Osun disburses N19.6b for payment of salaries, pension, others

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…As BP, others shun Nigeria’s crude oil over prices***

Osun State government says N19.8‎ billion has been disbursed for the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.The amount, according to Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Bola Oyebamiji, covers full salaries for August 2018, arrears, and pension from September to December 2015‎ as well as leave bonuses.

Oyebamiji said Governor Rauf Aregbesola gave the directive for the payment after consultation with the labour unions and other stakeholders in the state.The commissioner, who addressed the media at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance, State Secretariat, Osogbo, yesterday disclosed that the payment was made with the N16.6 billion latest Paris Club refund received by the state from the Federal Government.

He said the state government added N3 billion accrued from other sources to the Paris Club refund to ensure that all the workers are paid.According to him, this is not the first time the Aregbesola administration will commit such lump sums received from the Federal Government to payment of salaries and pensions.

Oyebamiji recalled that in November 2016, the state government received N11.4 billion Paris Club refund and the following month disbursed N13.6 billion ‎to pay active and passive workers as salaries, pensions, leave bonuses and other emoluments.

Similarly, he noted that N924 million was paid in the same 2016 to cover the leave bonus of September to December, “‎Again, in July 2017, the government received N6.3 billion as the second tranche of Paris Club refund and paid N6 billion as salaries, pensions and leave bonuses. The breakdown is as follows: N3.76 billion as workers salaries, N504 million as leave bonuses, N791 million as pension and N935 million as salaries in the Local Governments.

“Since the commencement of the Aregbesola administration in November 2010, salaries, pensions and workers emoluments had taken not less than 80 per cent of the total revenue of the state. Indeed, a sizeable portion of the state’s debt was incurred on salaries.

“When the administration came, monthly workers salaries was N1.4 billion while pensions was N200 million. However, with the increase of minimum wage from N9,000 to N19,000 and hiking of monthly pensions to N500 million, monthly salaries and pensions rose to N3.6 billion,” he said.

“Though there was a steady increase in revenue till the late 2013, however, by 2014, oil price commenced a steady decline, dropping to as low as $22 in 2015 from the height of more than $100 in 2013,” the commissioner noted.

According to him, the decline in oil revenue has affected revenue accruing to the state from the Federation Account which in turn affected workers across the the federation.

Oyebamiji explained that the option available to the government was to rightsize the workforce, but consultation with labour leaders and other stakeholders under the leadership of Comrade Hassan Sunmonu came up with an ingenuous arrangement of modulated salary whereby workers on grade level 1-7 were paid full salaries, levels 8-12 were put on 75 percent while level 12 and above received 50 percent of their salaries.

The modulated salary sustained the state till July this year when rise in oil price led to an increase in revenue to Osun and the state promptly responded by resuming payment of full salaries for July.“For the second month, we have now paid full salaries to all our workers. It is my hope and prayers that this will be sustained, and we will never have cause to modulate workers salaries in Osun again.” ‎

In the meantime, Nigerian crude oil differentials were largely unchanged yesterday, after a series of offers from Shell for October-loading cargoes drew no buyers, and even BP, which has been an active bidder this week, showed unwillingness to pay higher prices.

Shell was said to be offering at least 10 cargoes with a variety of Nigerian grades, including the four major ones. Reuters quoted traders as saying Shell was showing offers at between $1.90 and $2.00 a barrel above dated Brent, the highest for any of the grades in the last seven months. They added that given where current bidding interest was, the prices were unlikely to be achieved.BP was heard to be bidding for cargoes of Bonga and Forcado loading in early November at around $1.60 above the dated Brent price, down from bids of about $1.75 on Tuesday.

In the absence of the November loading schedules, few were likely to be in a position to sell cargoes for those dates, the traders noted.The British oil major has bought at least seven cargoes linked to the swaps market in the last couple of weeks, but was believed to have possibly bought more, they added.

However, the continued rise in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), otherwise called cooking gas, is likely to be for along time in the face of the challenge foreign exchange as well as infrastructure and planning poses to the market.Against this backdrop more Nigerians might be forced to seek alternative unclean energy sources like firewood and dirty fuels.

This was the position of the Executive Secretary, National Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM), Bassey Essien, and the National Chairman, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers, a branch of Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chika Umudu, in separate interviews with The Guardian.

However, the fortunes of crude oil traders may be boosted with introduction of the InterContinental Exchange (ICE) platform that would be formally operational from September 17.

The facility would facilitate trading in a derivatives’ contract linked to Nigeria’s four largest crude oil grades – Bonny Light, Forcados, Qua Iboe and Bonga.
This comes after the ICE launched its first set of derivatives linked to the West African crude oil market, aimed at an industry that has called for a strengthening of the dated Brent benchmark.

The cash-settled future will be based on a daily assessment by pricing agency S&P Global Platts for a “WAF index” backed by the four grades, each of which would carry a weighting of 25 per cent, according to a note on the ICE website, Reuters reported yesterday.The contract will be based on the differentials of the four crudes to the dated Brent benchmark and would represent 1,000 barrels of oil.

Guardian NG