Former Commissioner for Information in Abia State, John Okiyi Kalu, has challenged Governor Alex Otti to take responsibility for his shortcomings and stop trying to use former governor, Okezie Ikpeazu’s name, to justify his incompetence and wickedness toward Abia youths who were recently sacked from the state civil service.
He was reacting to a statement credited to Commissioner for Information, Okey Kanu, who accused Ikpeazu of employing ghost workers and backdating their employment letters.
This is even as former Chief Press Secretary to Ikpeazu urged Otti to end his blame game against his boss.
Okiyi-Kalu said it was laughable that after 100 days in office, Otti’s government did not know that a governor does not sign appointment letters and the use of BVN has totally eliminated ghosts from the Abia payroll system.
“Obviously the Otti administration is constituted by men and women with zero public sector management experience but after 100 days in office, one should expect that they have learned enough to know that a Governor does not sign appointment letters. Under Ikpeazu we had a duly constituted civil service commission whose job is to screen and recruit workers after waivers have been issued. It appears to me that Otti is no longer making use of this commission because he has employed workers at various levels, including his new Accountant General and they should all have passed through that commission without Otti signing their appointment letter himself.
“You can’t even talk about backdating because as long as there is a duly approved waiver from the Governor of the state the civil service commission will independently schedule, at their own convenience, to screen and issue appointment letters to those involved. Every waiver endorsed by former governor, Ikpeazu, remained valid as long as he endorsed before leaving office. It was not his job to decide when the commission will issue letters and I challenge Otti to publish any of the backdated appointment letters signed by Ikpeazu.”
Okiyi-Kalu said during the Ikpeazu administration, it dawned on them after the EndSARS protests that they needed to systematically do something to keep Abia’s highly educated youths busy with jobs instead of becoming prey to the evils associated with idleness.
According to him, the administration reviewed the implication for Abia’s wage bill and found that it is marginal and can be accommodated within its lean resources, so the decision was made to hire those with relevant qualifications instead of allowing them to take to crime and be ultimately killed by security agents.
He said Otti’s administration has received 10 times more funds than Ikpeazu’s had for the same number of months and it was only wickedness and hatred for Abia youths that will make his administration retrench anyone qualified and validly recruited through the civil service commission.
“The interesting part is that they are sacking those people after physically verifying all of them to confirm that they are not ghosts and what has happened is that while Ikpeazu was intentional about job creation Otti is obviously intentional about sacking Abia youths. It is also not possible to have ghost workers, as strictly defined, because every worker is paid using a bank account and BVN. What we have is a government that is trying to justify vindictiveness and wickedness to Abia youths by hiding behind any available excuse no matter how mundane.
“The same man claimed earlier that they discovered and sacked 7000 ghost workers and saved hundreds of millions of Naira but when put to task to publish the names with associated BVNs he quickly reviewed the numbers to 2500 “ghost workers” sacked at a time other states are doing everything possible to engage youths and raise wages to cushion the current harsh economic condition in the country.”
He said that what is happening in Abia is that Abia has an administration that came to power by accident of “Obi wave” without any plan or roadmap to lead the state in a proper direction.
“As journalists practising in Abia State, are there any of you here that have seen the electoral manifesto of Otti and Abia Labour Party before, during and after the 2023 election? Is there any single project this administration has started and completed since taking office more than 100 days ago?
“Aside from blaming Ikpeazu from morning to night and trying to harass those with opposing views into silence, what other achievements can you point to since May 29th 2023.”
Speaking on the achievements of the Otti-led government after 100 days in office, Okiyi-Kalu said that Abia people were already being conditioned to believe that it is not important for the administration to have any such achievement and to also blame Ikpeazu for that.
“Otti is like every other populist who comes to power without a definite plan for the peace and progress of the people. The only recourse available to such leaders is to sell the notion that their predecessor left so much rot that they have to spend years cleaning.
“We saw that with the Buhari administration in 2015 and anyone familiar with our political history will know that any government that is prepared from day one will not have time for excuses and witch-hunting of administrations before them.
“Take your minds back to all the Governors that made heavy issues of probing and blaming their predecessor and you will observe that they were not prepared for leadership and hence never achieved anything substantial.
“You can imagine a govt that started a 600m road project at Cemetary road Aba and after achieving some milestones of about 100m proceeded to send pictures to a respected man like Charly Boy to post on Twitter as “great achievements of Otti in Abia” without even informing the man that all they did was 100m out of 600m whereas Ikpeazu did the proximal 3.5km Eziukwu-Cemetary road without noise.
