Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, on Tuesday explained why he had continued to resist the temptation of going to the bond market to raise funds despite the financial challenges facing the state. He said he cannot afford to create a situation where his successor would inherit debt burden.
Orji bared his mind at a meeting with teachers following complaints over the irregularity in the payment of their salaries, saying he could have taken bonds and pay salaries and when his successor takes over he would be serving the bond instead of paying salaries.
“I don’t want my successor to suffer what I suffered,” he said, adding that he was saddled with huge debt burden when he took office hence he had decided to break the cycle.
The governor told the teachers that the fall in the revenue of the state, especially the ones accuring from federal allocation was impacting negatively on the ability of government to meet up with its financial obligations to the teachers regularly.
“We are incapacitated financially and finance is the engine room of governance,” he said.
According to him, there was need to explain the real situation of things to the teachers and appeal to their conscience and make them understand that everything does not end in demonstration of protest.”
He said the arrears of salaries were already being cleared, adding, “We will continue paying you all the debts we owe you. We will pay.”
Orji assured the teachers that he held them in high esteem that was why the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state chose a teacher, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, who also came from a family of teachers as the party’s governorship candidate. He urged Abia teachers to support him.
Earlier in his remarks, Ikpeazu assured the teachers that he would take care of their welfare and asked them to back his governorship ambition as the future would be made bright for them.
He said while he would strive to pay their salaries and allowances as at when due, the teachers should brace up to reciprocate by increasing their productivity and increase the quality of students and pupils that come out from Abia schools.
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state, Dr Alex Otti, has promised to abolish multiple taxation in the state, if elected.
Otti, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) made the promise at Ubakala in Umuahia while addressing his party supporters during his campaign tour of Bende and Umuahia South Local Government Areas of the state.
He expressed concern that the residents of the state, especially the traders, market men and women, artisans, transporters, industrialists and other business concerns, were being over-taxed.
He said many businesses, particularly in Aba and Umuahia, were adversely affected by the development and that many of them had relocated to other states.
The APGA governorship hopeful decried the non-payment of teachers’ salaries, as well as pensions and gratuities by the government.
“I use this opportunity to call on the outgoing administration to pay the arrears of pensions and teachers’ salaries. “But if they failed to pay, by May 29, when we take over government, I will pay the salary and pension arrears.’’
Otti promised to deploy his international connection and exposure in attracting investment to the state, so that jobs would be created for the teeming unemployed youths
He promised to transform Umuahia, Aba and Ohafia, saying that he would redesign and rebuild Aba.
He also promised to build a “state-of-the-art’’ specialist hospital in each of the three cities to enhance efficient healthcare delivery and check medical tourism outside the state.
He promised that the condition of service and salary of medical doctors would be attractive to lure back home Abia-born medical doctors plying their trade outside Nigeria.
The former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank, who attributed his success in life to the quality of education he had, promised to introduce free and compulsory education in the state, if elected.
He promised not to receive any salary for the period of his tenure, if elected governor, as he would forfeit it to the development of the state.
“I believe that why God blessed you is for you to be a blessing to others,” he said.