In recent days, when we point out that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is up to date with salaries of those workers paid directly by Abia State Government those overfed with opposition propaganda retort that we are partitioning the civil service into “core and non core”.
Unfortunately for them, fact speaks for itself and truth is constant.
By August 31, 2019, Abia workers in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) were receiving their August 2019 wages. As at August 1, 2019, they received their July 2019 salaries and they are not owed even a month’s pay.
For those who don’t know, that is exactly one of the reasons Abia workers, especially those in state MDAs, overwhelmingly supported Governor Ikpeazu before, during and after the polls.
With regard to the so called partitioning, let’s examine the facts of the matter with a recent situation. About 2 years ago, a federal parastatal in Abia State, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), had challenges with workers payment as a result of reduction in IGR occasioned by, among other things, a decline in student population. To survive, management of the institution, which receives subventions from the federal government of Nigeria, decided to cut workers salary to 70%, owed a few months backlog and sacked some staff. Later, as the institution navigated through the turbulent period by improving student enrollment, cutting costs and downsizing, they rebounded, paid off the balance of the 30% and cleared all unpaid wages.
To the best of my knowledge, MOUAU is doing well currently and even recruiting more staff as the student population is once more on the increase.
As at the time Michael Okpara University and, indeed, many other federal parastatals had this challenge, the Federal Government was paying workers in her MDAs regularly and without cutting anything from their salary. NOBODY BLAMED PRESIDENT BUHARI FOR THE CHALLENGE AT THE FEDERAL PARASTATAL CALLED MOUAU EVEN THOUGH HE APPOINTED THE VC AND GOVERNING COUNCIL.
Meanwhile, during the same period, many states around Abia cut wages of workers in their MDAs to between 60 and 70% while others restructured wages in such a way that their workers’ take home pay dropped drastically. In some south east states, Level 8 workers still receive only about 70% of what their Abia counterparts receive as salary.
Through it all, Governor Ikpeazu kept faith with Abia workers, refused to slash their wages despite pressures to do so and continued to pay every month till date.
Yet some will rather blame him for not slashing the wages or blame him for the distress in 8 of about 17 state parastatals. Conveniently, they choose to forget that he also appointed the management of the other parastatals that are not owing workers.
However you spin it, the fact remains that state parastatals are by definition and law not paid directly by state government as they are expected to make revenue and use the revenue to pay their workers. The subventions paid to them by the state government is not necessarily for payment of workers’ salaries but rather support to them because of the peculiar and crucial nature of their units to overall development of the state.
It is laughable that while a labour dominated committee was sharing bailout and Paris Club Refunds, some unionists who resisted government recommendation to allocate more resources to help some distressed state parastatals, by insisting that they should make more money and solve their problems, are now turning round to blame the state government. I am sure that the management and union leaders of those parastatals are aware of this fact but will not speak again.
It is also sad that we continue to display partisan bias while taking positions on issues of good governance and in the process try to obfuscate facts well known to us and in the public domain. How can anyone say that parastatals were not owed before the coming of Governor Ikpeazu even when the person is aware that 3 months into his administration he paid off 11 months outstanding due workers of Abia State Universty Teaching Hospital and made multiple interventions to help Abia State Polytechnic etc? Anyway, in part two I will x-ray the challenges at Abiapoly and others and leave readers to decide. Apparently hirelings of Abia political opposition are miffed by the fact that the Governor chose not to dwell on blame game but prefers to solve as much problems as possible.
Abia State Government is determined to help ailing parastatals to solve challenges militating against regular salary payment, especially where their management teams have tabled a workable plan for operational reforms and organic growth. In doing so, we are mindful of the need to also support growth in infrastructure, provide security for all and fund education. Our concern remains the welfare of Abia workers in those parastatals as we want them to be paid as and when due.
Governor Ikpeazu has already directed managers of state parastatals to prioritize salary payment before spending one kobo on any other thing. They must seek ways to improve revenue and block revenue leakages to ensure that state parastatals are properly managed as against serving as leaking pockets through which money belonging to the people leak into individuals’ pockets.
We will not put the money of Abians into leaking pockets again. So it is reform or go burst.
*To be continued
Chief John Okiyi Kalu