Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri
Following the continuous economic crunch in the country, the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has announced the sacking of about 7000 civil servants from 19 parastatals and agencies who are yet to reach their retirement.
This is the second time the governor would be sacking civil servants in the state after he had in June 2011 sacked 10,000 workers recruited by the former administration of Chief Ikedi Ohakim.
The sack followed an angry demonstration by the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, rejecting the threat by the governor to sack the workers, who were joined by the national leadership of the congress.
In a statement signed by secretary to the government of Imo State, Sir Jude Ejiogu and widely aired on the state owned radio station, Orient FM, the governor said the affected workers would lose their jobs without salaries starting from January 4, 2016.
According to him, the reason behind the sack followed the months of probe that showed that the workers were not contributing any meaningful thing to the growth of the state.
The affected agencies whose workers and management were sacked included Imo State Health Management Board, Imo Water Corporation, Imo Cattle Market, Imo Sports Council, Imo Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO), Imo Marketing Company and Imo Consumer Protection Council, CPC.
Others are, Ada Palm, Imo Tourism Board, Imo Blue Lake of Treasure, Imo State Investment Promotion Agency, ISIPA; Imo Job Centre, Imo Water Development Agency, IWADA; Imo Library Board and Imo Livestock, Agricultural Development Programme, ADP among others.
The statement said the government was happy to have laid off the agencies and their workers, saying the state would now breathe a breath of fresh air and perform for the state.
It advised workers who were sent to the agencies on secondment to immediately return to their parent ministries.
The statement also advised the heads of the affected parastatals and agencies to hand over permanent secretaries of their parent ministries.
The sack of the workers may have ended several weeks of speculations that the Okorocha administration was planning to sack some workers of government parastatals and corporations.
It would be recalled that before paying the workers their December salaries, Governor Okorocha issued the civil servants with a “sack warrant form” as a condition for collecting their nine months salary arrears and allowances.
The governor had told journalists in December that he would give the civil servants roughly one month holidays to celebrate their Christmas and New Year and would not miss their absence because they were not useful to him and the state.
After the holidays, the workers resumed January 11, amidst rumours that the governor had already penciled down over 7000 workers for sack.
This rattled the workers and caused them to invite the national leadership of the NLC led by Comrade Ayuba Wabba to lead a protest march against the government’s obnoxious policy.
The NLC president lambasted the governor on the manner he disbursed the bailout fund given to the state.
Wabba boss however called on President Muhammadu Buhari to beam the searchlight of his anti-corruption in Imo as well as other states and local governments were the fund was not handled properly.
“NLC stormed Owerri with all the national executives of NLC, some Trade Union Congress members and NLC leadership from other states in the South-East and South-South to draw the attention of Nigeria that Okorocha is to doing things properly.
“In other states, before the bailout fund was disbursed the governors invited the ICPC,
NLC, pensioners, and other relevant groups, but in Imo such procedure was not observed.
“What we heard took place was that Gov. Okorocha unilaterally handled the disbursement of the bailout fund which has resulted in pensioners and workers of some parastatals being owed up to date’’, he said.
According Wabba, “we also gathered that because of wrong handling of the fund, Imo governor ordered workers to sign bound before they were paid their salaries, and is concessioning government parastals and sacking workers orally.
“The same governor has reduced retirement age for Imo workers to from 60 years to 45 years, when the rule has it that retirement age is for civil servants in Nigeria is 60 years’’, he said.
Wabba regretted that it was only in Imo that the NLC officials were not part of the modalities for the disbursing of the bailout fund which the state secured from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He noted concern that a lot of wrongs were going on in Imo , saying, “Okorocha cannot sack workers on the premise that economic situation was bad.’’
“APC government promised to generate two million jobs yearly to Nigerians if voted into power, why is it that at federal level Buhari is talking of employing 500, 000 teachers in 2016 while Okorocha is planning to sack workers in Imo State.
“Is it that Okorocha’s government in Imo is not part of APC government in Nigeria or because he Okorocha is the only governor where economic situation is the worst’’, he queried.
Wabba however called on President Buhari to look the way of some governors who according to him are not being guided by the rules, adding, “some of these elites must be closely monitored if the anti-corruption fight must succeed.’’