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Bailout fund: Between Enugu govt and ICPC

By The Citizen
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By Mrs Angela Ugwuada
Recently in some national dailies were reports on the alleged mismanagement of the bailout given to 27 States by the Federal government. According to the reports which the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) claimed to have conducted in conjunction with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and was signed by one Edet Ufot on behalf of the ICPC, it was alleged that Enugu State government had out of about N10.2 Billion bailout fund collected as at November last year disbursed about N6 Billion to settle domestic debts, thus leaving staff salaries and emoluments unpaid.

Since the report was published some affected State governments have reacted, denying the allegation and putting the ICPC on the spotlight for further clarification. While it is not out of place that some State governments may have mismanaged or diverted their own shares of the fund for other purposes, it is also a fact that some States have adequately utilised theirs for the purpose it was meant for-which is settling outstanding workers' salaries and emoluments.

But from the ICPC's report on Enugu State government's use of the bailout fund, it is obvious that the ICPC did not find out from the workers in the State on when last they were paid salaries before arriving at conclusion. It is also expected that in the process of investigating on how states disbursed the bailout funds, ICPC would have approached the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to get all the necessary documents submitted by the beneficiary States which was part of the conditions before the funds were released to them by the apex bank. With the documents, ICPC in their reports would have been more accurate, and precise on how much were requested by the states and how much were given to them and when. This is in order to avoid being speculative and mischievous as in the case of Enugu government which it alleged have collected about N10.2 billion.

A claim the Enugu State government has refuted, through its Secretary to the State Government, Elder Gabriel Ajah, and the State chapter of the Organized Labour did the same in a statement jointly signed by Comrade Virginus C, Nwobodo, Chairman, NLC; Comrade Igbokwe Chukwuma Igbokwe, Chairman, TUC/JPSNC and Comrade Theo. O. Obasiani, Secretary, JPSNC, saying that the State collected the sum of N4,207,000,000.00.

The workers in the State under the auspices of the Organized Labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JPSNC) have described the allegation by the ICPC as false and misleading and a deliberate attempt to instigate workers and good people of Enugu State against the State Government as well as tarnish the good image of the State.

According the statement, 'the Organised Labour in Enugu State is seriously embarrassed by the false, unfounded and malicious publication purported to have emanated from the office of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).'

It further disclosed that 'a committee comprising Labour and Government was set up to verify, monitor and disburse the funds to the beneficiaries, adding that 'as at the time referred to by the newspaper publication of February 29, 2016 over 60% of the fund has been disbursed to the beneficiaries on item a-d above, while the verification and disbursement exercise is still on-going till May 31, 2016 as some of the beneficiaries (pensioners) are yet to show up for verification'

While expressing satisfaction with the management of the N4.207 billion bailout fund for payment of arrears of pensions and salaries, the Organized Labour noted that it will continue to partner the State Government for good governance and sustainable development of the State.

It would be recalled that since coming into office, Enugu State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi made workers' welfare his government's topmost priority, taking into cognizance that the State is a civil servant state. Since then, his government has not only abide by it, it has continued to fulfill it. This has been attested to and confirmed on several occasions by the leadership of the Organised Labour in the State and the national level before now.

During a fact-finding mission in the State towards the end of last year, President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Waba and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama alongside other labour activists could not hold their joy over cordiality already entrenched by the state government's responsiveness and commitment to the workers` needs and welfare, which was an extension of the government's policy thrust of ensuring transformed lives of the entire Enugu people.

Speaking during the mission, NLC president, Wabba said: 'We came, we saw an epitome of humility in you. Your Excellency, I
 think in this country we are beginning to have leaders at the helm 
of affairs that are truly leaders. I strongly believe
that Enugu State is a lucky State. You have shown us that workers in your state are partners in progress, not slaves'.

Speaking at this year's State Workers'
New Year Prayer session, Governor Ugwuanyi said: 'We will continue to pay salaries. It is
only when we pay salaries that we can activate the economy of the state. This is because Enugu State is more of a civil servant State.

In his own remarks, the Enugu State TUC chairman, Mr. Chukwuma Igbokwe said: 'Even when some 
states are having issues with the bailout fund, Ugwuanyi made sure
 we are involved in the management and disbursement of the fund to the extent that civil servants whose salaries and allowances were being
owed were paid.

'On the issue of arrears of the absorbed workers, we also approached him and we reached agreement. He has 
never promise the workers and fail them.'

With the workers' overwhelming testimonies and confessions about Ugwuanyi-led government's responsiveness and commitment to their welfares in the State since coming into office, the questions are where did the ICPC's report of alleged mismanagement of the state bailout emanated from. Was it the Biblically voice of Jacob and hand of Esau? Was it not that ICPC didn't do their investigation on the State bailout fund thoroughly, played to the gallery or were being used to do a dirty job against the State government? If not, why has the ICPC remained silent in the face of the strong and obvious denial by the Enugu State government and Organized Labour in the State? At this point, Nigerians know that ICPC's silence is not golden, but suspicious and misleading. Again, if truly the reports were investigated and compiled by the ICPC and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) as claimed by the ICPC why was it signed only by one Edet Ufot on behalf of the ICPC? Who is Edet Ufot? Who is he working for? Why hasn't the leadership of the NLC substantiate or authenticate the reports?

While it is a known fact that most anti-graft agencies in the country including the ICPC have abandoned their constitutional responsibilities in the past, some of them have just suddenly woken up from slumber since the inception of the present APC-led administration at least to show presence and relevance. It is very important for due diligence to be followed and professionalism to be exhibited in investigating sensitive issue like the disbursement of States' bailout fund. This is to avoid misleading the publics and instigating the workers against their state governments.                Meanwhile, it is on record that since Ugwuanyi came into office, Enugu workers have not embarked on or threatened to embark on strike over salary or arrear issue. It is obvious that Ugwuanyi`s kind gesture to workers is not cosmetic or pretentious to score any cheap political popularity, but rather a natural demonstration of what his heart contains as a measure of his personality.

It is indisputable that Enugu is one of the states with the least bailout fund of 4.207 Billion Naira out of the over 32
billion Naira requested for, the State workers are the best bailed out of the precarious financial situation facing workers across the country today. Anyone with contrary information should provide it with incontrovertible evidences and not misleading reports as we have seen.

Mrs. Ugwuada, a retired civil servant wrote Nkanu, Enugu State