The Coordinating Minister of the Nigerian Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has carpeted the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria as peddlers of falsehood for alleging that government owed civil servants salaries.
This is as the Presidential Amnesty Office has assured ex-militants from the Niger Delta region that their November 2014 stipends would be paid early next week, admonishing them to eschew acts capable of portraying them as unruly and unappreciative of the federal government’s efforts to better their lot.
She insisted that contrary to the claim by the group that civil servants had not been paid their October and November salaries, only a few were in that category while most of them were being regularly paid.
The minister regretted in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, that the association had gained notoriety for distortion of facts and accused them of being ready political tools that do not represent the interest of the majority of its members.
“The recent press release issued by a group which calls itself the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria is a full of falsehood and distortions about the current status of the payment of federal civil servants.
“The group is fast earning a reputation as a tool of political groups ready to deploy scurrilous falsehood against the policies and programmes of the Federal Government. It clearly does not represent the interest of the vast majority of hard working and professional civil servants.
“Contrary to the group’s statement, it is absolutely untrue that ‘government has not been able to pay thousands of civil servants their October and November salaries’.
“As can be confirmed, the overwhelming majority of civil servants are getting their salaries regularly.
“The true situation, as stated by the CME during the Presentation of the 2015 Budget proposal yesterday is that there was a delay in paying the salaries of some civil servants in some ministries due to a technical glitch which affected the IPPIS system through which payments are made.
“Delays were also caused by some MDAs using money set aside for salaries to pay allowances without consultation with the Budget Office.
“As CME has promised, the issues are being resolved and all civil servants will be paid their salaries before the end of December”, the statement said.
Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, who fielded questions from journalists in Abuja yesterday against the backdrop of recent road protests by some of the ex-militants due to a delay in the payment of their November allowances.
Kuku said the Amnesty Office had a track record of handling the welfare and allowances of the ex-agitators with utmost dispatch, noting that the delay in the payment of their November stipends stemmed from the slowdown in the release of funds from the Finance Ministry.
“In this country today, I am sure that even some public and civil servants have not got their statutory salaries. For October/November, some have not got their salaries. Some have not got from November, and it’s not exceptionally affecting the ex-agitators, and this is where the concept of regular public servant and irregular beneficiaries of a government programme like the Presidential Amnesty Programme come to play
“Nigerians are being affected by what they (ex-agitators) are doing. We have made very serious and constant contact with the leaders of ex-agitation camps in this programme, and the leaders have been able to help us.
“It could have been really worse than this and it would have impacted negatively on our economy, and of course, the safe movement of Nigerians who are plying the East-West road across the Niger Delta states. But for the efforts put together by generals (of course in their own language)—like Tompolo, Chief Ateke Tom, Africa who spoke to me constantly, General Ogumbos who had to go to AIT to talk to his people and talk to Nigerians about what we have been able to do because the kind of understanding they have, it could have been worse.
“There are many other leaders like Pastor Reuben, Shoot-at-Sight who had to go to Warri to speak to his people to ensure that they left the road.
“Critically speaking, it is about their November payment and it is true that they have not been paid. The Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta is not outside the regular payment procedure of the Federal Government. No MDA (ministry, department and agency) has got their November releases—nobody. There are some who have not even got for the fourth quarter.
“Normally, (they can also testify to this), when we used to pay them on the 16th, 17th and 18th, they would tell you, it was too early. It means we would finish this money before the end of the month. But when you pay 28, 29, the same people will turn round and say you are paying too late. I am part of them, they are my people and I understand them. If you are too elitist about the programme, you will not succeed. I have been able to keep this programme from January 2011 when Mr. President graciously gave me the opportunity to serve him in this capacity till now because I see myself as part of them. I see the pain they are feeling even today.
“It’s true that we normally paid maximum between 20th to 22nd and 23rd of every month. But this is talking about 20th to 23rd of November; they were not paid because we did not get our release from the Federal Ministry of Finance,” Kuku said.
The presidential aid noted that as a country that is dependent on a single commodity (oil) for its mainstay, everyone was aware of the recent tumbling oil prices in the international market, which had affected revenue flow as witnessed in other economies apart from Nigeria.
He stated that refreshingly, the nation’s Economic Team headed by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala alongside other competent hands, have continued to evolve strong measures to steer the economy to safety.
While appealing to Nigerians, including the ex-militants to bear with the government as it moves to put revenue generating measures in place to make up for the dwindling oil revenue, Kuku assured the ex-agitators that their November allowances would be paid early next week.
But he admonished them to imbibe the saving culture in order to withstand the rainy day, even as the presidential aide punctured the argument of some ex-militants that their monthly N65, 000 stipend was meager to save from.
He pointed out that some graduates and civil servants were not being paid up to N65,000 per month, adding that whoever is incapable of saving from a little income can also not save when the earning is robust.