Okowa hangs 84 percent of LG workers’ salaries arrears
*Releases N.8 billion
*It is hope dashed say workers
*We appreciate says NULGE
By Jon Egie
Governor Okowa has released the sum of N800 million naira to off-set salary arrears of local government workers in Delta state, leaving 84 percent of the outstanding salaries hanging.
The release was made public via a Communiqué issued at the end of the State Executive Council (SEC) of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) recently in Asaba.
The communiqué which was signed by the union State Secretary, Comrade Peter Ene, said the workers applauded Governor Okowa for his pragmatic steps in ensuring the respect for workers’ right to their salaries and display of genuine concern for local government service and exhibition of good intentions for the welfare of workers.
The union expressed appreciation to the governor for the approval and release of more than N800million to facilitate the gradual payment of outstanding salaries accrued from 2015 to 2017.
As a reciprocal, the union pledged to do all within its power to facilitate the SMART agenda of the governor for grassroots development and empowerment.
The union, while calling on the governor not to relent in his determination to clear all outstanding salary arrears as well as satisfy the desires of council workers in the state, despite dwindling revenue accruing to the state, urged him to see the task of clearing the backlog of salary arrears as a divine call and assignment that should be driven to its logical conclusion.
“In this direction, it is our humble plea that His Excellency, just as he has done, should continue to avail us some funds that would be devoted exclusively for the payment of salary arrears. We are, however, not oblivious of the enormous sacrifices Your Excellency would be making in this regard, but we do hope that the smiles on the faces of local government workers would suffice to gladden the heart of His Excellency”
While expressing their confidence in the governor’s ability to clear all outstanding, NULGE said that by so doing, Senator Okowa would have engraved his name in gold as a Comrade Governor, who sacrificed for the overall interest of workers.
“NULGE in Delta State, in collaboration with the National Secretariat would hold a solidarity rally and award presentation to appreciate His Excellency for offsetting these salaries,” the statement noted.
But in a survey, majority of the local government workers expressed disappointment with the release of the paltry sum of 800 million naira which is just 16 per cent of the total sum of money earlier promised by the governor to off-set the salary arrears saying that the governor by this recent move, failed to fulfill his promise and has breached the trust reposed in him by the workers.
A local government worker who spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity said, “We were in high spirits in anticipation of the receipt of the money to pay bills, settle debts and meet up with other financial commitments but now our hope of financial relief is dashed.
“What is 800 million naira out of 5 billion that the governor was quoted to have released? God forbid. Oh! The governor has messed up all our plans. How many months will that money cover in payment of the salary arrears of council workers some of whom are owed up to nine months? It is a hope dashed.” The worker lamented.
Worried by the backlog of salaries owed its staff, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, late September was quoted via media reports, to have released the sum of N5 billion to the 25 Local Government councils to augment the payment of their workers’ salaries.
Speaking to newsmen after an emergency Joint Allocation Committee, JAAC meeting with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in Asaba, Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON in the state, Mr Constantine Ikpokpo was also quoted to have said that with the release all the local government councils would pay all the backlogs from 2015 till date.
Ikpokpo said the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had promised in January this year to assist the local government councils pay up their salary backlogs, adding that the Governor was committed to the welfare of local government council’s workers.
“We are happy with the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa for coming to our aide. The local government council workers are happy.” Ikpopko had said adding that the payment of the backlog would boost workers moral and thanked Governor Okowa for keeping to his promise, assuring that the council chairmen would ensure that the release was used for the purpose it was meant.
In a prompt reaction, a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Sunny Onosueke called for commendation of the governor for the release of the said amount for the payment of the workers’ salaries.
Mr Onosueke decried a situation where critics of the governor only tend to see the bad side of Okowa but would keep mute when the governor performs creditably well.
He said the governor should be commended for resolving the problem of council workers salaries but rather than do that, “his detractors pretend as if nothing good has happened”.
Also, it was reported that the Executive Chairman of Ughelli North LGC, Hon Godwin Adode lauded Governor Okowa for the release of 5 billion naira.
Adode made the commendation during a meeting with staff of the local government council pointing out that the governor’s gesture was a clear demonstration of Okowa’s commitment to the welfare of council workers in particular and Deltans in general.
Overtly excited, Adode joyfully assured his staff that better days were ahead and therefore charged the council workers to be committed and dedicated to their duties.
A representative of the council staff, Mr Emmanuel Ubogun expressed the workers’ gratitude to the governor saying, the release of the fund by Governor Okowa was the best thing that had happened in recent times.
“Indeed, Governor Okowa is keeping to his promises. This is good news” they enthused and pledged their loyalty to the council boss and the governor and reaffirmed their commitment to work more assiduously for the re-election of Governor Okowa.
But the APC and PDP in Delta state would trade words over the release of 5 billion in their separate reactions.
Publicity Secretary of the APC in Delta state, Mr Imonina Sylvester described the gesture as politically motivated.
In a statement, the APC scribe said: “For the past three years, local government workers have been living in the throes of poverty, hardship and ridicule because of unwarranted economic hardship meted on them by the governor.
“The 5 billion naira promised by Okowa is politically motivated. Okowa knows that Deltans are tired of him, the promise is because elections are around the corner” he said.
In their response, the Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Ifeanyi Osuoza described the APC position on the issue as diabolic.
“Delta APC has resolved to playing diabolic politics with such a sensitive matter as the payment of workers’ salaries and we are not surprised because APC is notorious for anti-people, anti-progress, lies, vile and propaganda.”
A month after these altercations, the governor released the sum of 800 million naira to off-set the workers’ salary arrears an act, which another local government worker, again pleading anonymity interpreted to be hinged on the recent political development in Nigeria.
The staff who is in management cadre said that following the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate of the PDP and the role Governor Okowa played in the process, coupled with the choice of Peter Obi also an Ibo man, as the running mate to Atiku, Governor Okowa is confident that his re-election is guaranteed and so he could afford to risk a renege on his earlier promise. “But we shall meet in Philipi” the council worker warned.