By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Some aides to the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke, have lamented over the backlog of salary arrears owed them by the current administration in the state, which will expire exactly one week from today.
It was earlier reported that some of the aides attached to the Deputy have not been paid their salaries since as far October, while some others, since December.
It would be recalled that the Deputy Governor, Dr. Okeke dumped the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and joined the All Progressive Congress, APC, in October last year ahead of the 2021 governorship election in the state.
Following this well-rumoured and eventual shocking defection, which ignited a kind of political brouhaha in the state; divisions arose in the camp of the Deputy Governor, as some of the aides attached to him expressly and politically proved to remain loyal to him, while some others expressly and politically remain loyal to his former party, APGA. This division consequently reflected on the treatments meted out to these aides by the state government, immediately after the election, which was won by APGA’s Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
As time progressed, it became apparent to the aides who politically stood with the Deputy Governor that their pay was losing flow, till it was eventually cut off in December. However, those who politically chose to remain with APGA rather than defect to APC with their principal, had their pay coming as and when due, with even some increments.
Even the Deputy Governor himself who officially decamped to the APC is still receiving his salary till date. Hence, this became a source of worry to these aides whose salaries are being withheld for reasons not made known to them.
It even became more worrisome to them, when, according to them, their appointments were not terminated till date, which imply that they still carry their duties till date, yet without any pay from the state government.
As the current administration prepares to hand-over power to the incoming government of Prof. Soludo, some of these aides have again begun to raise their voices and reiterate their calls and appeal to the state government regarding their issue.
In an interview with newsmen, one of the affected aides, Mr. Arinze Ekpe, who is also the Special Assistant to the Governor on Protocol Matter (attached to the Deputy Governor), described the situation as very unfortunate.
He highlighted some of the efforts so far made by some of the affected aides to change the situation, including meeting with the Chief of Staff, Mr. Primus Odili, none of which has yielded any positive result till date.
He said, “Since the defection happened, we have been totally ‘blacksided’; we have not been paid, without any information or notice, nothing nothing.”
“As soon as the defection happened, it seemed as if we are scapegoats or that we were part of the defecting, when that is not actually the case,” he added.
On how they have been coping with the situation over the past months, he revealed that majority of the affected aides depend only on their appointment and their salary as their sole means of income and livelihood; and further noted that things haven’t been quite smooth for such people and their families who also depend on them.
He however revealed that their principal, the Deputy Governor has been personally trying to help out from his own pocket, though not to the tune of what they were being paid by the government.
Mr. Ekpeh therefore called on the outgoing government of Chief Willie Obiano to give attention to their plights by paying off their accumulated salary arrears before exiting office, as it would not be fair to leave them go empty-handed after devoting their time and personal resources to serve and work for the state for months, without any pay.
Similarly, another close source to the Deputy Governor’s Office claimed that some of the security aides attached to him have also not been paid since October last year.
The source who spoke on condition of anonymity explained that the affected security aides are mostly those whom the Deputy Governor himself additionally requested few weeks to the 2021 guber election and shortly after his defection to APC. He noted that the additional security aides, numbering about fifteen, were also denied their December entitlements and allowances, and have not been paid a dime by the government since the day they assumed duty till date, which is barely six months now.
According to the source, other security aides attached to the Deputy Governor prior to his defection are still being paid till date, while the new ones are still being owed for the past six months. He further added that some of the affected security aides are now being recalled and withdrawn by their offices and organisations over the non-payment of their allowances and other entitlements.
“As it stands now, it is only one of the organisations that is yet to recall their affected officers from the Deputy Governor; others have been recalled,” the source said.
“You know economy is very bad now, and some these aides who are being owed are parents who have families to fend for while some of them are youths who are struggling to make it in life. So the government needs to look into their matter and do the needful, because some of them are the hope of their family; and when they are being owed or punished unjustly like this, I imagine what will become of their families and future,” he added.
All efforts to speak with the Accountant General of the State, Mr. Hilary Obigwe proved abortive as at the press time.