Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has lamented the economic predicament in the country and vowed to scale down the state’s monthly staff wage bill, which he said, currently stood at N7.9b.
Ortom, who said the state government could no longer sustain the huge monthly wage bill, disclosed that the administration has already commenced a forensic audit of its work force to weed out ghost workers on its payroll, as well as determine personnel who are due for retirement.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, Ortom said the staff audit, which would last for three months is expected to end the challenge of salaries and facilitate quick payment to workers being owed at the state and local council levels.
He explained that the wage bill at the state level was currently N4. 2b while that of council stood at N3.7b monthly.
“I declared a state of emergency on payment of salaries and I want to have the capacity to pay salaries as and when due because a worker deserves his wages. We discovered that there were so many leakages on our payroll due to ghost workers and infiltration.
“I think a wage bill of over N3.2b at the state level is too much. Then when you add pensions and gratuity you are talking about N4.2b. It is too much for Benue State. At the local government level, you have a wage bill of N3.7 b. So, N7.9b for a state like Benue is not decent enough.
“Ghost workers, those who were due for retirement are still in the service, those who are dead are still collecting salaries and all that. So, we believe that at the end of the day, we will scale down to a level in which we will be able to pay salaries as and when due,” he said.
Ortom added that his administration inherited a monthly wage bill of N8.2b from former Governor Gabriel Suswan’s administration but reduced it to N7.9b, which the government would further scale down.
He, however, expressed happiness with the commencement of yams export to the United Kingdom and America, which he noted, would boost government’s economic diversification drive.