The Abia State Government has said it would pay salary arrears owed workers in the state civil service, in tranches.

The Commissioner for Finance, Mr Mike Akpara, made this known on Tuesday during a press conference in Umuahia.

Akpara expressed the determination of the present administration to completely change the narrative of owing workers salaries because “a worker deserves his wages”.

According to him, the present administration inherited a debt of N16.5 billion of salary arrears owed to workers in state-owned institutions of learning.

He said that the government had resolved to clear the arrears, and ensured that the advancement it recorded in other sectors of the economy would be sustained.

“We need to jump-start the economy of the state, and for the velocity of money to improve in Abia, we need to stop going to bed by 7 pm.

“For salary arrears, the governor has set up machinery in motion to ensure that salary arrears would become a thing of the past.

“One thing I will promise is that it will be paid but it is not going to be in one sweep.

“We will do it in instalments so that it does not hamper the progress of another sector of the economy,” he said.

Akpara said that the government would commence payment of the salary arrears owed workers of state-owned institutions of learning by “July or August”, with the hope of completing payments by the end of the year.

He said that the total amount of salaries owed to all the institutions was N16.5billion and the government was expected to pay those arrears and do something in other sectors.

Akpara said that the state-owned institutions of higher learning include Abia State University (ABSU) College of Education, Arochukwu, College of Health Sciences, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba and Abia State University Teaching Hospital.

The commissioner said that the government had paid the salary arrears for April and May owed workers in ABSU.

“We decided to run away from situations where subventions are being given to them, yet they are unable to pay salaries.

“In the past, there was something called generate and use and we noticed that things were not being done properly, a situation where salaries are being owed for 11 months, 33 months, and 22 months, respectively, in most of those institutions.

“As a matter of fact, the past government owed Abia Polytechnic -33 months, College of Education Arochukwu -22 months, and Abia State University -11 months.

“Hospital Management Board was owed for several months. Theirs was humongous that they downtrod.

“We also have ASUBEB and SEMB, the total amounts being owed to them is over N4billion.”

He said that it was unfair for people to begin to call names and refer to Governor Alex Otti of Abia as a liar, and urged the people to support the policies and programmes of the government.

Akpara said that the present administration had not applied for any loan facility since its assumed office and had been managing its finances well enough to fulfil its obligations on time.

He said that the previous administration began the process of requesting loans from the Africa Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank.

He said they were completing what the past administration started, since ”government is a continuum”.

Akpara added that the loans had not been released to the government, and we have been managing our resources.

He said that the government had resolved to continue to conduct verification exercises whenever the need arises to restore sanity in the civil service.

“We will continue to apply ourselves to the good works that the state requires to ensure that the people get the dividend of democracy,” Akpara said.