This is an Opinion piece by Tunde Tee Olatunji, a Media Aide to Governor Godwin Obaseki.
I finally got around to watching His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom’s interview on Arise TV, where he talked about his party, insecurity in his State and the country, the tussle he is currently in with the Federal Government, and other issues.
One of the things he highlighted was his inability to pay Benue State Civil Servants’ salaries and arrears accumulated over a period. In his words, the Federal Government, one way or another, has been doing everything it can to stifle him and his government. He also fingered NNPC as a culprit in his inability to pay public servants.
That got me thinking about Edo State where I live, and the workers in Edo. I did some research and discovered some interesting numbers. For example, the population of Benue is almost the same as Edo, but the difference in revenue management and generation is staggering.
Since 2016, when @Governor Godwin Obaseki assumed Office, the Internal Generated Revenue, IGR, has increased significantly. Obaseki has been able to increase the IGR of Edo State with close to N4 billion. In the years since 2016, barring 2020, where the Covid-19 pandemic almost crippled economic activity, the IGR of Edo State has steadily been on the increase.
In the 6 years of the Obaseki administration, workers and pensioners of Edo State have never been owed salaries and pensions, and the Governor even went as far back as 2007, to clear backlogs of pensions, dating as far back as the Igbinedion administration.
The Edo State Governor has used every opportunity to let Nigerians know that the country no longer has enough “national cake” for us to share. Stressing the need for the Federal and State Governments to find other sources of revenue. We have all seen his passion for growing and cultivating oil palm.
Edo State is currently the only sub-national amongst 10 countries in West and Central Africa to be a partner with the Tropical Forest Alliance and by extension, have the Africa Palm Oil Initiative Platform.
Palm oil is often seen as the game-changer for the Malaysian economy and Governor Obaseki is convinced that Edo can become great again through palm oil.
Speaking at the inspection of one of the farms, where the Governor has attracted a N35 billion oil palm project (10,000 hectares) to Evboesi, Evbonogbon, Urhonigbe, and neighboring communities in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the State, he said “we are using oil palm to reforest and we expect about 60,000 hectares in Ovia as well. This will become the backbone of our economy in the future and today we are laying the basis for Edo to be Great Again.”
The situation in Benue is the same in most states in Nigeria where workers are owed several months’ salary and pensioners are left to depend on the generosity of family members to live decent lives. Even the Federal Government owes some of its workers.
So, while these governors and the President are struggling to pay their workers, the workers in Edo are still celebrating their minimum wage increase, which was announced on May 1, 2022, and paid in the same month. As it stands today, Edo State is the only state in the country to have increased its minimum wage.
For pensioners, earlier in the week, the state government announced the harmonised payments of pensions to reflect the new minimum wage.
In as much as we would all like to downplay prompt payment of salaries as the bare minimum for any administration, the reality is that governors in Nigeria struggle to fulfill this obligation.
Many Edo workers understand what this increase in their pay translates to. For some, it’s better feeding, for some it’s better schools for their children, for some it’s being able to take care of an aged loved one or simply more enjoyment.
We should count it all joy that Obaseki does not owe workers’ salaries. To take it further, we should all join the movement to Make Edo Great Again because if we do, perhaps Edo State will never struggle to pay its workers in the future.
Edo is blessed to have a forward-thinking Governor like Godwin Obaseki.