Toto Local Government Council of Nasarawa State said on Saturday that it would refund the 20 per cent (about N1.8million) staff salaries deducted in April to curtail security challenges facing the area.

Alhaji Nuhu Dauda, the Chairman, Interim Management Committee of the council, told newsmen in Lafia that the refund would be made to the affected workers in the interest of peace and development.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that on May 16, the state officials of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), suspended the branch Chairman of NULGE in Toto, Mr Iliya Haggai, for allegedly conniving with the council to deduct 20 per cent of members salaries.

Dauda said that the deduction of the staff salary was done with the consent of the NULGE officials of the area in order to help in protecting the lives and properties of residents as a result of communal crisis between Bassa and Egbira tribes.

“Salary is the entitlement of the staff; I cannot just touch their money without an agreement with the workers and this fund will be paid back as soon as we get fund from the State Government.

“We have applied to the state for more funds and as soon as that fund is released, we will refund the N1.8 million deducted and it will be paid back to the staff.

“Never at any point of time, have I ever connived with anybody to deduct workers salaries of my council staff as they all aware that the money was deducted to take care of the security situation.

“The staff of the council are all aware that I am well known for prompt payment of workers salary.

“What happened was that as a result of the crisis in Toto Local Government, we applied to the state for fund in order to curtail the security situation in our area as we cannot fold our hands to allow the area to be destroyed.

“While waiting for the fund from the state government, we have decided that as long as all of us are indigenes of Toto, let us find a way to source for fund in order to take care of the security situation in the area.

“We then approach the NULGE officials to inform them of our intention and they have agreed after we have sat down with them to explain ourselves to them and we have signed a written agreement to that effect.

“And the agreement was that if the 20 per cent salary is deducted and it will be paid back as soon as possible if resources reach the coffer of the council, and I don’t know why they said that we have connived with NULGE officials to deduct the said fund.

“My message to the general public is that they should disregard such information that I have connived with the NULGE officials to deduct workers salary as the information is highly political and created by those who did not wish the council well,” the chairman said.

He assured the workers of his continued commitment to initiate good policies and programmes that have direct bearing on the lives of people and solicited for their support to enable him succeed.

Besides, the council boss enjoined the people of the area to embrace peace and tolerate one another irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political affiliation.

A copy of the agreement in respect of the 20 per cent deduction obtained by NAN from Haggai confirmed that as it was duly signed by both officials of the council and the NULGE branch officials of Toto.

NAN recalls that a communal clash occurred between the Egbira and Bassa ethnic groups of Ugya, Toto local government area of the state, on April 24.

Several lives and properties were destroyed during skirmish.