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One of the natural laws states that ‘a worker deserves his or her wages’ and this law has been corroborated by the Quran and the Bible. Ironically this is not the case in Abia State. Those that Abians have elected to serve them have turned to become overlords and have chosen to eat up even the little that belongs to all of them. Governor Okeie Ikpeazu has turned out to be a thorn in the flesh of most Abia indigenes especially those in the Civil service sector.
When Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu assumed office as the Governor of Abia State in 2015, many Abians were filled with hope and optimism that the new dawn would usher in the much expected socio-economic development to the people of “God’s Own State.” At the inception of his administration almost three years ago, Ikpeazu made so many promises anchored on five pillars of education, agriculture, infrastructure, trade and commerce, as well as oil and gas.
He also promised to clear all outstanding salaries and pensions owed Abia workers and pensioners as well as prompt payment of workers’ salaries before the 24th of every month. Despite this solemn promise of the Governor, Abia workers and pensioners are still being owed several months of arrears of their salaries and pensions. This is in spite of the bailout and Paris Club refunds by the Federal Government.
The issue of how the State Government utilised its bailout and Paris Club refunds is completely trailed by controversy. As admitted by the Abia State Government, it is on record that Abia State received bailout fund of ₦14.2 billion, the first tranche of Paris Club refund of ₦10.6 billion and the second tranche of Paris Club refund of ₦5.7 billion.
The Abia State Government falsely explained that 50 per cent of the first tranche of the Paris Club refund was dedicated to the payment of workers’ salaries and wages. It also dubiously claimed that additional ₦600 million was used to augment payment of workers’ salaries. Thus, the Government spent ₦5.9 billion on workers’ salaries and wages alone. Similarly, the Government said that the second tranche was spent on workers’ salaries and pensions. Of the ₦16.3 billion from the Paris Club debt refund, the Government said that it deployed ₦11.6 billion to service workers/pensioners wage bill.
Apart from the Government’s claims on the utilisation of bailout and Paris Club refunds, the truth of the matter is that Abia workers and pensioners are still owed several months of salary/pension arrears. He has shamelessly gathered Abia State workers in order to fool them and starve them while growing fat on the proceeds of their sweat. Abia civil servants, teachers and other workers being owed months of salary arrears is an indication that the Government has failed to meet its obligation to them. The same thing applies to pensioners that the Government owes several months of pensions.
That Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, and the Commissioner for Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku have debased the nobleness of leadership by continually being untruthful and playing politics with the salaries and wages of the Abia civil servants as if workers salaries and wages is a favour and not a right, is pathetically horrific and highly condemnable.
It is indeed difficult to fathom how a Government will tie the wage bill of its workers on some unexpected and unbudgeted for free funds. Is it not a mark of laziness and gross administrative incompetence that a Government is unable to fashion out a structured means of paying the people that provide essential administrative services required to drive the affairs of the Government?
The literal implication is that the Ikpeazu administration has no plans for workers welfare.
Almost every section of the Abia workforce is being owed salaries ranging from 12 months to 20 months, the last time pensioners received payment from the State Government was September 2016, the Local Government workers are being owed between 12 to 15 months salaries. That of the local Government is a case of greed, misappropriation and corruption as the allocation due to every local government from the federation account would have been enough to offset their salaries.
Teachers both at the secondary and primary schools are weeping over an outstanding 18 months’ salary being owed them. Abia State polytechnic received their last alert as at January 2017, while the staff of Abia State University Teaching Hospital and School of Health Technology had not received salaries since January till date, ASUBEB is being owed for 15 months, Abia Line and other Parastatals and Agencies are being owed from 7 months up, in salaries.
The painful aspect is that the government rather than show sympathy is politicising the salaries of Abia workers, by always coming up with excuses as to why they will be unable to pay the workers. The useless lies and propaganda department of the Government house Umuahia will immediately jump out to justify the starving of Abia workers by citing fellow never do well state Governors, who have not been meeting up with salary payments, but they will never tell the Civil servants that Cross River state pays its workers by the middle of the month, Gov. Ikpeazu’s media aides will never let them know that Anambra, Ebonyi and some other neighbouring states are up to date with salary payments and are even giving out bonuses to civil servants having appropriated the funds received for such purposes rightly.
Apart from the time of Biafran War and in the year 1988-1989 when there was an outbreak of Cassava Mealybugs (Phenacoccus manihoti) there has never being a time again Abia people experienced hunger until Okezie Ikpeazu’s tenure as Governor. Judging from the Governor’s background, it is indeed painful that he should mete out this form of cruel action to civil servants in the state despite his own biological mother being a former Civil servant under the Abia State Government.
Instead of paying workers, Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has resorted to looting and brazenly clearing out state funds and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in broad daylight. In a recent expose, the Abia State Government allegedly used their Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) account as major Guarantors to give fictitious cheques for the payments of their fictitious contracts, but later on, they couldn’t receive the amount they expected. In fact, after the Government had received about 11 Billion Naira from the Paris Club return fund, the Abia State Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) account is still on red.
Governor Okezie’s Henchman, Honourable Eziuche Ubani is a major team player in what is happening to Abians and Abia state today. Eziuche is the Commissioner of Workers in Abia State but he has used the ministry to siphon billions of naira belonging to Abians. With the help and express permission of Governor Okezie, he loots the state funds using fake contracts and contractors. The Contractors are those that help them convey the looted monies abroad, in disguise that they are sending the funds outside the country to places like China, France and Great Britain to use it for the purchase of construction equipment, and at the end, the funds will remain in a foreign offshore account with the equipment and receipt unaccounted for.
What we have in Abia today is a case of misplacement of priorities, where the Abia State Government is consciously and deliberately misappropriating the funds meant for salaries and directing them into phantom projects that can hardly be seen or felt by the populace and putting the entire state into suffering and untold hardship. If the funds that were gotten were well appropriated, it would have taken complete care of the salaries and wages burden of the state and there would be no need to talk about the backlog of salaries today.
Governor Ikpeazu had on several occasions promised to offset all the outstanding salaries and wages of the entire Abia workforce only to renege once the expected funds arrive and will rather give one month out of several months owed Abia workers, while his specially trained lie merchants will take over the social media space, the pages of newspapers and radio/television stations across the country to misinform the world about the status of salary payments in Abia.
Today, numerous Abia State civil servants have been made homeless because they have been driven out by their landlords as a result of their inability to meet up with their rents, the children of Abia civil servants are now hawking pure water on the streets, having been chased out of school because of school fees, the dependants of Abia civil servants are dying of malnutrition and lack medicare/attention because they don’t have money to take them to hospital.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK