*Releases 12 billion naira

* I don’t trust Okowa—Council staff

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* It is a Greek Gift—People’s Trust

* It was his obligation—SDP

* It is tainted with deceit—APC

 

By Jon Egie

 

 

Gov Okowa

Good news, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has cleared the back log of all salaries arrears owed to local government workers and primary school teachers across the state.

Vice Chairman of Udu LGC, Hon Justice Iyasere confirmed that the governor released the total sum of 12 billion naira for the payment out of which, seven billion went to public primary school teachers and five billion to the local government workers.

He said the governor had earlier asked the council chairmen to compute the total of the outstanding salary arrears and the total sum stood at five billion which he has graciously released.

According to him, JAAC has met and the salary of October 2018 is ready for payment this week.

“Nobody, no council worker can complain again of being owed salary. Any council chairman who has not released the payment of his staff is being mischievous as all monies have been released including that of the public primary school teachers.

“The money is in the bank but for reasons of logistics and panic withdrawal, the banks are being tactical in releasing the wholesome because some workers want to withdraw the whole money once and you know that would cause liquidity challenge to the bank.” He said.

It was learnt that so far, some council workers have cashed five months of their salaries arrears for those owed more than five months, some three months out of eight months arrears.

A council staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “I was owed eight months but I have received four months alert of salary payment within a week and we expect that within the next two weeks the payment would be complete if not for the looming NLC strike that could delay it.”

Our investigation revealed that though most of the council workers are happy for the payment, some are not happy because over 80 per cent of the monies are going into settlement of debt incurred over the years.

In the opinion of some of the workers, the timing of the payment of the salary arrears has some political undertone and they see it as bait by the governor to curry the workers’ support for his re-election in 2019.

They argue that if Governor Okowa had the welfare of workers at heart he should have made payment long before now when several funds were released by the FG to the state for that purpose.

“The FG released these monies for long and you held on to them only to release the money three months to election, it is a Greek Gift. We don’t know the type of child this pregnant situation is going to give birth to in 2019 if Okowa is re-elected.

“If a magnanimous president like Buhari fails to be re-elected in 2019, do you think the governor will be able to pay our salaries when re-elected? Buhari released several funds and gave firm instructions on what the monies should be used for but our governor delayed releasing the money for his personal interest. I doubt the sincerity of the governor to pay the new minimum wage when resolved considering his antecedents and the harrowing experience workers have had with him. That is our fear.

Asked if the generousity of the governor would endear him  to vote the PDP in the 2019 governorship election, he said: “Actually, on my own, I would have loved Deltans to cast their votes for a neutral man irrespective of the political party. Somebody who would have the welfare of Deltans generally, not only workers, at heart because, I don’t trust Okowa.

“Deltans should be careful, irrespective of the party, they should look well before they leap because for three and a half years we have tested Okowa, Deltans don’t trust Okowa even some members of the PDP don’t trust him because they believe that Okowa’s attitude to governance has reduced their political relevance and value before the grassroots and hence made the job of canvassing for votes from the people more difficult.”

But Hon Iyasere reassured that the fears of the council workers are not real. He said the debt of payment of salary arrears piled up because Nigeria had recession which visibly affected all sectors of the economy and impacted harshly on all tiers of government.

“In a state like Osun, Aregbosola owed up to 30 months and would you say that was deliberate? Once there is a fall in allocation there is nothing the governor can do.

“I want to assure the council workers that Okowa will not fall back to those years of locust. Okowa has personally assured that once the minimum wage is resolved he would pay N30,000 minimum wage to Delta workers”.

Speaking on the present mood of council worker across the state, Comrade Emowho Ijolo, former chairman of chairmen of NULGE in Delta state said the council workers were very happy.

“We are not wizards who would not rejoice at good tidings, we are righteous people who celebrate god news and so we are happy. Our hearts beat with joy and kudos to the governor. There is excitement in the air; we will have a sumptuous Xmas. We are confident that we will be able to foot our bills. But I must add that in spite of all, the governor has tried to stabilize the system. What is evil is evil and we need more from him” said Ijolo.

Reacting to the development, the Delta state chairman of SDP, Amb Oke Idawene said the adjudged generousity of the governor in the payment of salary arrears is misplaced because it was his obligation.

“He has just done his statutory obligation. It is a normal routine for governments to pay salaries because a workman deserves his wages. What we are after is good governance and come 2019, Deltans should look for who they will vote as governor and SDP is doing a shopping for that.”

Chairman of the People’s Trust in Delta state, Mr Fred Erukanure appreciated the payment of the salary arrears to workers but asked, “Where did this money come from?

“Could this not be a Greek Gift because of the coming election? It would be proper and appropriate if those people were paid as at when due. That means these people will be owed again until another election which is inappropriate and I think the governor should do what is right to do and not waiting for election period before clearing salary arrears.

“Part of the yardstick of measuring good governance is ability to pay salaries and failure to pay salaries lead to moral decadence at homes, children of workers become lay about and families face serious social and health difficulties.

“But where did this money come from because it is wicked for government to delay workers’ salaries till election period before they are paid. Government should learn to put the welfare of workers, especially their salaries in the first burner”. He said.

In his reaction, Barr Sylvester Imonina, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Delta state said, without seeming to be a sadist, the release of the sum of 12 billion naira for the payment of workers salary arrears is a welcome development.

“But why is it now that he is releasing such money? He has always maintained that it was not the responsibility of the state government to pay LG workers salaries. I see his action tainted with deceit and has political undertone.

“The problem is as old as four years, why now that he is attempting to solve it. It is not done in good faith. It is like using banana to catch a monkey. After the election, peradventure he wins, but we know he cannot go back to the Government House, if peradventure he wins, then he will subject the workers to the same situation again and wait for another election period before he pays them. The governor’s gesture is a deceit and Deltans should beware” he concluded.