Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello on Wednesday declared that he is finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries due to the currently economic hardship the country is facing.
Bello made the disclosure while addressing State House correspondents shortly after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Bello, “We have laid the cards on the table; we are not hiding anything. We are very transparent as much as we can but the truth of the matter is that I cannot give what we don’t have. I wish I had; personally if I had, I would have paid (salaries) from my pocket but I can’t.”
Noting that his government as at May ending was indebted to the tune of N3bn, the governor said the state government had been borrowing from banks since January to augment whatever comes as Federal allocation.
Bello while stressing that should the trend continues till December, his state’s debt profile will have risen to N10bn, maintained that it was not healthy for the state government to continue borrowing to pay salaries.
“We are facing difficult times now, so let us sit down and see what we can do.
I really think it is unhealthy to keep on borrowing just to pay salaries. Apart from that, we are not just there to pay salaries, there are a lot of issues.
“I got a call this morning from one Girls’ Secondary School that their roof is off in six out of seven dormitories. Where will they sleep? Now if I take the whole revenue and pay salaries, how am I going to fix schools, hospitals?” the governor wondered.
The governor revealed that with N1.5bn from federation account, the state still had to borrow to pay 40,000 civil servants against over three million people that needed to be catered for.
He, however, called on people of the state to make sacrifices, saying nobody should be blamed for the sharp drop in oil price which has brought untold hardship on the state.
“I am willing to make sacrifices, all my appointees are willing to make sacrifices.
“We have shown example by cutting down our expenditure, we have cut down the expenses of the Government House from N150m a week to between N20m and N25 million a week.
“So we have cut down Government House expenditure by over 70 per cent and I mean these are all sacrifices,” he said.