Iniobong Ekponta in Uyo writes on the anxiety among unpaid LG workers as Governor Udom Emmanuel dissolves the councils and appoints caretaker chairmen with no mention about the worker’s plight
The Akwa Ibom State government yesterday inaugurated care-taker administrations to run the 31 Local Government Areas following the expiration at the weekend of the tenure of the elected helmsmen at the third tier of government. The interim Executives with no fewer than nine members to run each of the Councils were inaugurated at the Exco Chambers of the Government House, Uyo, the State capital.
The Governor, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who performed the ceremony, said the teams were selected based on merit and enjoined them to complement government’s efforts at the grassroots level by enunciating people-oriented policies and programmes. He charged them to shun sleaze and work assiduously to engender the dividends of democracy to the people at the village, community and ward levels, warning that his government would not hesitate to wield the big stick against erring officials. Among those who were sworn-in yesterday included some seven former Chairman of the immediate past administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio, and our Correspondent gathered their return became necessary following the roles they played for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the State at the last polls.
The affected Chairmen include Tony Akan (Uruan), Orman Esin (Oron), Isantim Kenneth Okon (Etinan), Ufot Akpan (Onna), Ephraim Akpan (Mkpat Enin), Etetim Awatim (Ini) and Henry Ekpe Nko (Ibeno). To give backing to the new grassroots administrators, the House of Assembly had earlier amended the relevant sections of the Local Government Administration Law, granting the leaders legitimate powers to run the Councils pending when elections would be held to choose the elected officials. Before the end of tenure of the last administration, it was gathered that some of the Councils were seriously ‘raped’ and reap-off by the Chairmen, leading to constant outcry by workers, who were in the habits of sending Save Our Soul (SOS) messages to government for a bailout to pay their salaries.
Most affected Councils whose accounts were in the red include Abak, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Abak, Ikono, Urue Ofong and others, with allegation of misappropriation of funds leveled against the out gone Chairmen of the affected Councils Under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), workers in the affected Local Government Areas protested to no avail, and at the time of filing this report, it was gathered months of salaries arrears owed the workers were not paid until the dissolution of Councils last Friday.
According to a member of ALGON, who spoke to our Correspondent on condition of anonymity, “some of Councils’ Chairmen operate from Hotels and rarely come to work except when allocation comes”. “They build expensive mansions across choice areas including Ewet Housing, Osongama, Shelter Afrique and forget the welfare of workers and community development”, he added. At Abak Local Government Area for instance, it gathered that the immediate past Chairman, Hon. Joseph Ikpaisong, was alleged to have made away with N20millon bailout fund for workers salary few days to the inauguration of the new Council officials.
According to a senior official of the Council who would not want his name in print, “the former Chairman only explained to the workers that the money was used to settle banks’ loans”. “The same sleaze and financial recklessness has been the bane of the Councils since 2007”, he recalled and urged Governor Emmanuel to effectively check financial leakages in government and at the Councils especially in this era of dwindling oil resources.