Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Finance has urged protesting workers demanding the payment of N.1.2 billion Special Overtime Allowance (SOT) to be patient and understand the prevailing economic situation facing the country.
For three consecutive days, workers drawn from the ministry, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and those of the Offie of the Director General, Budget (Ministry of Budget and National Planning) had barricaded the Finance Ministry headquarters, Abuja, demanding to be paid N1.2 billion SOT, considered illegal by the ministry.
However, the Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was compelled to address the protesting workers on Wednesday and followed up with a meeting with their leaders, which appeared to have temporarily assuaged their grievances.
A statements issued yesterday by the ministry said the minister appealed to the workers to be patient and appreciate the prevailing economic situation in the country.
According to the statement, Adeosun, who had at Wednesday’s meeting listened to the workers’ requests, confirmed that contractual obligations are being met by the government and promised that all genuine complaints and administrative issues will be promptly reviewed.
“However, the N1.2 Billion Special Overtime (SOT) payment being demanded by workers, which had been discontinued since 2014, is neither in the 2016 Budget of the Federal Ministry of Finance nor the Federal Inland Revenue Service from where the funds to cover the allowance had hitherto been sourced.
“The payment of SOT was stopped by the previous administration on the grounds that it was not listed in any extant government Circular, Financial Regulations or the Public Service Rules.
“She therefore urged the workers to be patient and understand the current challenges facing the Nigerian economy.
“The minister was at pains to point out that many people across the country were struggling to find work and that the priority for the government had to be getting the whole economy back on its feet,” the statement added.
The minister’s clarifications, the statement stressed, “came on the heels of inaccurate reports in the media that the Ministry of Finance had promised to pay the N1.2 billion Special Overtime allowance being demanded by the workers.”
In response to the protest on Monday, the ministry had through its Director of Information Alhaji Salisu Na’Inna Dambata, said: “The protests have no justifiable grounds. The payment of what the protesting staff called a Special Overtime (SOT), was stopped by the last administration in 2014 on the ground that it was not listed in any extant government Circular, Financial Regulations or the Public Service Rules.”