In Abia the governor is popularly known as Ochendo Abia but the way things are moving, 247ureports can authoritatively disclose that all is not well with the God’s own state, this as hell may let loose if care is not taken to avert the current crisis that may be coming on the state as Civil servants in all the councils are now being subjected to hardship.
Accordingly, workers of the 17 local councils in Abia state have called on the state governor, Chief Theodore Orji to release their May and June 2012 salaries to end the hardship which they have been subjected to as a result of the situation. A cross section of workers in Bende and Umuahia North local governments who spoke to 247ureports said that the non payment of their salaries has made life difficult for them, a situation which led workers of the Umuahia Council to stage a protest march yesterday and also barricaded the secretariat chanting solidarity songs.
In chat with our reporter in Umuahia, a staff of the Administration Department at the council who gave his name as Onyii, decried the non payment of salaries to council workers in the state even when workers in state ministries and government parastatals are always paid as at when due.
“The government expects us to come to work and log in to the biometric data system, but we have not been paid salaries for two months now. The month of July is almost ending. We are tired of this system,” she lamented.
Another staff who preferred anonymity said” Why would the salaries of council workers in the state be delayed? Is it that allocations no longer come to the councils? It has become a tradition for us to receive salaries at the end of the new month, but this one has gotten out of hand. They owe us two months now, even as some workers are yet to get their April 2012 salaries due to the biometric system. Is this not an act of wickedness to delay the salaries of workers for no fault of theirs? We don’t even talk of leave allowances and other entitlements of workers.”
While others expressed sadness at what they referred as injustice being meted out to council workers in the state.”Since the salaries are paid from the same federal allocation, what is the reason behind paying workers at the state level and leave out those at the local government areas? We are forced to believe that the government may be in the habit of putting the salaries of council workers in fixed deposit accounts to yield interest for them.
“Our salaries will always be paid in arrears. The April 2012 salaries were paid in the third week of June 2012. We don’t know when workers will get that of May, we are nearing the end of July.”
Reacting to the protests, the Transition Committee Chairman of Umuahia North, Chief Frank Ibe blamed the delay on the harmonization of biometric data capturing system at the councils in the state. He advised workers to be patient and their salaries would soon be paid.
247ureports gathered that the Abia state Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Emma Nwabuko is alleged to be the official used by the Gov.Orji administration to cause delay in the payment of salaries of council workers as he continues to delay cheques, often giving flimsy excuses that the auditors and the Accountant – General for Local Governments have not signed. “This excuses will be the order of the day until they source out funds to replace the one they have used,” a source at the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs further alleged.
A source at the state office of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), hinted that the problem of delay in the issuing of cheques for salaries of council workers was deliberately caused by Nwabuko. He further revealed that the suspended Commissioner during the various staff audit exercises conducted across the 17 council last year, alleged that the councils are filled up with workers who do nothing and therefore, does not deserve the salaries they are being paid.
“The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Nwabuko, was the man who is responsible for delay in the payment of our salaries. He usually lament that the council workers do nothing and does deserve their salaries.”
The source added that officials of NULGE in the state are afraid to raise a voice against the situation as most of them have compromised their offices.”They have been bought over by the state government. Those who refused to be compromised are threatened with transfers. This has been the problem as there are no union executives to speak for the workers.
”This is another factor that causes the salaries to be delayed. Governors see the council funds as ‘free money’ which could serve some other purposes. Have you wondered why they insist on using Transition Committees to run the councils? If you are appointed, you will be given some conditions which must be fulfilled or you will be booted out on spurious charges,” a NULGE official who pleaded anonymity stated.
Informed sources insist that the National Assembly should hasten to abolish the joint state/ local government accounts as it had retarded the development of the third tier governments in the country.
Majority of the council workers across the state enjoined Gov. Orji to emulate some of his counterparts who pay their workers’ salaries on the 26th or 27th of the current month.
It will be recalled that workers of the Ikwuano council lat month also staged a protest march at the secretariat at Isiala Oboro over non payment of salaries. A visit to the most of the councils in the state revealed that the secretariats have been deserted as workers stroll in daily to log in to the biometric system and disappear, perhaps to search for other means of livelihood.