For more than two years, over 610 staff from 34 local government areas of Katsina, whose salaries were allegedly withheld by the state government, have been living in difficulties Dailytrust, reports.
Kano Chronicle gathered that so far six of the affected staff have lost their lives while many others are still battling with different health conditions without means to access medication.
Their salaries were said to have been withheld due to their inability to turn out for staff verification exercise conducted by the state government for local government workers.
Though the matter has been before the National Industrial Court in Kano for some time, up till the last sitting of the court (yesterday) the truce has not been reached between the government and the affected workers.
Some of the affected workers who visited Daily Trust Kano Regional Office recounted their ordeals.
One of them, Aminu Ahmed Ingawa said many had died from frustration associated with non-payment of their salaries.
“As I speak to you six people have died because of frustration and psychological trauma related to this issue, while many others are in serious health conditions.
“You can imagine a family man who is a salary earner staying for 26 months without salaries,” he said.
He added that the development had led to many families and children withdrawn from schools over the failure of their parents to settle their school fees.
Ingawa who was a level 13 civil servant said in his entire years of service he had never received query or warning as a result of any act of misdemeanor until his salaries were stopped for unjustifiable cause.
“I have been working for 17 years on level 13 and never had an issue, some of us have been on the job for 29 to 30 years without any issue until this sudden development,” he said.
Jibril Lawal Malumfashi, another affected worker, said, “For over 19 years of service my salary has never been delayed for two weeks without an explanation until now in which today we are counting 26 months without salaries.
“This situation has subjected us to a lot of hardships. Apart from the people that lost their lives, many have sold their properties in order to sustain their families, and for others, their wives have deserted them.”
Malumfashi appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter to facilitate speedy payment of their salary arrears.
“It is unfortunate that some local government staff in Katsina state are owing salaries for 26 months given the Paris club funds distributed to governors to offset salaries of workers in their respective states,” he lamented.
Counsel to the 610 complainants, Barrister Kamaluddin Umar blamed the state government for the delay in the settlement of the matter out of court as it earlier requested.
He said, “The matter was slated for the final report of the settlement, because the state government and other defendants initiated settlement proceedings, that they should better settle the case outside of the court. So we agreed to their call but they have not presented any terms of settlement up till today, and in fact today the defendants were not even represented in the court. Therefore, the matter is now adjourned to the 10th day of May 2018 for the final report of settlement or hearing.”
Speaking about the position of the government to reinstate the affected staff to their respective positions the legal practitioner said “the reinstatement will take effect when there is termination of appointment. Their appointment has not been terminated. They said they are going to reinstate them, then they would see what they could do about their arrears. They are not certain whether they are going to pay the arrears or not.”
Kano Chronicle observed that joined as co-defendants in the case are the Katsina state’s attorney general and commissioner for justice, commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, state’s chairman of local government service commission as well as the chairman, state’s civil service commission.
The complainants urged the court to compel the defendants to pay the sum of N500m as general and aggravated damages besides payment of their salaries and other entitlements.
It would be recalled that at the commencement of the proceedings before Justice E.D.E Isele in October last year, counsels to the defendants led by Barrister Abu Umar filed a notice of preliminary objection praying the court to strike out the case due to some oversights in the filing of the suit.
He argued that the ministry for local government and chieftaincy affairs, the local government service commission, as well as the state’s civil service commission in the suit, were not juristic persons who could either sue or be sued.
He appealed to the court to strike out the case for failure to comply with rules, Barrister Kamaluddin Umar who led the counsel for the claimants however objected.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the governor on Labour Relations, Alhaji Salisu Jibiya, said :”this group of workers might have fall into the perceived ghost workers who could not turned up at the screening excercise of local government workers.”
He however said the state government and the state House of Assembly have setup a committee to look into their case with a view to addressing it appropriately.