At least 428 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, in the federal civil service have reportedly exhausted their 2020 personnel costs and are, therefore, unable to pay salaries.
Funds meant for personnel costs are domiciled in accounts overseen by the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, department in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF.
But an official of the Ministry of Finance who pleaded anonymity, told Vanguard yesterday that it was strange for MDAs to claim to have exhausted their personnel budgets before end of a fiscal year.
He said each MDA has a budget for personnel costs and wondered how anyone would claim there was no money to pay salaries.
According to him, chief executive officers of such MDAs have to explain what is happening.
However, the situation is such that the morale of officers and men of the Federal Fire Service, FFS, for instance, is now at an all-time low, following inability of the Ibrahim Alhaji Liman-led management of the service to pay salaries of the operatives for the past two months.
Consequently, there are grumblings within the service, with plans by some personnel to stay away from work, saying they could no longer continue to borrow money to come to work.
While the operatives used to receive their salaries between 26th and 29th of every month, the situation took a dramatic turn in September as they were not paid.
Hopes that they would be paid in days became dashed when weeks after, they were still not paid. A similar situation recurred in the month of October.
Many of the operatives, who spoke with Vanguard, said life had become increasingly difficult for them as they are unable to meet financial obligations while they have exhausted their goodwill with their neighbours and can no longer continue to borrow money to feed and go to work.
It was learned that the situation is not different in many other MDAs.
“Schools were only recently reopened after the COVID-19 induced lock-down. This is the time to pay fees. Some of us have more than one child in school. Where do we get the money to pay the fees?” a staff in one of the MDAs lamented.
Another personnel who also declined to give his name for fear of possible sanctions, said he was tired of borrowing from neighbours.
He said: “I am deployed in one of the states where state workers are not even paid on time. Now, the Federal Government has not paid me for the past two months. Who do I borrow from? Is it from my neighbours who are state civil servants and who have also not been paid or who are paid in percentages?
“My wife sells foodstuffs. As I speak, we have exhausted all she had in the shop. My situation is even better. There are some couples who are both staff of the service. Only God knows how those ones have been surviving.
“We are not even talking about allowances or beverages that should be given to operations staff. We are asking for our salaries. They blame us for speaking in the social media but the truth is that most of us did not even say anything on the social media.
“When our creditors come to ask for debt repayments and we keep telling them that we have not been paid, definitely the news will get out to the public because those ones will start spreading tales about how we owe them and have refused to pay back.”
The Federal Fire Service had issued two circulars within one month regarding the situation. In the first circular dated October 14, 2020, and signed by the Director, Finance and Accounts of the Service, Agholor Michael, the paramilitary agency sought to downplay the development, saying it was not the only one affected.
“This is to inform the personnel of the service that delay in the payment of September 2020 salary was due to insufficient funds in the Federal Fire Service personnel cost head, just like other MDAs.
“Consequent upon the above, relevant agencies have been contacted and efforts are in top gear to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the circular stated.
Vanguard checks, however, revealed that other services in the Ministry of Interior are not caught in the same web of non-payment of salaries.
Aside from the Federal Fire Service, other agencies in the ministry are the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, the Nigeria Correctional Service, NcoS, and the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS.
However, in another circular dated October 30, 2020, the service was specific in stating that 428 “Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments of the Federal Government” are affected.
The circular, signed by the Deputy Controller-General (Admin & Supplies), Mr Quintus G. Azogu, on behalf of the Controller General read: “I am directed to inform all personnel of the Service that the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, department of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF, was unable to pay salaries since September 2020 due to insufficient fund in the Services 2020 Personnel budgetary allocation.
“Similarly, about four hundred and twenty-eight (428) Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments of the Federal Government were affected.
“However, the Service is in touch with the relevant authorities of Federal Ministry of Finance to ensure that this delay is resolved as soon as possible to enable the payment of outstanding salaries for the year 2020.
“To this effect, I am further directed to seek the understanding, patience and cooperation of all personnel, pending the resolution of the matter.”
Vanguard recalls that the Energy Commission of Nigeria ECN had in a similar circular dated October 5, 2020, advanced the same reason for its inability to pay the staff.
Director, Finance & Accounts of the ECN, Cletus D. Nnah, who signed the circular on behalf of the commission’s Director-General/CEO, had said the development affected 422 agencies.
The circular read: “I am directed to inform all staff of the commission that the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, department of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation was unable to pay our September, 2020 salary due to insufficient fund in the commission’s 2020 personnel budgetary allocation.
“However, the commission in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) and OAGF IPPIS department is liaising with the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF) to obtain authority to incur expenditure for payment of our outstanding salary for the year 2020. This delay is affecting about 422 agencies of the government and will be resolved quickly.
“Consequently, I am also directed to solicit the cooperation of all staff to be patient with the government, pending the resolution of this matter. You are also kindly advised to be prudent with whatever salary you receive within this fiscal 2020. Please be assured of the Director-General/CEO’s warm regards, and best wishes.”
Some staff of this agency also said life had been tough for them and their families, wondering how government expected to cope with the present inflationary trend in the country.
A staff who pleaded anonymity lamented: “It’s been tough surviving. Another month (October) has ended now and there is no sign that he will be paid. How does one survive?”
While it was not clear how the personnel costs were exhausted, checks revealed that it was either the funds were deployed for other purposes or that the affected agencies overshot their recruitment allocation, in which case they recruited new personnel above what was approved for them.