By Alfred Agudiebube

Abia State government under the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has come hard on the State chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC), Comrade Uchenna Obigwe.

The govt’s while reacting to Obigwe’s continued stands regarding the salaries of civil servants in the state parastatals stated that that the existing laws made by the Abia House of Assembly does not empower the State government to pay workers in the parastatals.

The govt stressed that the management of those parastatals are permitted by law to make, retain and use their revenue to pay their workers as at when due.

The states Commissioner  for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, in a statement made available to journalists in Umuahia on Monday slammed the labour leaders and stressed that they are politicizing issues.

Kalu who was reacting to the ultimatum slammed on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration by the Organized labour in the state, demanding payment of salaries owed to workers in Abia parastatals, said that the govt  can only provide support to parastatals from time to time through the payment of subventions which are not necessarily for salary payments.

According to the statement, “It is important that we correct some factual distortions and falsehood contained in the statements for the sake of posterity. We agree that “a labourer deserves his wages,” and, hence, have worked very hard to prioritize workers’ emoluments in the state. 

“As confirmed last Saturday by Comrade Obigwe, via a radio program monitored in Umuahia, Abia State, Government is not owing workers in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the state any salary.

“Statutorily, these are the workers paid directly by the state government and they constitute more than 70% of the state workforce. NLC leadership at both state and national levels confirmed that workers in our MDAs are not being owed salaries and we make bold to state that they have already received July 2019 salaries. 

“State parastatals also do not remit any portion of their revenue to the state government’s consolidated revenue account unlike the MDAs.

“If organized labour, led by Obigwe, is asking the state government to directly pay salaries of workers in parastatals then they should be bold enough to approach the state House of Assembly to amend the relevant laws to ensure that such parastatals remit their revenues to the state coffers so the state can assume full responsibility for paying workers in those parastatals.

“It is on record that this administration has made several interventions to help pay parastatals workers including paying workers of ABSUTH 11 months salary arrears in 2015, payment of N2bn debt of AbiaPoly, payment of months of subventions to all the ailing parastatals in the state etc.

“The details of the management of CBN bailout funds and Paris Club Refund to Abia State is within the public domain and we invite the State NLC Chairman, Comrade Uchenna Obigwe, who was a prominent member of the committee that distributed the funds to publicly give account of how he and other members shared the funds to defray unpaid wages.

“Suffice it to state that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) applauded the transparent manner the state government, led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, managed the funds. 

“It was this same organized labour that dominated the committee that decided who to pay and who not to pay in the face of limited resources,” he said.

Speaking further, Kalu said, “Interestingly, the same NLC Chairman, Obigwe, who is now pretending to be championing the cause of pensioners and some parastatals also vehemently opposed the proposal by the state government to the committee that more resources be allocated to pension payments and some of those parastatals. 

“We invite him to explain the basis of that his stance to the public. We wish to state without fear of contradiction that Abia is among the few states that are yet to receive the last tranche of Paris Club Refund. 

“That the state NLC Chairman publicly claimed that he “read online” that the state government has received such payment is mischievous, bearing in mind that someone occupying his position is expected to verify information before going public and not rely on some fabricated falsehood in questionable online outfits.”

FROM THE TOWER OF TRUTH

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