Anyone yet to get his salary (in Abia State) could be due to incorrect bank details submitted by them during the verification exercise - Ojo Maduekwe

Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Governor Abia State
 Written By : Ojo Maduekwe (SA to Governor Ikpeazu on media)

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has repeatedly asked that his administration be judged by its works. The governors’ sincerity concerning this open challenge has been to take steps in uplifting the living standard of Abians, one of which is an interest in the State civil servants welfare, because he understands the important role Abia workers play in the States’ development.

Since government began the process of identifying genuine workers in the State, there has been tremendous improvements recorded. Aside the 160 million naira saved so far, the backlog of workers salary has been reduced substantially and there are efforts to ensure that every outstanding arrears are paid and no staff of the State is owed moving forward.

Also, because staff welfare ranks high in Governor Ikpeazus’ administration agenda, what government has done is to ensure that with every allocation received from the federal government, salaries for civil servants are set aside in a dedicated account. This means that even before money for developmental projects, those for civil servants takes precedence.
Such a step has helped in reducing to two the months being owed civil servants. Across board, they have been paid up to the month of May, while workers in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have further been paid June. Anyone yet to get his salary could be due to incorrect bank details submitted by them during the verification exercise.

There is a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on end-to-end electronic payment of salaries that prevent banks from interfering when an information provided by a payee is incorrect. This could account for the few complaints about salary.

Government is making efforts at getting correct data from affected civil servants. Once the verification exercise is completed, the process of direct bank payment to workers is expected to be seamless and hiccup-free.

In the meantime, here is the true state of things: money meant to pay the May and June salary of workers of the Secondary School Management Board was set aside by government. While their May salary has since been paid, that of June, though available, is being delayed because with over 2000 schools scattered across the 17 Local Government Areas (LGA) of the State, gathering the information for thousands of teachers can be cumbersome.

State pensioners are at the moment getting their salary for the month of May. The delay was in the method they adopted for the payment. Before now, pensioners were made to queue up beneath trees to receive their pension. This process, aside being dehumanising, was equally subject to abuse. The new method being adopted is by physical verification and biometric data capturing of the pensioners, done in conjunction with the State chapter of the pension association.

Last week, the process took off at Okeikpe subtreasury in Ukwa LGA, where cheques were handed over to verified pensioners. From Okeikpe to Bende LGA and then back to Okeikpe on Saturday to complete the backlog. Since Monday they’ve been in Apunmiri subtreasury because of the large number of pensioners. Other sub-treasuries are soon to follow.

As expected, government dedication to offsetting the backlog of workers salary, first by blocking leakages, cutting overheads, ridding the civil service of ghost workers, and stoppage of the padding of salaries by few recalcitrant employees, is yielding positive results.

In the past, payment of salaries was done at the ministerial level. Now that it has been centralised, this has stopped civil servants salaries from being tampered with and has led to several workers noticing an increase in their May salary, some by an extra four thousand naira and others by an addition of ten thousand naira. Government is determined that never again will any civil servant be short-changed.
Another positive effect from governments’ action is that unlike in the past when LGA workers were paid in batches, the government of Dr. Ikpeazu, since May, has been paying workers in the 17 LGAs simultaneously. This is the first time such is happening in Abia and is worth applauding. Not only LG workers but even primary school teachers are now being paid same time.

Now it is important to reemphasise the sincerity of the administration of Dr. Ikpeazu and its dedication towards making sure that workers in Abia are well catered for. It is this sincerity that made leaders of several parastatals whose members had gone on strike to agree to a meeting with the government, following which they called off the strike.

The State parastatals and all educational institutions owned by the State (Abia State University, Abia State Polytechnic and Abia State College of Education), meeting with government, have been encouraged to abide by the Act establishing them and be self-sufficient, even as government has pledged to play its own part by augmenting their efforts with subventions, as at when due. The teaching hospital of Abia State University which remains on strike, will in no distant time call off the strike. Government has set up a committee to look into their grievances holistically and proffer lasting solutions.

You only need to observe the government of Governor Ikpeazu to know that it means business. A deeper engagement with the people, using the media and through write-ups such as this, is part of the objective of this administration in ensuring that Abians and every Nigerian interested in following Abias’ progress are brought up-to-date with developments in the State.

There are pockets of allowances and leaves yet to be paid, which government is aware of and willing to offset once the exercise of identifying the real civil servants is completed. For a government that is determined to be up-to-date with salary payment while still embarking on developmental projects across the State, calling for support is only appropriate.

*Maduekwe is Special Assistant on Media to Governor Ikpeazu