Kogi: Workers kick against forced salaries’ accounts

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

The organized labour in Kogi State has kicked against the decision of the state government to open ‘unsolicited salaries’ accounts’ with Access and Zenith Bank on behalf of civil servants without their consent. State Chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers, (NUT), Comrade Suleiman Abdullahi, has also condemned the new development, which he said has subjected teachers and other workers to untold hardships.

The Guardian findings indicate that the government opened accounts for genuine workers who were cleared after the screening exercise before commencing payment of salaries. The organized Labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Negotiation Council (JNC), made their position known in a statement jointly issued yesterday in Lokoja. In the statement, which was jointly signed by State Chairman of NLC, Onuh Edoka, TUC Chairman, Ojo Ranti and JNC Chairman, Aaron Akeji, the organised Labour described the new policy of government as an infringement on the fundamental human rights of workers to personal accounts with any bank of their choice.

They noted that Labour was not convinced with the reasons given by governor Yahaya Bello over government’s decision on the issue, adding that the development would further compound the hardships already facing workers in the state. “Workers are advised to be careful in rushing to perfect the un-solicited Accounts opened for them with the Access and Zenith Banks Plc., as withdrawals within the state will take a longer time than necessary and subject them to untold hardship, while withdrawals outside the state will make the state government declare them as workers in diaspora as being captured in the current screening exercise”, the statement said.

Labour therefore demand for immediate reversal to the status quo of paying workers salaries through their existing bank accounts that they have been using over time for their salaries. According to the NUT chairman, “Both Zenith and Access bank do not have the capability to undertake the payment of the salary of teachers, local government staff and the entire workers in this State.

Whoever is concerned, we are appealing that they retrace their steps for sanity to come back”, he said. But governor Yahaya Bello said there were reasons why the government chose Access and Zenith Bank to pay workers’ salaries. “Due to the prevailing economic situation, cash reserves of commercial banks domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria are currently competing for so many pressing needs simultaneously, making it increasingly difficult for the commercial banks to finance loan facilities, especially long-term ones.

“Access and Zenith Banks were however able to step up to the plate when Kogi State approached them. They made the first tranche of the state’s bailout funds available, but on one small condition. That the funds remain domiciled in their banks. If you ask me, and without giving it too much thought, it does make perfect business sense.

“These banks offer essentially homogeneous services, especially in this case where we are talking salary accounts. It would have been odd were Access and Zenith to be so liberal as to allow other banks benefit from an exclusive market they have basically created. So, rather than make these funds available to the state government to pay workers through other banks, why not internalise the entire process and start reaping accruable benefits from the get go? he said.

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