid up to 2015.”
“Nobody is owing local government salary; all those things are in the past.” On the Paris Club refund and bailout funds, he said: “Before the bailout funds came, we paid gratuity up to 2013, and even former chairmen and councillors of local governments have been paid their severance.
“How much was the bailout funds? It was roughly about N12 billion in the two tranches. Gratuity alone needs over N20 billion.”