|Governor T.A Orji|
Abia Rescue Movement is calling for mass condemnation, resistance and a stand up against the move by Gov. T.A Orji to short change Abia Local Government Staff.
It is no longer news that the entire staff of the 17 local government councils of Abia State is owed monthly salaries of about five to six months including arrears running into several months. The contending issues here are: why owned local government staff salaries? Why is Abia State controlled PDP governments under Chief T.A Orji prefer to treat civil servants like slaves? Constitutionally, the federated account has been given un-interference financial allocation procedures to give proper sense of belonging to the three tiers of government. In monthly allocations from the federation, it is disturbed in percentage thus: Federal government 52%, state government 26% and local government 22%. It is statutorily un-apologetic to deny any tier of its share when the international oil companies are in-interruptedly remitting oil proceeds into federated account on monthly basis. Now, having been provided with sketchy insight on how government revenues are provided and shared in percentage, it is important a critical thought or scrutiny be given to the administrative failure of Chief T.A Orji’s government to pay local government staff salaries. In as much as it is constitutionally wrong to use Transition Committee (TC) to run local government affairs of Abia State, it is needful to say that this system of government was the fundamental cause of Abia State local government failure to remain accountable or committed to its workers. Now that the whole system is collapsed owing to glaring mismanagement of local government fund by Gov. T.A Orji’s administration occasioned by gross abuse of constitutional privileges and relationship between the governor, house of assembly and local government council, the governor has resorted to use of balloting for purported payment of Local government council staff salaries .
Governor T.A Orji who is strategizing on how to win the elections for himself and his endorsed candidates since the masses have collectively decided to pay him back in the ballot box by voting against him and cronies, has in the recent time, adopted to use balloting process for payment of civil servants salaries especially local government staff. It would be recalled that in the second year of his second tenure of office, he adopted anti-people’s policy where there was mass sack of non-indigenous state civil servants including Abia State daughters that were married outside the state. With the development then, the state workforce was drastically reduced paving way for financial reserve and lesser recurrent expenditure.
The use of balloting for payment of local government staff salaries has started generating and attracting serious heat and reactions from the Local government staff and masses respectively. To say the least, on Tuesday February 24, 2015, the Bende Local government council workers and their chapter union (NULGE) staged a serious protest in Umuahia the State Capital to press home their demand for immediate payment of accumulated salaries without conditions and to halt the speculated use of balloting for payment of their wages.
During this period of campaign, Gov. T.A Orji summoned the principals and Headmasters of Secondary and Primary schools in Abia State only to offer them the sum of Nine Million naira (N9, 000, 000.00) to share and mobilize support for him and his purported endorsed PDP candidates. That if they win, they will clear all the outstanding debts including the ones owed them. But in the real sense of it, if Chief T.A Orji had added five Million Naira (N5, 000, 000.00) to this campaign gift amount, it would have been enough to pay up to 50% of salaries presently owed the teachers. It was also in this period, that his political godson (Okezie Ikpeazu), invited the civil servant of Abia State and begged them to vote for him that their owed salaries would be paid as soon as he wins to govern the state. They left with the sum of Five hundred thousand naira (N500, 000.00) offered them.
This recent adoption of balloting for payment of local government council staff is presumably predicated on the number of things but not limited to the following:
i. Little or no fund in the state or local government treasury as balloting may offer him a soft landing ground to create the impression that some workers have been paid remaining some. On the other hand, the staff that refused to subject themselves to balloting process may stand the risk to lose their salary earning until after the elections. That is, if Gov. T.A Orji is sincerely committed to paying workers salary. However, if what we are thinking is what the governor wants to use this process to achieve then, he may be heading to lose end hence the percentage of workers he will get from balloting with remnant members of PDP, will not give him the required votes to record victory in the 2015 elections.
ii. The governor who has adopted deceptive strategies aimed at gaining advantage over the workers that will fall prey to him, undermined the fact that the only motivational factor or instrument to lure the electorates is “performance indicator”.
iii. The governor is facing staff opposition because of so many scores he has created to himself to settle. He is not alone in this rocking boat. The PDP candidates that are seeking for re-election including the new entrants he is imposing on the people will have their contributions to make to save the governor from this administrative embarrassment else it will affect their chances of winning.
iv. The governor who has not deemed it administratively wise to conduct the local government elections since his doubled tenure of office even though, he has on several occasions issued a statement either through his office or the rubber stamped house of assembly, that elections will be holding on a date not disclosed but this never come to reality. The question being asked by well meaning individuals and of-cause call for serious probe is: the absence of executive chairmen of the local government council places the governor in full control and management of Abia State local government funds, even though, it is an abuse of separation of powers for a governor to control or manage local government funds (this shall be a topic for another day) The governor should avail us with the detailed information on how the local government affairs were run for eight (8) years of his impunity-ridden administration? While this is being awaited, he should also bear in mind that democratic watchers like us have carefully noted that no tangible grass-root driven project was on ground to justify the local government allocations given that, the constitution establishing the local government empowers it to pay workers salary and carryout grass-root driven projects.
For re-emphasis sake, the use of balloting for payment of local government staff salaries, is atrocious and can cause a serious disaffection, set a bad precedent if not checked. A situation where local government staff are either lured or compelled to fill form and submit their permanent voter’s card (PVC) or pick yes or no before their statutory salaries will be paid, shows that the governor is bereft of the idea of collective will of the electorates to elections and INEC voting process. The governor is unaware that peoples’ interest towards elections is based on natural or self-motivation and that INEC has carefully programmed the voting process that if an eligible voter is not physically present in the polling unit to be accredited and cast his/her vote will not be voted in proxy. That the era of writing and announcing election result in government house is over. The people are more careful and alert now. So whatever measures the governor is adopting outside the INEC stipulated voting process, will be counter-productive.
Dispassionately, since the governor has barely three months to wind up his administration, he should heed the voice of reasoning and respect his conscience to allow for the collective will of the people to prevail in the circumstance militating against good governance in Abia State. This is the only way his later will be better than the former and his flaws will be overlooked.
Comrade Henry O. Nwaigwe
Cordinator, Abia Rescue Movement (ARM)
Writer from Ohuru-Ndoki Community
Ukwa East L.G.A Abia State.