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Rivers lawmakers reject Amaechi’s claim of paid salaries

By From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City), Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt) and Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)
12 May 2015   |   4:16 am
MEMBERS of the Rivers State House of Assembly have distanced themselves from claims by the state government that civil servants have been paid salaries up to March this year.


MEMBERS of the Rivers State House of Assembly have distanced themselves from claims by the state government that civil servants have been paid salaries up to March this year.

The House has, therefore, summoned nine commissioners and heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to appear before it tomorrow to explain how appropriated funds and regular remittances from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), as well as monies from the Federation Account, have been spent.

Similarly, the Imo State University (IMSU) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has begun an indefinite strike action to protest against management’s non-payment of lecturers’ salaries and allowances for the months of March and April.

According to the ASUU Chairman, Dr. Chidi Nwadiaro, who spoke at the weekend in Owerri, the strike is “total, comprehensive and indefinite,” till the payments are effected, adding that the students should bear with them.

Reacting to this, IMSU Public Relations Officer, Nze Ralph Njoku-Obi, said the management was yet to receive the March and April subventions but had applied for it, hoping that the issue would be resolved soon.

However, the Edo State Government, contrary to reports in some quarters that workers were being owed salaries, yesterday insisted that it was up-to-date in its obligation to the workers.

According to a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Louis Odion,‎ the state should not be lumped in the league of some states in default of payment because it meets its wage obligations before the end of each month.

“We read with deep shock the claims that the Government of Edo State owes workers five months salary arrears. Nothing could be more misleading and mischievous,” the statement read. “While it is true that some states are currently unable to meet their financial obligations, Edo remains an exemplar.

“For the records, Edo State Government does not owe workers salary arrears as the government has fully discharged its obligations. As a matter of state policy since Comrade (Adams) Oshiomhole assumed office in 2008, pensioners receive their pay first, followed by workers, who get paid not later than the 25th of every month.

“The policy has not changed. For April, all pensioners and workers were also paid on schedule. Oshiomhole’s entire life has been devoted to the defence and advancement of workers’ cause. While it is true that states have come under heavy pressure on account of steep fall in oil price, for the governor, pay day remains sacrosanct.

“Through prudent management, the governor is not just paying salaries and pension on schedule but is also able to keep contractors working on sites across the state.”

Yesterday’s reaction of the legislature, which comprises 20 pro-Governor Chibuike Amaechi lawmakers showed great concern about the state of Rivers’ economy.

A motion at their resumed sitting yesterday by the Deputy House Leader, Nname Ewo, questioned whether the state was broke, and noted that the Executive has not been fair in guaranteeing its social contract with indigenes.

The motion read in part: “As we speak today, workers and pensioners are owed salaries and allowances for months, yet funds have been appropriated and regular remittances made from the Internally Generated Revenue and the Federation Account and others.”

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Ibim Semenitari, while condemning a group of protesters from the Ministry of Sports, who claimed they were being owed salaries for eight months, had insisted that civil servants in the state had received salaries up to March 2015.

Stating that the government was already preparing their April salaries, Semenitari maintained that the state had continued to pay salaries because it believed that workers’ welfare was paramount.

Reacting to the claim, however, the Deputy Speaker, Leyii Kwanee, who presided at the sitting, expressed shock at the commissioner’s conflicting report against the fact that workers were still being owed for several months.

Describing the statement as embarrassing, Kwanee said: “We have been seeing a lot of conflicting reports about payment of workers’ salaries. The other day, the Commissioner for Information was on air saying that salaries have been paid up to March.

“So, we feel very embarrassed as an arm of government, that is why we decided to sit today to look at all these issues. What you saw us do is our quest to see that there is accountability in the system and in our society.”

Warning the invited person not to fail to appear before the House today, he added: “If anyone wants to test the will of the seventh legislature, we will tell them that we have power till May 30 of this year.”

The lawmakers also unanimously supported the suspension of the chairmen of Khana, Asari-Toru and Ahoada East local councils for allegedly not guaranteeing the protection of lives and property and not maintaining “financial frugality.”