Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, has cried out that henceforth he will be unable to pay salaries to state workers.
Bello, who spoke with State House Correspondents after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Wednesday, said the state was so broke that it will be impossible to continue to pay salaries, adding the state was indebted to banks to the tune of N3bn.
“We have laid the cards on the table; we are not hiding anything. We are very transparent as much as we can but the truth of the matter is that I cannot give what we don’t have. I wish I had; personally if I had, I would have paid (salaries) from my pocket but I can’t,” the governor told reporters.
He said his government had been borrowing from banks since January to add to the allocation from the Federal Government.
With the state debt profile rising, Bello said if the trend is not reversed by December, the debt will rise to N10bn.
He said his government decided to sit with labour leaders and discuss the issue because it could not offer what it did not have.
“I think we should go back to the table. Of course, we can’t give what we don’t have.
“We are facing difficult times now, so let us sit down and see what we can do.
“I really think it is unhealthy to keep on borrowing just to pay salaries. Apart from that, we are not just there to pay salaries, there are a lot of issues.
“I got a call this morning from one Girls’ Secondary School that their roof is off in six out of seven dormitories. Where will they sleep? Now if I take the whole revenue and pay salaries, how am I going to fix schools, hospitals?”, the Governor queried.
He said the state has a population of over four million, while he put the civil service strength at about 40,000.
Bello explained that with N1.5bn from federation account, the state still had to borrow to pay 40,000 people against over three million people that it needed to cater for.
He said nobody should be blamed for the sharp drop in oil price, the Governor stressed everybody should be ready to make sacrifices.
He said, “I am willing to make sacrifices, all my appointees are willing to make sacrifices.
“We have shown example by cutting down our expenditure, we have cut down the expenses of the Government House from N150m a week to between N20m and N25 million a week.
“So we have cut down Government House expenditure by over 70 per cent and I mean these are all sacrifices.”