Bayelsa Government said on Thursday in Yenagoa that it was not owning council workers 16 months’ salary arrears as claimed by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees.
NULGE had in a statement issued on Monday listed Bayelsa and Kogi as states with the highest level of indebtedness to council workers.
Its National President, Mr Ibrahim Khaleel, alleged that Bayelsa owed between 10 and 16 months while Kogi owed between seven and 15 months to lead the list of 23 states owing salaries.
Dr Agatha Goma, Bayelsa Commissioner of Local Government Administration, in a statement described NULGE’s claims as false and misleading.
Goma said that the indebtedness to council workers in Bayelsa stood at nine and half months.
“The claim is not true. The local government councils in the state owe nine and half months salary with the exception of Ogbia Local Government Council, whose debt is 10 and half months in salary arrears.
“This regrettable situation is not deliberate as no responsible government will intentionally deny its workforce their legitimate rights to salary as at when due.
“The failure of local government councils to meet their financial obligations arose principally because of the unexpected economic recession.
“The recession has greatly affected the economic fortune of the country as well as the monthly allocation to the local government coffers and indeed all tiers of government,” Goma said.
The commissioner said that the government was in a dilemma of whether to `right-size’ the workforce or continue to manage the situation until there was an improvement.
“As a responsible government that is conscious of its social responsibility, rather than throwing people into the employment market, the state government will continue to seek workable avenue to ameliorate the delicate situation.
“The local government component of the Paris Club loan refund also came handy in effort at assisting the councils to meet their obligation.
“The state government has also provided financial support to help out the councils pay the arrears of salary,” Goma said.
She said that the government remained committed to ensuring that the outstanding salaries were offset, adding that various memoranda have been signed with relevant unions on payment of all pending arrears.