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BAYELSA: DICKSON'S FLOOD-GATE OF REFORMS AND CONTROVERSY

By NBF News
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http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?attachment_id=122110 When Bayelsa State Governor, Hon.Seriake Dickson declared his intention to make the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan a Permanent Secretary in the state civil service as well as create an identity for the state with a special emblem, anthem and flag in spite of the controversies the governor's generated, indigenes of the state marvelled at his show of resolute and backed him all the way.

But they never imagine that Dickson's show of strength would be replicated at home in the form of reforms in the civil service, tax system, transport, politics, and the way of spending of state fund. In all these, complains and controversies were temporal and left sour taste in the mouth of those choked by the transparent posture of his administration.

Unlike the past three administrations in the state, including that of Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieseigha and President Goodluck Jonathan, civil servants and politicians are contestants in politics, contract bidding, and ownership of choice business outlets in the state. Some, like the members of the executives of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) secured the popular 2007 annulment of Chief Timipre Sylva election and they were mixture of civil servants and politicians.

Dickson, known as 'Countryman Governor' has however turned the table. The governor's resolve and posture to upturn the table has however generated controversies and incurring for him a title of 'an emperor' among the civil servants already fingered and tackled.

His number of battles and victories are rising in the last eight months. First was to confront the wage bill thieves in the civil service and reduced the inflated wage bill of N6 billion to N3.7 billion. Also won was the battle against flagrant promotions and ghost workers in the civil service, and the processes of award of contracts in the state.

Also a torn in the flesh of the administration is the issue of retired civil servants and pensioners in the state over unpaid pension arrears of over five years amounting to N3.8 billion. Dickson had waved them aside and claimed they were being used by political opponents. He however assured that genuine pensioner will be paid after the verification exercise.

These victories were not without controversies. The governor banned cultism and got a law to back it up. He also banned the commercial motorcyclists popularly known as Okada and faced a tortuous task of providing a more efficient transport system for the people of the state.

But the event of November 26, 2012 turned out to be the final straw that is brewing controversy among the key stakeholders in the state, particularly the civil service.

At a meeting, ironically held at the Glory-land Centre,Yenagoa,  Dickson announced new reforms in the state civil service and tax system with the suspension of top civil servants for alleged involvement in acts of indiscipline and cases of fraud in recruitment and land allocation process.

Also to be hacked from the civil service, according to the reforms and on-going secret probe into activities of civil servants in the state, suspected to be members of opposition political parties, opposition groups and aspirants in the forthcoming local government election in the state.

The governor, while speaking during a maiden interactive session with the civil servants in the state, said though the reforms would recognize hard work, and reposition the service along loyalty and discipline, the present administration would not condole indolence, disloyalty, fraud, and retrogression in the state civil service.

Dickson, who announced the immediate suspension of a senior accountant in the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr.Ramson Temera over alleged acts of 'careless talk', a surveyor with the State Capital City Development Authority (CCDA),Couple Imgibina over alleged illegal allocation of lands in some parts of the state, a former secretary of the Sanitation Authority for 'wrongful recruitment of persons' and one Akpoebi Efide for 'damaging dissemination of rumour' about the present administration, said such acts was a violation of the civil service rule.

The governor told a multitude of civil servants and political appointees that despite his administration's commitment to restoring power of authority to the civil servants on policies, the stop to politicization of promotion in the service and the provision of some incentives to workers, the state was not getting quality service delivery, 'we need to change all these'

He said; 'I have decided to meet with you to reposition the service. We need to change to a new song. The reposition plan does not mean people will be sacked but we will go around and ensure that those not on their duty posts were considered not genuine civil servants. The Civil servant I want to know must be at work.'

Dickson noted that before his assumption of office civil servants in the state were considered members of the billionaires club, leading contractors and took active part in politics of opposition to ruling administrations in the state, adding; 'I will not take that from any civil servants. You must abide by the rule. If you want to join politics, you must retire from service. The most sacred law of service is loyalty to constituted authority.'

He said; 'A committee is working to identify those civil servants involved in opposition politics. Some civil servants are even buying forms to contest the coming Local Government elections in the state. There will no longer be room for that. When I was Attorney-General of the state; I resigned my appointment and contested. Though I lost out of the Senate race but got the House of Representatives.'

Many of the workers, who asked questions and tried to make suggestions on the burden the new tax system would bring to the people and the need for a more proactive transport system, were shocked to note that the reforms had become necessary to enhance social and infrastructural development.

Dickson announced a new tax regime that will commence in January 2013 with an improved implementation of the PAYE and individual personal tax in the state, saying; 'we have to improve the Internally Generated Revenue of the state. If the people did not pay tax, it is wrong to say an administration has failed. Not paying an appropriate tax has contributed to the incompetence of an administration.'

He informed the gathering of civil servants that a preliminary report showed that many people in the state, including civil servants and politicians evade tax, adding; 'by January 1, 2013, proper tax will be paid by all. We have summoned the will to enforce it and they are bearable.'

On the recent face-off with retired civil servants, the governor described it as a concerned development and said the present condition of the retirees in the state was worrisome and announced that a sum of N750 million had been set aside for the payment of gratuity, saying; 'the reality is that it happened since 2005.I have been informed that they have not been paid gratuity.