NIGERIA: How Akpabio Inflicts Uncommon Pain on LG Workers

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 News coming out of Akwa Ibom is unpleasant. As I write this, my heart bleeds. Tears are flowing in thousands of homes across Akwa Ibom State. Some may never dry. Thousands of local government workers are being owed salaries ranging from two to five months. As a result, workers in the 31 local government areas of the state have been on strike since last year December. The local governments are as good as dead. Their headquarters have turned into ghost towns. The workers have vowed to remain on strike until all their demands are met. Chairmen of local government owing salaries claim money released to them by Governor Godswill Akpabio could not cover their salary bills. Of course, we know that governors are the sole signatories to the joint state/local governments’ account. Some LG workers allege that money from the federation account meant for the LGs often develop wings. It is pertinent for Akpabio to account for money paid to the LGs in the last five months from the federation account.

Felix Udo, the former Chairman, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Akwa Ibom State chapter, said apart from unpaid salaries and allowances of workers, retired NULGE members had not been paid gratuities since 2009. The former NULGE boss said another reason for the strike was the irregular computation of salaries and allowances of LG workers. I gathered that in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, the workers are owed five months salaries, Abak LG workers are being owed three months salaries. Ikono LG workers are owed three months salaries; Ini and Uruefong Uruko LG workers are owed two-month salaries. I also gathered that promotion of workers in the local government areas had not been implemented since 2008 while leave allowances for 2012, 2013 and 2014 are yet to be paid.
Primary school teachers in the state have also been on indefinite strike over non-payment of salaries since last December. The schools are now ghost towns. The Nigeria Union of Teachers, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, said it members would not go back to classes until the state government fulfilled the agreement it reached with the teachers in concrete terms.
The union’s secretary, Mike Ike-Ene said its members proceeded on the strike following the breach of agreement earlier reached between the government and the union. Unpaid salaries aside, I gathered that primary school teachers in the state have not been paid promotion arrears since 2009. Their leave grants have remained unpaid since 2012. There is also a huge backlog of pensions and gratuities due to Akwa-Ibom primary school teachers.
The big question for Akpabio is this: What has happened to the funds accruing to the joint state/LG account in the last five months? What about the 10% from the state’s IGR that should go to the LGs? It is very sad to know that LG workers and teachers are being traumatised in a state where the governor spends like a drunken sailor. This is a state where the governor is believed to have spent about N40 billion building a stadium amidst so much suffering by the LG workers and primary school teachers. The government has deliberately refused to mention the precise figure spent on the stadium. It also went ahead to organise a extravagant opening ceremony believed to have gulped over N500 million. In December last year, Akpabio also organized a profligate Christmas carol believed to have gulped over a N1 billion. Bigwigs including Reverend Jesse Jackson were brought from different parts of the globe to Uyo for the carol in the midst of the travails of the LG workers.

Liyel Imoke, Please Don’t Kill CRUTECH
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other related unions in Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH) have been on strike since December last year following non-payment of salaries and other fringe benefits by the state’s government. I learnt that Governor Liyel Imoke has also refused to release the paltry N50 million promised for the upgrading of facilities at CRUTECH. Subvention to the institution has since remained a paltry N169 million. I also gathered that because of the poor funding of the university, the National Universities Commission has threatened to withdraw the partial accreditation of over twenty programmes offered by the institution.
Academic activities have been disrupted while
CRUTECH students returning from Christmas holidays were forced to return home following the closure of the university by the striking workers. The teachers allege that the institution had been utterly neglected by the state government, and vowed not to return to work until their demands were met. Dr. Stephen Ochang, chairman of CRUTECH branch of ASUU said government had been insensitive to the plight of the workers. Ochang disclosed that the four industrial unions in CRUTECH last November wrote to the state government demanding the payment of arrears of salaries and other allowances owed the university staff. They are yet to get a positive response.
It is an irony that this same government starving CRUTECH was quick to release money for the Calabar Christmas Festivities believed to have gulped millions of naira.

Presidential Election Crystal Ball
Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP won five of the six states in this geo-political zone in 2011. As at today, Jonathan and his PDP have four governors in this region – Idris Wada of Kogi State, Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Jonah Jang of Plateau State and Gabriel Suswam of Benue State. Muhammadu Buhari’s APC has two governors – Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State. Will there be any significant change in the voting pattern in this geo-political zone this time around? No.
My Crystal Ball tells me that Jonathan will grab bulk votes in Benue, Plateau, Kogi and Nasarawa. Some of these states will deliver as high as 60% of votes to the PDP Presidential candidate. The APC Presidential candidate looks good to take Niger and Kwara states. The Bukola Saraki factor will help Buhari greatly in Kwara. Niger State governor is PDP’s weakest link in this region. Aliyu is not committed to “Project Jonathan”. This will give Buhari the edge in Niger State. However, Jonathan is capable of grabbing the required 25% in Kwara and Niger. This geo-political zone remains the PDP Presidential candidate’s stronghold.

