Unlike many other states, workers in Edo state civil service receive their wages as at when due despite the prevailing dwindling allocation to states from the Federation Account.
Luckily for the state, the Internally Generated Revenue under the supervision of Chief Useni Elamah, has helped immensely in the payment of workers’ salary in Edo state.
Initially, the tax drive embarked upon by the Governor Adams Oshiomhole led administration was biting, but it has paid off today with the constant salaries and visible infrastructural development embarked upon by the state government. However, all has not been too well with workers at the Local Government level as some of them have been owed salaries for close to five months. But their situation has nothing to do with the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who has sacrificed his security votes, drastically cut down government expenses so as to ensure that Edo workers get paid every month.
The governor had vowed that as a labour leader, he would ensure that workers under the state civil service get their pay as at when due. It was learnt that the councils since last year October, have not been getting their full allocation from the Federation account. After the payment of teachers in the 18 Local Government Areas, Saturday Vanguard learnt that the funds are no longer enough to pay other staff under the employ of the Local Governments. It was learnt that the state government has on several occasions made attempts to bail out the councils in Edo state but the situation became difficult following the dwindling allocation accrued to the state from the federation account.
It was not surprising therefore, when the state government and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) took a swipe at the Edo state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, who last Monday, alleged that Governor Oshiomhole had deducted about N200billion from the Councils since he assumed office as governor in 2008. Orbih traced the paucity of funds and the inability of the councils to pay salaries to alleged deductions from the state government.
But in a swift reaction, the chairmen of the 18 Local Government Areas in the state, held a press conference describing Orbih’s allegation as not only senseless and untrue, but an attempt to destroy the name of the Governor. The state chairman of ALGON and chairman of Ikpoba LGA, Mrs Itoha Osahon-Ogbeide said that integrity should not be sacrificed in the name of opposition politics.
She said: “ We want make it clear that the Comrade Governor is not in the habit of deducting Local Government statutory allocation. He has never done it, even in my first tenure as chairman of Ikpoba Okhai Local Government, he did not do it so he cannot start it today. Up till date we have paid teachers salary, we have not owed teachers one kobo. The problem of the none payment of salaries at the Local Government has to so with the deductions from the Federal Government in allocations sent to Local Governments. It started from the issue of the of crude oil, later it was crash in the price of crude oil. It has nothing to do with the Comrade Governor.
Yes, some workers protested recently, they did not protest against Oshiomhole. Rather, what they were protesting for was that we should also consider them in the payment of salaries not only teachers. What happens is that at the time teachers salaries are deducted from the allocation, we are left with little or nothing to pay workers salaries. That is why they are saying that attention should be drawn to them by at least owing teachers for one or two months to enable others get salaries.
“For instance, in my Local Government Ikpoba Okhai, if we don’t pay teachers for one month we can cover the salaries of workers for two months. So that is the problem, it has nothing to do with the state government, though we are used to hearing misguided comments. Orbih is displaying lack of information and it is disappointing. He should look for a means to help his party which is dead in Edo state to resurrect rather than feeding people with wrong information. Allocations are public documents so it is shameful that chairman of a political party will be so misinformed in this manner”.
Also reacting at the press conference, the Legal Adviser to ALGON and chairman of Ovia North East LGA, Mrs Lucy Omagbon, asserted that “ Orbih’s cry is that of a drowning man, seeking to pull others down like him. He does not know what to do and how to manage his party. To start with, allocation to chairmen of Councils is a public document. If you go to Ministry of Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs the figures are there for everybody to see. The problem is that we get half of what we used to get before now. Starting from October 2014, the allocations have been dwindling. We expected Orbih to be a statesman that will look for solution to the problems of the country rather than laying blames on people like Oshiomhole who are sincerely doing their best to move the country forward. We as ALGON members are disappointed with his utterances.
