In a disheartening state of affairs, a significant number of outgoing, returning, and sitting governors in Nigeria are burdening their respective states with a mounting pile of unpaid gratuities, pensions, and salaries. As the nation grapples with economic challenges, the consequences of this financial turmoil are dire for both current employees and retirees.
Startling figures indicate that 34 governors, including 27 currently in office, have failed to settle the overwhelming backlog of unpaid gratuities, while a staggering 27 of them struggle to meet multi-billion naira pension arrears. To compound the issue, 13 states grapple with salary arrears and various unpaid benefits owed to their employees.
A recent investigation conducted by Vanguard reveals the extent of the problem. Among the affected regions, four states in the South-East, four in the South-West, and five in the Northern region are burdened with unpaid salaries. On the pension front, five states in the South-West, five in the South-East, 15 in the North, and two in the South-South face accumulating pension debts. Regrettably, only a handful of states are reported to be up-to-date on gratuity payments.
In Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is serving his second term and is due to finish next year, inherited a considerable backlog of seven months of salary arrears. While commendable progress has been made, with six of those months paid, the workers are still awaiting the clearance of arrears from January 2017 and two months for local government employees. The outstanding gratuity debt in Ondo State amounts to a staggering N27 billion for state workers and N36 billion for local government workers. In an attempt to address this alarming issue, Governor Akeredolu launched a special intervention plan, releasing N300 million monthly to gradually settle the gratuity debts, with payments made up to 2014.
Similarly, in Ekiti State, Governor Biodun Oyebanji, who assumed office last year, inherited a daunting N40 billion unpaid gratuity burden from his predecessor. Through concerted efforts, the state government has managed to reduce the arrears to one month for state civil servants and two months for local government workers. Additionally, three months’ worth of pension arrears have been paid, as the government disbursed N500 million to state pensioners and N138 million to local government pensioners.
The challenges persist across various regions, with Lagos State facing demands from workers for the settlement of pension entitlements since 2020. Meanwhile, the South-South zone, which comprises six states, including Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers, struggles with consistently paying gratuities and pensions, except for Akwa Ibom, which manages to meet its monthly pension obligations.
The dire situation extends further, as other states, such as Oyo, Delta, Enugu, Abia, Anambra, and Imo, confront the daunting task of addressing significant pension and gratuity debts, leaving many retirees anxiously awaiting their long-overdue benefits.
Conclusion: The mounting burden of unpaid gratuities, pension arrears, and salary backlogs paints a distressing picture of financial crisis and negligence within Nigerian sub-region governance. As outgoing, returning, and sitting governors leave their respective offices, they leave behind a legacy of financial hardship for workers and retirees. Urgent and comprehensive measures are needed to address this crisis, ensuring accountability, transparency, and long-overdue financial relief for those affected. Failure to act promptly would perpetuate the suffering of employees and retirees, eroding public trust and further exacerbating Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges.