Nigeria: Gov Ugwuanyi And Enugu State Workers
By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
Enugu State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has enjoyed a rather impressive portrayal in the media since he assumed office. I have seen several articles parroting his marvelous achievements and some of the articles have even found their way to my email box for publication on my blog, which I published even though they were always sent by a totally unfamiliar name.
Although, after the horrendous tragedy perpetrated in Ukpabi-Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani by murderous herdsmen, pictures of Mr. Ugwuanyi in flowing agbada grinning from to ear to ear while shaking hands with President Muhammadu Buhari (who, many believe, had done nothing to avert the callous slaughter of those innocent villagers) had deeply shocked many people who had expected to see him in a mourning mood, the Enugu governor has still managed to pass himself off as a public officer trying his best to impress his people.
During the last May Day celebrations, the Enugu State chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Virginus Nwobodo and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) colleague, Mr. Chukwuma Igbokwe, had heaped praises on him for what they called his dynamic leadership in promoting government-labour relationship and creating a peaceful industrial atmosphere in Enugu State.
But in mid-October, I was in Enugu and was shocked to learn that some workers absorbed into the State Civil Service from one of the government parastatals were being owed arrears of salaries for the past 15 months! Indeed, it is difficult to believe that any public officer could have the heart to subject his fellow human beings to such a harrowing ordeal. But then, this is Nigeria where leaders derive strange animation from riding roughshod on the people with utmost impunity.
Following the decision of the previous administration of Mr. Sullivan Chime to absorb the permanent workers of a number of parastatals and corporations (ESBS, Enugu State Capital Territory, ENADEP, Enugu State Sports Council, Enugu Fertilizer Company, ESWAMA etc.), into the State Civil Service, several of the affected workers were duly verified, their data biometrically captured and they were received into the general public service. And since then, they have been working and receiving their salaries. Even though there are some workers who are being owed a few months arrears of salaries, they are still hopeful since their absorption into the general service has been fully effected.
But in the case of ESWAMA (Enugu State Waste Management Agency) the workers were verified and biometrically captured in batches. In 2010, the first batch was fully absorbed and all of them have since been posted to several ministries where they have been receiving their salaries. In August 2014, the second and final batch made up of about 91 permanent staff of ESWAMA (some of whom may attain retirement age in a couple of years from now) underwent their own absorption process. This was duly communicated to the Enugu governor through a letter jointly signed by the Secretary to the Government and the Head of Service (Ref: ENS/SSG/M.505/11/227) dated August 6, 2014. Another letter on the issue dated August 11, 2014 (Ref: GHS/33/XXX/11/100) was also written to the governor. By April 2015, just before the new administration of Mr. Ugwuanyi was inaugurated, the verification and posting of these 91 workers were concluded and their letters of posting to the various ministries to which they have been redeployed were handed over to them. What remained now was the approval of the governor for their biometric data capturing to enable them to start receiving salaries through the state’s e-payment system.
But for reasons that have remained inexplicable, Gov Ugwuanyi has chosen to sit on the fate of these poor workers, thereby, subjecting them and members of their families to unspeakable hardship and trauma. As somebody under employment, it is such a torturing experience trying to imagine what it would be like not to be paid salaries for a couple of months. But here are our fellow citizens who have been denied salaries for a whole 15 months! How heartless and callous could some of our leaders be!
All appeals to Mr. Ugwuanyi by concerned citizens and opinion moulders to show some pity have fallen on deaf ears. Representatives of the concerned staff as well the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees have addressed passionate letters to him pleading that he should consider the plight of these workers, but he has not even behaved as if he saw those letters which are also in the public domain. Worse, he is yet to advance any reasons why he has chosen to subject these his brothers and sisters from Enugu State to unimaginable suffering.
In this my preliminary comment on this matter, I want to appeal to Mr. Ugwuanyi to allow a little hint of compassion and pity to touch his heart so he can pay these hapless Nigerians their salaries. It is possible that due to their inability to pay school fees any more, many of the children and wards of these workers may have dropped out of school. Many of them must have been ejected from their accommodations and rendered homeless by their landlords who may have become sick and tired of their inability to pay their rents. One hopes that none of them has lost sick family members because of inability to afford the required funds to send them to the hospital.
Even the hardest of hearts cannot but be melted by the excruciating ordeal of these people and as a public commentator I have decided to raise my voice on their behalf and might be compelled to keep flogging the issue until it is duly addressed. Yes, I intend to dwell on this matter until Mr. Ugwuanyi changes his mind. The funds of Enugu State do not belong to the governor. The financial resources of the state ought to be deployed to attend to the welfare of the people. How can a public officer go to his bed and sleep happily when his fellow human beings are gradually dying because he has chosen to deny them their salaries?
Is this not the same Ugwuanyi who the other time bought exquisite cars (Prado Jeeps) worth over N11.5 million (pre-recession price) for each of his commissioners and the members of the State House of Assembly, an action that sparked tremendous outrage across the state and the country? How does Ugwuanyi feel each time he receives his own humongous salary and jumbo allowances (plus all the usually outrageously large 'estacodes' for beneficial and non-beneficial travels) and use them to lavish care on his family while he has sentenced some other human beings to unspeakable agony because he has refused to do what he is obligated to do to enable them receive their salaries?
I sincerely hope that the Enugu governor would bow to reason and approve the absorption of these workers so they can join their colleagues to get their salaries. Indeed, anybody who has Mr. Ugwuanyi’s ears should do Enugu State a world of good by advising him to dispense a little compassion to these hapless citizens.
*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a Nigerian Journalist and Writer