Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, has said that he had yet to be paid any salary since he assumed office over three months ago.
Lalong, who disclosed this on Sunday night in Jos at an interactive session with journalists to mark his 100 days in office, said this was due to the financial distress of the state which he inherited from his predecessor, Jonah Jang.
According to him his priority is to settle the huge backlog of civil servants’ salary arrears which the ex-governor bequeathed to him before he takes his salary.
He said the state’s poor financial situation was also the reason for the delay in making political appointments since he could not appoint people into offices without paying them salaries.
The governor explained that the media parley, which was the first since he assumed office and promised to make it a regular session, was to enable the citizens of the state to know what his government has done in its first 100 days in office and to assess his performance.
“I myself have not received a single month salary as I speak with you; we want to settle civil servants salaries first.
“Even those I have appointed so far have not been paid salaries,” he said.
The governor said his administration had, however, paid 5 out of the 7 months workers’ salaries arrears he inherited.
“We will pay the 6th month tomorrow (Monday),” he said.
He also said the state was yet to access the federal government bailout funds, but assured that it will be in the next batch of states to receive the bailout funds within the next one week.
Lalong also explained that he took a loan of N4.5 billion to settle workers’ salaries.
Commenting on the current security challenges which the state was grappling with, the governor disclosed that 150 additional police mobile forces had been deployed to the state to reinforce existing ones on ground in order to curb recurring communal attacks in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas.
Responding to a question on the state funds allegedly stolen by his predecessor, the governor said he had written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate alleged looters.
He described the theft as “naked looting,” and expressed the hope that the anti-graft agency will soon apprehend the suspect and prosecute them.
“In one instance,two months salaries belonging to local governments disappeared from a bank and was later traced to somebody’s account.
“Also, another N6 billion received from the federation account was outrightly looted from the state coffers,” he said.
The governor urged journalists in the state to always strive to be fair, truthful, factual and balance in their reportage in order to help the government to win the war against corruption.
“Media reports should be tailored to help us collectively win the war against corruption and solving the security challenges, and not escalating crisis in the state,” Lalong said.
He added that his administration would welcome constructive criticism from the media, but would not condone journalists who deliberately promote falsehood.
Mr Yakubu Taddy, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Plateau State Council, in his remark, said the media parley was a welcome initiative, which should be sustained.
Taddy appealed to the governor to be media-friendly in order to avoid unnecessary rancour with the press and rumour-peddling about his administration.
The NUJ Chairman, noted that Lalong’s predecessor had held only one interactive session with the media throughout his eight years’ tenure.