The Kogi chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged the Federal Government to release the N30.8 billion balance of bailout fund to the state government to enable it settle salaries, pensions and gratuity.
Dr John Ibenu, its chairman, made the call on Tuesday in Lokoja, in a speech to accept his re-election to lead the body.
“I want to make a special appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to release the outstanding balance of N30.8 billion bailout fund to enable the government meet its financial obligations to workers and pensioners.
“The payment will help to alleviate the suffering of workers and pensioners and shore up economic activities in the state,” he said.
The Bishop, however, dismissed allegations that he was “supporting and dining with the state government in spite of her inability to pay workers’ salaries and pensions”.
“God is my witness; I have defrauded or oppressed no one. We have tried our best and our conscience is clear.
“The government can also bear witness that we have conducted ourselves as a very responsible spiritual organisation.
“We do not claim to being perfect, but we try to do our best to keep a good conscience,” Ibenu said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the Chairman thereafter led CAN members into a prayer session in which they begged to God to heal, help and have mercy on Kogi, raising the state’s logo, flag and emblem as the point of contact.
In his remarks, Gov. Yahaya Bello, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Folashade Ayoade, said that the government was trying her best to clear arrears of salaries of the state’s genuine workers.
Bello noted that N80 billion was initially applied for, from the bailout fund, but that only 50.8 billion was eventually approved by the federal government.
“Out of the N50.8 billion approved, only N20 billion has been released, leaving an outstanding balance of N30.8 billion.
“The N20 billion was judiciously used to pay salaries and pensions of workers; N10 billion for state workers and the other N10 billion for local government workers.
“For the sake of clarity, I want to state that Kogi government is owing between four to five months salary arrears of genuine workers, and not 30 months, as reported in some sections of the media,” he said.
Earlier, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr Edward Onoja, had said that the governor had been able to erase inequality in governance by neutralising tribal and religious differences.
Onoja added that the state government had also performed very well in uniting the people, and had excelled in the areas of security, infrastructure, health, education, civil service reforms, among others.
The chief of staff urged the media practitioners to be professional and not bias in their reportage; report that is free of sentiments and assumptions, saying the media must report what they see.
On her part, the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Rosemary Osikoya, appealed to the church leaders to ensure that children were taught quality doctrine inline with the precepts of God.
She also urged schools particularly those under denomination of various churches to ensure that they operate with the confine of law and policy guiding the establishment of schools in the state.
Osikoya stressed the need for every school to have a functional School Based Management Committee (SBMC), for effective framework for school administration.
Dr Israel Akanji, the CAN Chairman, North Central Zone, who inaugurated the new state executive members, urged them to serve willingly and gladly without compulsion.
“I want you to know that your lives are being read like books; so, do not allow your actions and attitudes to discourage others,” Akanji advised.
Other re-elected members of the State CAN executive include: Vice-Chairman: Pastor Isaac Okhime; Gen. Sec.: Pastor Cornelius Abraham; Asst. Sec.: Dr Frank Paul, and Treasurer: Pastor Matthew Bayo.