President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that salaries of Federal Government workers be paid by today to enable Muslim faithful celebrate Eid el-Fitr this weekend, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said.
“Mr. President has ordered an expedited salary payment in view of Sallah holidays that are coming up. We are happy to announce that between today and tomorrow, all those in the Federal payroll should be able to collect their salaries and have a good holiday. This is based on the directive of Mr President,” the minister told a news conference in Abuja yesterday.
This is not the first time that the President was directing for early salary payment to workers, most of whom hardly get paid before month end, but the last such directive did not materialise.
In January, he instructed salary payment by 20th of the month to help cushion the effect of petrol subsidy removal but that directive was not implemented for no clear reason.
“As part of measures to address the discomfort and pains the citizens are going through, Mr. President had directed that by the 20th of this month, salaries in the public service should be paid,” Information Minister Labaran Maku announced on January 4 at the end of an emergency meeting of the Federal Executive Council in the wake of the subsidy removal protests.
But a week into February, the salaries were not paid because of what officials at the account general’s office said were problems caused by the national strike.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala did not say yesterday what steps were taken to ensure the execution of the president’s latest orders on early salary payment.
Most federal workers receive their monthly salaries well into the following month, and in many cases get owed salaries for several months.
Meanwhile, Federal Government’s representatives led by the Minister of Finance went into a closed door meeting with fuel importers, who are threatening to stop importing unless they are paid subsidy claims of about N200 billion.
The threats created fuel crisis in Abuja on Wednesday and yesterday as snaking queues build up at petrol stations, causing hardship to people planning to travel for the Sallah holidays.
Okonjo-Iweala said government was willing to dialogue with the marketers but did not say if their claims would be paid as demanded.
“Those (marketers) whose infractions (in the subsidy regime) may be considered not so egregious, we will be talking to them and if they are willing to talk to us, we will also be willing to settle their claims and they can go on importing,” the minister said.
“But for some of those who are bent on blackmailing the Federal Government even though they have committed very serious infractions in the subsidy claim we are not willing to pay them when they have not cleared their case.”
“There is no holding back or lack of willingness to pay for those who have no case to answer. We are open, we will dialogue with them and we hope that the dialogue will lead to a situation in which they will not be called upon to undertake these actions that are being undertaken now,” she added.