Lagos State University’s Unending Crisis
It seems there will never be an end to the crisis at the Lagos State University. At a point, it was as if peace had finally returned to the troubled university with the appointment of Prof. John Obafunwa as Vice Chancellor. All sorts of problems have suddenly returned to LASU. Academic and non-academic activities are now under threat. I gathered that Obafunwa himself is the problem of LASU.
Members of the institution’s Academic Staff Union are at war with the VC. They accuse Obafunwa of corruption and consistent victimization because of their protest over alleged maladministration in the university. “Our members are being victimized by the VC for championing the cause of the people,” remarked a teacher. The VC was further accused of throwing LASU into deeper crises through selective promotions, circumvention of the Senate and misguiding the Governing Council. The PhD certificate of the LASU branch chairman of the union, Dr. Adekunle Idris was also allegedly withdrawn by the university management “for no justifiable reason.” The union also alleged that another senior academic staff of the university, Prof. Tunde Fatunde was interdicted by the Vice-Chancellor for alleged rudeness to the Registrar.
“The real reason for subjecting Prof. Fatunde to the indignity and injustice of interdiction was because he wrote an open letter to the Lagos State Governor condemning the exorbitant fees and seeking reversal to the old fee regime, while Dr. Idris is being persecuted for his role in the struggle. The abuse of due process in these and several other improprieties is particularly troubling,” the union stated.
There is one more trouble for Obafunwa with ASUU accusing him of not possessing a PhD and holding two jobs. Dr. Adesola Nasir, ASUU’s Zonal Coordinator for Lagos Zone said that apart from being LASU’s VC, Obafunwa was also the Chief Medical Examiner of Lagos State. Nasir said it was an aberration to the laws setting up a university for it to be headed by a personality without a PhD certificate. “The vice-chancellor could not run LASU as he ought to because he lacks the capability to do so,” the ASUU official alleged. This is one trouble too many for LASU and it is not good for the image of the school. I don’t think a doughty defence of the allegations against the VC will put an end to the crisis in LASU. I believe the LASU VC, if he truly loves the school, should simply step aside for peace to reign.

Re: The Ignomity of Keyamo
I read, with some amusement, the diatribe on my person, by Yemi Adebowale on page 9 of Thisday, The Saturday Newspaper, of January 24, 2015. He queried my position over the appointment of Femi Fani-Kayode as the Director of Media and Publicity for the PDP Presidential Campaign. He queried my logic, arguing that Femi Fani-Kayode is still presumed innocent until proven guilty, saying only “God knows where he read his own law”. Unfortunately, Yemi Adebowale then committed journalistic suicide in his write up when he queried thus: “was Keyamo in this country during the eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo’s corrupt administration?” Well, Yemi, in such situations we say, “thou sayest!”  Yemi forgot that Femi Fani-Kayode was Special Assistant (Public Affairs), Minister of Culture & Tourism and Minister of Aviation in the same Obasanjo’s regime that he has branded “corrupt”, ironically, even without a trial and conviction.
Again, if Yemi Adebowale sees no moral question or quagmire in appointing a man standing trial for corruption and money-laundering as the face of a Presidential campaign, I am sure millions of Nigerians are presently questioning his credentials as a journalist, rather than mine as a lawyer. This is because you may as well advise the President to release all the armed robbers in Kirikiri Maximum Prisons awaiting trial and appoint one of them as Minister of Police Affairs since, logically, they are only standing trial and have not been convicted.
Festus Keyamo

Note: Keyamo, a member of the APC is yet to respond to my posers. He has only chosen to grandstand. I am nonplussed by his response. Now, here are the posers again: Is there any law that says a man on trial should not be given any job? Yes or no? Keyamo is a government hired prosecutor and takes briefs from the EFCC. What progress has he made with the Timipre Sylva brief? If Jonathan has failed in the area of anti-corruption, has he also not failed as an EFCC prosecutor? How many of the governors believed to be looting state treasuries has he tackled in the last eight years as part of his anti-corruption crusade?

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