“Since we came on board, we have not received any excess crude except the one that came in April last year and that was a far cry from what we used to get. Some people call it augmentation, some call it excess crude and I don’t think any council got up to N30million or even N25million. As for the 10 per cent IGR, the councils have been collaborating with the state government in so many ways to utilize the money. We have red roof schools in the entire 18 LGAs, bore holes due to the efforts of the state government and we are happy to collaborate with the state government to achieve this success” she said.
On his part, the public Relations Officer of ALGON, Morrison Ogurobo-Ovia (Ovia South West), pointed out that “It is so sad that Orbih is not abreast of events happening in the country. For example in Ovia South West, we got N43million last month and our total wage bill is N56million, if you add imprest and overhead, it is about N62.3million. So how do you intend to pay with such amount of money? What comes from the Federal allocation is so disappointing and there is nothing we can do about it. Are you aware that two months ago, some Local Governments had to go and borrow money to pay teacher’s salary? In this situation what do you expect Councils to do? In fact, Governor Adams Oshiomhole should be appreciated because he is the only governor who does not interfere with the Local Government allocations and he has been paying salaries.
I want to say it emphatically that Oshiomhole does not touch our allocation, he gives us free hand to run the Councils. We are aware that in other states, when allocations come the governors will call the chairmen and ask them what is their wage bill, he gives them workers salaries and use the rest the way he wants. But here that is the last thing Oshiomhole will do and we appreciate him for that”.
Also contributing, Jimoh Ijegbai Owan East chairman, said “We are shocked with the figures being brandished by Orbih that Oshiomhole took from Councils. In fact, if you add the entire allocation that comes to the Councils in two years, it is not up to N200billion so why will somebody say that just to rubbish the Comrade Governor? The condition we are facing today is as a result of the mismanagement of the economy of the country by the PDP, his party. We are all students of the past in this state, between 1999-2008 in Edo state, that was the tradition of Orbih’s party the PDP, deducting allocations from the councils. Now we have a governor who does not interfere with our allocation, he started opening his mouth”.
The state government in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Prince Kaseem Afegbua, said rather than criticize the Local Government administrations, “Orbih ought to cover his face in shame at the outright plundering of the economy by the last PDP-led Government at the Federal level to the extent that even the Federal Government could not pay salaries of workers. The Government’s statement reads: “For some time now, we have resolved to ignore Dan Orbih and his PDP co-travellers not because of his obstinacy but for his deliberate attempt to distract government in the discharge of its statutory responsibilities to the people. By now, we thought Dan Orbih would have grown up to understand the nuances and dynamics of governance particularly in a state like Edo that was completely crippled by the shenanigans of the PDP demagogues, but his persistent ignorance makes a refresher course a compelling need. While we are of the opinion that constructive criticism is an integral part of the democratic order and governance process, doing so with so much ignorance and feeble knowledge creates more problem of misinformation for the larger society.
“Let it be placed on record that Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, the Governor of Edo State does not tamper with Local Government Funds in whatsoever manner. He has continued to encourage the Local Government to apply due diligence in the accounting process of their administration. As a result of financial impropriety, he had cause to suspend a Chairman of Owan West Local Government Area and was later removed from office when the allegations of financial recklessness were established by the Panel of Enquiry against the said Chairman.
“The Local Government as a third tier of government has its own statutory functions expressly spelt out in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [as amended]. Part of those functions include but not limited to payment of Primary School teachers, payment of Traditional Rulers salaries, payment of pensioners in the Local Government, maintenance of vocational centers and adult education amongst others. It is expected that the Local Government will run with the full compliments of a government at the Local level.
“Even if the entire allocations accruing to the 18 Local Governments from the Federation Account are computed in the last five years, they cannot add up to the bogus sum of N200 billion as claimed by Dan Orbih and his ilk. But typical of Dan Orbih, already used to cheap propaganda, if he does not mention such humongous sum, such vacuous story would not soothe the sheer hollowness of his thoughts. In fact, Local Government allocations do not go into the State Government Account, it goes into the joint account of all the 18 Local Governments.