Posted by News Express | 25 April 2020 | 557 times
This year’s Ramadan fast started throughout the country yesterday, but the holy month will be observed under unusual circumstances as Muslim faithful in several states face the coronavirus lockdown amid unpaid salaries.
Muslims face a peculiar Ramadan period this year with virtual lockdown in almost all sectors of the nation’s economy and social life as evidenced by the highly recommended social distancing and movement restrictions. The beginning of the fast is made more unusual among civil servants who have yet to get this month’s salaries.
In Bauchi State for instance which is under partial lockdown, civil servants are yet to get their April salaries, same as in many other states.
A Bauchi-based civil servant said as a civil service state, nothing goes on without salaries.
“I am currently under personal lockdown because of the unpaid salary. I cannot buy anything for the Ramadan fast. Yesterday, my neighbor gave me N1000 to buy some items to start the fast, unlike before when the government usually paid workers even before the month end to assist us prepare for the fast,” he said.
Another civil servant said; “I have two wives and six children, I’m supposed to stockpile food items to feed them, but I cannot because there is no money, and that has greatly affected our kitchen. We are still waiting for the salary.
“In the past, the situation was different, I am supposed to buy some things for my children in preparation for Sallah to avoid exploitation from traders, but with the inability of the state government to pay salaries, the hope is completely dashed. And this lockdown will not allow someone to explore other options to look for money, so we are in a deep problem, but God will intervene.”
Elsewhere in Kaduna, civil servants said they were in “double lockdown”, as they expected their salaries earlier than now to cushion the effects of the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state to curtail spread of COVID-19.
As at yesterday afternoon they were yet to get salary alerts.
“We are facing a double lockdown,” said a civil servant with the Ministry of Justice who requested anonymity. “We are not yet paid and we are not allowed to go out even when Ramadan has commenced, that is double lockdown,” he said.
He said the administration of Malam Nasir El-Rufai was known to pay salaries on time and was considerate at festivities including the Ramadan period, adding, “I can’t say what caused the delay this year but the government had in the past considered the month of Ramadan when it came to salary payment.”
Another civil servant said, “We were hopeful that salaries would be paid on Friday, especially since the Ramadan has commenced but from all indications, we are not getting it perhaps till next week.”
He said he expected the salary as feeding his family had been a challenge since the lockdown started.
“It is very disturbing because many times, one does not know what to do or how to get food for the family but all we can say is Alhamdulillah.
“I just pray that this pandemic comes to an end soon so that we can go back to our normal lives because it is really taking a toll on poor families like mine,” he said.
Gombe State workers are also complaining over non-payment of their April salaries. The situation, according to our correspondent, has thrown most of them into confusion, especially with the dust-to-dawn curfew hanging in the state to curtail spread of COVID-19. Checks revealed that civil servants have not received their April salaries, making it difficult to prepare for the Ramadan. Apart from civil servants, those in the informal sector whose means of livelihood are affected by the shutdown are also lamenting non availability of palliatives to cushion their sufferings.
Some civil servants said they resorted to collecting foodstuff on credit pending when their salaries are paid. “When I realized that the salary was not forthcoming, I went to a shop that I normally patronized and got foodstuff on credit, and I hope to settle it when the salary is paid,” he said. Musa, another civil servant, said he only bought what he could afford with his little savings. “It is not easy, so I just bought a few items with the little I had pending when the government pays the salaries, then I can make proper arrangement for the Ramadan,” he said.
Checks at markets in the metropolis also showed that even those who were allowed to operate despite the lockdown were also affected by the non-payment of salaries as their shops were mostly patronized by workers.
A vegetable seller, Suleiman Tukur, said he spent a lot of money buying tomatoes and pepper but there are no buyers for now.
“I bought one hundred baskets of tomatoes, but as you can see there are no buyers, workers are not paid, I am afraid they will got rotten if I don’t sell them on time because I don’t have a good storage facility,” Tukur said.
Although the Niger State government said the Ministry of Finance had finalized the process of salary payment, civil servants were still expecting their salary alerts at the time of filing this report yesterday.
Some of them said though salaries were not paid before the commencement of the Ramadan fast, they heard that the process had been concluded.
“It is not easy, and it has been critical, civil servants are not finding it easy. It is tough on us. We are pressed and eager to get salaries and stock our homes. We have been managing our lives since the outbreak of COVID 19. The outbreak has made it difficult for governors to see what they can do to pay salaries as it affects the economy,” a civil servant said.
A primary school teacher in Tunga Maje, an Abuja suburb, Dauda Issa, said he was yet to receive his April salary. He said his March salary was paid in April so he was not expecting April salary until May.
“I have been managing with my family since the lockdown and with the fast that started on Friday, I had to take foodstuff on credit from a retailer around my house,” he said, adding that things hadn’t been easy since the lockdown.
Another civil servant who pleaded anonymity said he had to buy a few things with the money he had pending the payment of his salary.
“Things are now very expensive in the market. I could not get all I wanted to buy because of shortage of money. So I bought the most important things and what is needed at the moment. When I receive the salary, I can get the other things,” he said.
He said he had been receiving his salaries on time for buy beverages, food stuff and other items before the Ramdan but coronavirus changed things this year.
The chairman, Joint Unions Action Committee in the Federal Capital Territory and Federal Capital Development Authority (JUAC FCT/FCDA), Comrade Oluwakorede Matilukuro, said workers were yet to receive their April salaries.
Reports say civil servants in Sokoto and Kwara state however started the Ramadan fast on a comfortable note as their salaries were paid earlier.
Majority of the workers in Sokoto received their salaries on April, 21.
“This is the first time we received salaries this early,” Malam Musa Ubandawaki said.
According to him, they would be fasting with ease as they made adequate preparations.
Another, civil servant, Abubakar Shehu, said they had not only received their salaries but that the governor also made good his promise to stop deduction of water rent from their salaries for two months.
Governor Tambuwal had directed the immediate payment of local government employees’ salaries before the commencement of the fast.
The Kwara State government also paid salaries ahead of the Ramadan.
Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq last week directed the Commissioner for Finance and Planning, Mrs. Oyeyemi Olasumbo Florence, to effect payment of salaries before the commencement of Ramadan.
A civil servant in the state, Mrs. Folashade Olukayode, told our correspondent that she received her April salary on Wednesday.
“You know it is the tradition of the state government to pay salaries ahead of the Ramadan, I have already received my salary”, she said.
Another civil servant, Mrs. Yetunde Abdukkadir, also confirmed getting her April salary before Friday. (Daily Trust)
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