From Yakubu Mustapha, Minna
The Niger state government has denied the rumor going round in some quarters in the state that the 25 local council chairmen were attending a retreat in Ghana despite inability of paying staff salary by most of them.
The Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Noel Berje however confirmed the Council Chairmen were in Ghana but said they were not there for a retreat but for purpose of the state interest.
She said that the council chairmen were in Ghana in furtherance to the state Governor’s earlier visit to Jonsang waste recycling company for effective waste management in the state.
“The Accra based recycling group of companies is expected to establish an outfit in the state to take care of waste sorting and organic waste composting plant, plastic recycling and waste bins manufacturing plant, tricycle assembly plant and the state-of-the -art liquid waste processing plant”.
According to her, the reason for the visit is to ensure the success of the new approach to keeping the state clean, an approach in which the council chairmen are critical stakeholders.
Consequently, there was a general outcry ongoing in Niger state over the trip to Ghana for a one week retreat for the 25 chairmen in the state, the retreat in Ghana that is coming barely two months after they attended another retreat in Kaduna two days after they were inaugurated into office in January 2020.
The Staffs of the local government areas who raised an outcry over the trip wondered why the retreat could not be done in Nigeria describing the retreat as a waste of resources by the Chairmen.
It was gathered that most of the local council chairmen have not been able to pay the salaries of some their staff in February and it was confidentially gathered that health and education staff are the most affected as they have not received February salaries.
Investigation revealed that local government councils that cannot pay workers’ salaries include Chanchaga, Bida, Suleja, Kontagora, Mokwa, Paikoro, Shiroro, Lavun, Lapai, Agaie, paikoro, Rijau, and Tafa.
Reports however indicated that the Ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs had adopted a method of using the surplus from the other local government areas to augment the allocation of the affected local government councils to enable these councils to be able to pay their staff.
Accordingly, the last meeting at the effected ministry hall regarding the sharing formula from the federal allocation held before the trip to Ghana, there was a strong disagreement as to the councils who could comfortably pay their staff vehemently refuse to part with their surplus.
Argument erupted as the meeting ended in a deadlock because those councils were said to have told the chairmen of the councils without adequate funds to reduce their workforce if they cannot pay their staff saying they are being cheated from what belongs to them, insisted not to share their surplus with others.
The Niger state House of Assembly plenary where the Member representing Suleja Constituency Hon Iya Mohammad confirmed the Ghana trip of the local government Chairmen.
Hon Iya was responding to the motion moved by one of the legislators to call the Commissioner for Environment to the House of Assembly to explain the reason why the state is not cleared from refuse said that the commissioner traveled alongside the 25 local government Chairmen to Ghana.
“As we are talking, some of us may not be aware, the Commissioner of Environment and the 25 local government Chairmen in Niger state are on their way to Ghana.
“They are going to Ghana to open windows for the state to partner with some companies outside the country particularly in Ghana and they also want to learn from them.”
The trip and the inability of the council chairmen to pay salaries have further enraged the public as the declared their displeasure over what they term ‘wastage of government resources.’
One of the affected staff who refuses to give his name due to fear of being victimized said that the Chairmen had no focus and plan for the councils as they are busy wasting money traveling out instead of seeing to the welfare of their staff and paying their salaries.
“This is unacceptable. Do these people know what they are in the office for? We are here dying, I cannot even feed my family and someone is taking the money meant to be used to pay my salary to travel for a retreat in Ghana.”