“When Charly Boy came to Abia for an anniversary celebration why didn’t they take him to the road he advertised so he can see for himself that Abians have entered one chance bus with Otti as the driver?”
“All the Otti administration has done in terms of roads is to patch small portions of roads like Jubilee in Aba and start work on some Apiam ways leading to nowhere whereas at about the same 100 days period Governor Ikpeazu delivered 6 key road projects in Aba including the Ehere road commissioned by former President Obasanjo.
“Other roads done by Ikpeazu within those 100 days include Kamalu, Umuola, Ukaegbu, Tonimas, Enuc, Omni, and Umuocham all in Aba while he also did Roads 2 and 8 at federal housing estate in Umuahia and completely re-asphalted more than 15 other roads in Aba and Umuahia.
“Even the promise of Otti to construct 3 new general hospitals within his first 100 days is still inside voicemail whereas he is unable to put to use the ultra-modern multi-specialist hospital, new government house and Enyimba garment factory commissioned by Governor Ikpeazu in the last days of his administration.
“All we hear are excuses, blame games and vindictiveness towards those who didn’t support him because they correctly believed that he would turn out to be who he has turned out to be as governor.”
Sir Onyebuchi Ememanka on his own said that in what has become a dangerous obsession, the Otti administration has become incurably unable to do anything without looking for any possible means to blame the Ikpeazu administration, even for things that make absolutely no sense.
“Their latest ploy is to blame the Ikpeazu administration and in particular, former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for their decision to sack several thousands of workers from the Abia State Civil Service.
“It is disturbing that someone who speaks for a state government is blatantly ignorant of the workings of government. How can actions carried out by a sitting Governor in offering employment to teeming Abians be termed as illegal?
“The term illegality connotes some form of criminality. What is criminal about the decision of an incumbent Governor to offer employment to the people of the State, putting them on the payroll and paying them a salary?”
Ememanka said tat it was laughable to hear the Abia Commissioner for Information accusing the Ikpeazu administration of employing people through the back door and back-dating employment letters given to them.
“This statement is ridiculous and preposterous. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Ikpeazu administration had absolutely no reason to backdate any employment letter issued to any person employed in the State Civil Service.
“The reason is simple. Ikpeazu remained governor of Abia State till midnight of 28 May 2023, and by that token, all administrative actions he took within that period were covered with the robe of legality.
Even speaking from a purely legal perspective, all actions taken by a sitting Governor enjoy the presumption of legality.
“One of the powers of a State Governor is the grant of waiver for employment to the people of the State. Dr Ikpeazu as Governor duly exercised this power for the benefit of teeming Abia youths and had absolutely no apologies to anyone for that action.
“One of the most important responsibilities of the government is to provide employment opportunities to the citizens of the State. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is proud to have taken that decision to create jobs for our people. If Governor Alex Otti has chosen to sack these workers who were duly employed, then he must accept full responsibility for that decision and not blame another person for his indiscretions. It is as simple as that.”
Ememanka said the point must be made that contrary to what he termed the falsehood contained in the statement made by the Commissioner, the workers who have now been sacked by Otti were employed under clearly defined due process supervised by the State Civil Service Commission.
“There is not a single person employed into the state Civil Service whose employment did not go through the Civil Service Commission whose statutory responsibility it is to manage the process of employment into the State Civil Service. The records are there.
“Unknown to this Commissioner who appears to be totally ignorant of the workings of the Civil Service, the process of employment into the Civil Service takes quite some time and doesn’t happen automatically.
“First, the state government under Ikpeazu introduced biometrics in the assessment of the actual number of workers in the State Civil Service and this revealed several valid vacancies which led to the commencement of the processes for filling them.
“Qualified Abians were offered employment into the Civil Service and were being maintained until this new administration came and sacked these workers, treating them as if they committed any offence by accepting employment from a sitting administration in the State.
“The simple truth is that Governor Alex Otti came into government with overflowing vendetta in his heart which he has exhibited without any inhibitions whatsoever. What of the Permanent Secretaries he sacked from office? Were they employed by Ikpeazu too?
“This is the first time in the history of our State and indeed anywhere in the country that a new administration came into office and sacked the entire Body of Permanent Secretaries together with the Head of Service, leaving only 2 Permanent Secretaries.
“Such arbitrary display of raw totalitarianism is strange to the public service where careers enjoy substantial stability. There are clear procedures to be followed in sacking a Civil Servant under the Civil Service Rules.
“These Permanent Secretaries were issued no queries, they had no subsisting disciplinary cases, they just woke up one morning and heard over the radio that they have been removed from office.
