By Ogochukwu Isioma in Benin City
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Monday, said the Federal Government may not be able to pay workers’ salaries beyond June 2023 without resorting to massively printing money or removing fuel subsidy.
Obaseki disclosed this while delivering his address during the 2023 May Day celebration with the theme, “Workers’ rights and socio-economic justice,” held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, in Benin City.
Dignitaries at the event include the Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu; Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq.; Edo State Head of Service, Anthony Okungbowa Esq.; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Hon. Osaigbovo Iyoha; Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Marcus Onobun, and the Chief Judge of Edo State, Hon. Justice Itsebaga Acha, amongst others.
The governor, who reassured that his government will sustain reforms and projects to improve the welfare of workers and ensure better livelihoods for Edo people, urged the workers in the country to shift from the tradition of reacting when policies that affect them have already been made but take charge and ensure full transparency and accountability of government’s policies and programmes.
Obaseki said, “It would be a miracle for the federal government and state governments to pay salaries beyond June this year without resorting to massively printing money or removing fuel subsidy. Either of these decisions will bring more hardship and pain to Nigerians, particularly workers.
“We must all make sure that the burden and pain of these measures, which must be taken, are not carried by workers alone. Workers must now rise and ensure that they champion any discussion on subsidy removal. You must shift from the tradition of reacting when these policies have been made but insist that you take charge and ensure full transparency and disclosure. If we are all undertaking a reform, then the benefits and pains that will come out of the reforms must be mutually shared by all Nigerians, not just the downtrodden.”
Reaffirming his government’s commitment to the welfare of workers in the state, Obaseki noted, “I am proud to say that Edo workers are currently the best-paid workers in Nigeria. When we announced the increment of the minimum wage to N40,000 at this venue last year, I expected that the Federal Government and other state governments would follow suit immediately but I am surprised that it has taken them one year already.
“My promise to Edo workers here today is that the day the federal government is able to pay its new minimum wage and hand over a cheque to any federal worker, that day, we will match the federal government and do the same for state workers.
“As your governor, I will ensure that workers are fairly treated so that your take-home pay can really take you home. Our government has kept faith with prompt and regular payment of staff salaries and retirees’ benefits in the State in the last six years.
“As a tradition, salaries are paid latest on the 26th day of every month and for any holiday celebrations, our workers are paid before the celebration so that they have money to celebrate.”
He added, “We currently do not owe arrears of promotion in Edo State because I have approved the promotion of all staff for 2022 which I believe will boost the morale of staff and the performance of our workers.”
Hailing the workers’ contributions to the growth and development of the state, the governor stated, “Our vision is to make Edo State the best place to work and live in Nigeria.
“I appreciate the sacrifices of our workers and their unwavering dedication and zeal as these have led to the growth and development of our dear State in the last six years despite the difficulty suffered following the poor management of the nation by the Federal Government.
“Our workers are the unsung heroes of society and the engine that powers our economy and we will continue to prioritize your welfare. This is why we will continue to embark on a series of reforms to boost your morale and productivity, ensuring the right incentives and enabling the environment to deliver quality service to Edo people. This is in addition to the reforms we have embarked on in education, healthcare, technology, economy, agriculture, and many other sectors.”
He continued: “We are investing in Infrastructure to provide our workers with a modern, more equipped, and dignified work environment to enable them to become more productive and deliver quality service to our people.
“We are installing fiber optic cables across all local governments so that government offices will now have internet connection. The John Odigie Oyegun Service Academy is the best in Africa and is being effectively used daily to train our workers to make them the best in Africa.
“We have removed all processes of interference with our recruitment exercise to ensure that the recruitment process is free, fair, and merit-based.
“We have also kicked off the policy to ensure that any student of Edo extraction who makes a first class in any University in Nigeria is given an opportunity for automatic employment into the state’s civil and public service as we want the best.”
The governor charged, “I appeal to workers to ensure they register in the health insurance scheme and utilize it effectively.”
On his part, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, represented by State Coordinator, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Mrs. Florence Owie said, “Only a few employees are aware that workers have rights in their workplaces. The Federal Ministry of Labour will continue to implement labour laws to ensure peace between employee and their employers.”
Chairman of the Edo State’s chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Chief Odion Olaiye hailed the governor for prioritizing the welfare of the workers, commending his developmental strides across all sectors of the state’s economy.
Also, the Acting Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Edo State Chapter, Comrade Charles Momoh thanked the governor for the Edo Health Insurance Scheme, noting that Edo workers are enjoying affordable and quality healthcare services under this administration.