The grim reality of non-payment of workers’ salaries in most states of the federation is biting harder.
At least over 1,300 civil servants and retirees have died in most states of the federation as a result of hunger, sickness and frustration, among others.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that most of the workers and the retirees died because of their inability to pay for medical treatments amid other challenges.
A recent report had indicated that no fewer than 27 states had been unable to pay their workers’ salaries.
Investigation revealed that the largest number of the deaths was recorded in Osun State.
The Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress in Osun State, Mr. Jacob Adekomi, could not give the exact number of workers who died in the state since the salary crisis started. But the Chairman, Forum of 2011/2012 Retirees in Osun State, Mr. Omoniyi Ilesanmi, told one of our correspondents on Thursday that 1,130 retirees, who were among members of the forum, had died as a result of their inability to access medical care.
He said, “We are owed nine months’ pensions now. This is pathetic because our people are hungry and many of them are sick and have no means of taking care of themselves.”
The forum’s secretary, Mr. Sola Olojede, named some of the dead as Samuel Taiwo Osewa, Amusa Adesokan, Bolanle Obadare, Senle Sunday, Gabriel Ajayi, E.O Olaniyi and Omodara Idowu.
Others, according to him, are Kosile Kehinde, Osunsanmi D.A, Fasoyin G.A, Facility, Odediran, Mrs. Oluyemisi Adetoye (former Financial Secretary, Osun State Association of Pensioners), Yemisi Daramola, Moses Olawuni, Adeoye and Kola Orabiyi.
No fewer than 100 workers also died in Kwara State between September, 2015 and June 30, 2016.
The Kwara State Secretary, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, Abayomi Afolabi, told one of our correspondents that of the 100 deaths, nine was recorded in Ilorin West Local Government Area alone.
He listed the dead workers as Mallam Ibrahim Salmon Anifowose (Admin. Dept.), Mrs. Hajarat Bola (Health Dept.), Ahmed Bakare (Health Dept.); Olarewaju Idowu (Admin. Dept.), Rasheed Warrah (Works Dept.), Nurudeen Ayinla (Agric. Dept), Binta Anafi (Health Dept.), Muritala Sulu (Admin. Dept), and Sulyman Jimba (Works Dept) – all from Ilorin West Local Government Area.
Others from Ilorin South Local Government Area are Sheriff Sule (Admin. Dept), Abdulraham Ayinde (Works Dept.) and Sikirat Amuda (Finance Dept.).
The following workers died in Ilorin East: Otolorin Kehinde (Works Dept.), Oseni Amuda (Works Dept.), Toyin Ibrahim (Works Dept.), Amuda Dauda (Works Dept.), Jimoh Akaraba (Health Dept.), Rasaq Agunbiade (Finance Dept.), Mr. Yekini Agunbiade and Jimoh Alao (Health Dept.)
Ekiti Local Government Area in Kwara State also lost the following workers: Obafemi Abiodun (Treasury Dept), Musebu Lawrence (Treasury Dept), James Afolayan (Works Dept); Tosin Taiwo (Works Dept), Suleiaman Issa (Agric Dept), and Olasehinde Sunday (Health Dept.)
Many teaching and non-teaching staff were also said to have died in Kwara State due to hunger.
Among them was a 59-year-old gatekeeper at the Ansaru-l-Islam Primary School, Ilorin. It was learnt that two days before his death, the gatekeeper, who was simply referred to as Baba Gani, complained of hunger.
A civil servant in the state, who gave his name as Mustapha, added that a teacher died of cardiac arrest.
Mustapha said, “A woman was travelling to collect some percentage of her December salary in Asa where she was teaching when she was crushed to death by a commercial motorcyclist.”
Of the six workers who died in Ekiti State, one of them, a teacher with St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Isasa, Aramoko Ekiti, Mrs. Emily Odedeji, committed suicide.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Odedeji borrowed loan from a bank and also owed fellow teachers. She had hoped to pay the debts from her salary when paid. But when the January salary was paid, the bank deducted all the outstanding. She was left with nothing and that might be the reason why she decided to end her life.”
The head teacher of St Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Mrs. Anthonia Adegoye, confirmed Odedeji’s death.
The Ekiti State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Raymond Adesanmi, also confirmed the deaths of the six workers in the state.
“Their death is painful and would have been avoidable if salaries were paid,” he said.
In Edo and Imo states, 40 sick workers died because of their inability to afford the huge cost of health care.