“These are men and women who have served the State all their working lives. They have reached the pinnacle of their careers only to be kicked out like common casual workers. Was that Ikpeazu’s fault too?
“Meanwhile, Otti brought the current Accountant General of the State from an Insurance Company in Lagos, ignored all known rules of public service and made her Accountant General.”
He said that when it became clear to Otti that he had committed a massive blunder, he quickly granted a waiver for her to be employed as a Level 16 Civil Servant without going through the Civil Service Commission.
Ememanka said that one other distinctive feature of the Civil Service is respect for Seniority. Adding that when Otti removed the State Head of Service from office together with the Permanent Secretaries, he ignored all known rules of seniority and took a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education and named her Head of Service, bypassing all serving Directors in the State Civil Service.
“Funny enough, the lady who is now Head of Service became a Deputy Director in the Service by virtue of the Command Promotion given by the T. A Orji administration in the State, which Dr Ikpeazu upheld upon assumption of office as Governor. But Otti came in and nullified command promotions given to Abia workers by the Ikpeazu administration.
“Otti’s penchant for sacking workers should not come as a surprise to any close watcher of his professional life. Otti spent his entire working life as a banker. The modus operandi of banks are well known.
“They are set up primarily to make a profit and do not, by any stretch of the imagination, run on the principle of welfarism which governments stand for.
“Once banks are under any form of financial pressure, the first casualty is always the worker. Laying off, sacking, downsizing and rightsizing of the workforce is synonymous with banks and their overzealous capitalist tendencies.
“This is exactly the mindset Otti came into governance with. Sack workers and keep the wage bill manageable. Simple! Within the first 100 days of his administration, Otti has sacked close to 10,000 workers across various strata of the State workforce.
“Perhaps, the most disturbing aspect is that they declare human beings who come to work every day as Ghost workers! These people have come out in the open to complain and cry, yet in the books of Otti and his administration, they are ghost workers, simply because they could not be captured by the contractors they brought from Lagos with their strange technology.
He said that a good case in point is the case of workers in the Abia State Liason Offices in Lagos and Abuja where he said that they were all mandated to come to Umuahia for physical verification.
“Some of the workers are drivers and other junior workers who earn about 40,000 per month. They came to Umuahia and were kept for about 5 days unattended to and without any plans to offer them any form of assistance in terms of accommodation and food. When they elected to return to their stations, they suddenly became Ghost Workers.
“The gale of complaints from workers who besiege the office of the Accountant General daily to complain about being branded Ghost Workers is clear evidence of a badly managed process.
“Otti must take responsibility for his decision to sack workers. Ikpeazu has no hand in it. Ikpeazu employed them and paid them salaries from the time they were hired.”
Ememanka said that it is common knowledge that workers in the State Ministries received their salaries regularly under Ikpeazu up until March 2023 when that judgment of an Abuja High Court froze the accounts of the State Government.
“Ikpeazu’s salary obligations to workers in the State Civil Service was up to the month of April 2023. While he paid Local Government workers up to that month, workers in the State Civil Service were only owed for one month, April 2023.
“We concede that we had some gaps in the salaries of some agencies of government and pensions but the situation was not as bad as the people were meant to believe.
“Ikpeazu battled to pay salaries to workers even with the dwindling revenue profile of the State. Today, on account of the removal of Petroleum Subsidies by the Federal Government, Otti has received in three months what Ikpeazu never got in almost one year, yet he chose to sack workers.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is proud that his administration provided a platform for Abia youths to get jobs and deal with the challenges of unemployment and insecurity.
“He was very creative about it. It was Ikpeazu who as Governor, created agencies like the Abia State Public Utilities Management Agency (APUMA), the Abia State Traffic Management Agency, and the Homeland Security Corp which created thousands of jobs for Abia Youths.
“It was Ikpeazu who built two factories – the automated Shoe and Garment Factories which have both been totally abandoned by the Otti administration with hundreds of millions of Abia money rotting away in equipment in those factories. Ikpeazu will never apologize for giving jobs to Abians.”
Ememanka said that since this current dispensation, state governments across the country have been rolling out measures to employ more of their citizens in the public sector.
He said that the contrary is the case in Abia State where people are being fired, adding that
It takes sheer wickedness to sack people in an inflationary economy.
“Otti should leave Ikpeazu alone and be bold enough to bear the responsibility of his own decision to sack Abia workers and expose them to the elements of a biting economy at a time when there is more than enough money to pay them,” he said.
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