The Secretary of NULGE in Edo State, Mr. Chukwuemeka Aguonye, said the avoidable deaths were disturbing.
Imo State NULGE boss, Ambrose Onuoha, said, “I have been attending many burial ceremonies of our members. I feel very bad about the situation. Salaries are not paid as and when due, even when they are paid, they are slashed.”
In the same vein, 17 workers in Benue and two in Kogi states were confirmed to have died of hunger and lack of medical care.
The Nigeria Labour Congress Chairman in the state, Godwin Anya, said, “Yes if you are a civil servant and you are sick and unable to access medical care, definitely you will die.
Alhaji Saliu Ya-Ndasura, a watchman with the Lokoja Local Government Education Authority, slumped and died as workers in Kogi State protested non-payment of their salaries for at least six months by the state government. A similar case was earlier reported when a middle-aged man died in Okene owing to lack of money to purchase drugs.
Though the exact figure of workers lost to hunger, frustration and others in Ondo State could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report, the Chairman, Joint Negotiation Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress in the state, Mr. Sunday Adeleye, said labour unions had lost many members to avoidable deaths.
Chairman, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria in Bayelsa State, Mr. Tari Dounana, said the congress had not recorded any death among its members, but cases of the deaths of pensioners were on the rise.
The state Chairman, Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Chief Bodi Amaran, recalled that two pensioners died and three others slumped recently during a verification of retirees at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex in Yenagoa.
The heat of the unpaid salaries was also felt by lecturers at Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu Ijebu, Ogun State.
The chairman of the college’s academic staff union, Dr. Dan Oludipe, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the institution had lost some members due to lack of funds to access good medical care when they were ill.
Oludipe said between 2014 and June 2016, the institution lost no fewer than five teaching and non-teaching staff.
He listed the dead as Mr. Simeon Mabadeje (Agric. Dept.), Dr. Biodun Apooyin (PHE Dept.), Mr. Taiwo Otenaike (English Dept.), Mrs. Kemi Olaoye (Library) and Mr. A. Adebolu.
The situation is not different in Oyo State. Just recently, a teacher at Saint Luke’s Grammar School, Molete, Nasiru Lukman, slumped in a classroom. The vice-principal of the same school, Emmanuel Olajide, also died a few days after as a result of hunger.
NLC Chairman in the state, Waheed Olojede, told one of our correspondents that the situation was due to non-payment of workers’ salaries, which he said hindered them from accessing adequate medication.
In Bauchi State, no fewer than 20 pensioners have died while undergoing verification.
Chairman of the pensioners’ union in the state, Alhaji Abu Gar, said the state government was insensitive to the workers’ plight.
It was learnt that the last time pensioners received gratuities in Cross River State was in May, 2013. Chairman of the state Union of Teachers, Mr. Eyo-Nsa Itam, told one of our correspondents that many retired teachers had died in the state without receiving their gratuities.
Governors urge patience, workers’ understanding
Governors have expressed sympathy with the workers over their plight. They urged the workers to be patient and sought their understanding over the current economic situation in the country.
The Kwara State Governor, AbdulFatah Ahmed, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said he was saddened over the plight of the workers.
Akorede said, “The governor expects that the situation will be rectified in no distant time. The state government is considering taking over the funding of junior secondary education from local government administration so that the burden on the local government will be reduced.”
The Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, said the situation was unfortunate.
Abubakar, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Mr. Sabo Mohammed, said, “It is unfortunate. If you look at it nationally due to the dwindling resources at the coffers of both the federal and state governments, civil servants have not been able to fare well.”
Ortom’s Special Adviser on Media and Information Communication Technology, Tarhav Agezua, said the Benue State governor regretted his inability to pay workers’ salaries as and when due.
Tarhav said, “The state government is making concerted effort to recover the N107bn looted by past administration to pay the arrears of workers’ salaries.”
Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, and his neighbouring Ondo State counterpart, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, admitted that life had been difficult for workers, while urging them to be patient.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, assured the state civil servants that they would be paid their February salaries soon. Also, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, appealed to the workers to bear with the government as the problem would soon be resolved.
A Consultant to the Osun State Government on Information, Mr. Sunday Akere, said the state government had paid pensions up till March 2016.
He said it might be true that some pensioners had died, but their deaths were not caused by the few months of pensions owed them.
Akere said, “When bailout was given last year, payment of pensions was not factored in, but the governor said the pensioners should also benefit from the money.