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Gov. Otti’s penchant for Abia workers’ welfare in perspective

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Gov. Otti’s penchant for Abia workers’ welfare in perspective

 

By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

 

The Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, has never pretended about his penchant for the welfare of Abia civil servants since he took over the reins of leadership on May 29, 2023.

 

The governor, as an astute banker cum economist, understands that the regular payment of salaries would not only motivate the civil servants to put in their best, but also improve their economic status and general wellbeing.

 

The workers’ welfare philosophy preached by Gov. Otti postulates that when the workers are denied their salaries, the entire economy of the state would stagnate, thus small and medium scale businesses, which remain the backbone of the economy, would also be adversely affected.

 

Against this backdrop, the governor vowed to prioritize the payment of salaries above the allowances of his political appointees.

 

From the inauguration podium on May 29, 2023, he announced that salaries would be paid on/or before the 28th of every month, a promise he has religiously kept since June last year.

 

Just like the workers in government ministries, departments and agencies, the governor did not forget the pensioners who were owed 32 months arrears between 2014 and May 2023.

 

His commitment toward putting a smile on the faces of the pensioners culminated to the clearing of their pension arrears in March, with the immediate commenced of the payment of their full pensions with effect from April.

 

Unlike past years, Abia workers celebrated the 2024 Workers Day (May 1) with their salaries in their pockets.

 

Speaking at the May Day celebration at the Umuahia Township Stadium, Gov. Otti restated that the welfare of Abia workers would continue to receive  priority attention in the formulation and implementation of the State Government’s policies and programmes.

 

The governor, who entitled his speech, “Workers as agents of development and transformation”, said that Abia would take the lead in the implementation of the new minimum wage as soon as the Federal Government and the organised labour reach an agreement on it.

 

“I understand that labour leaders across the country are currently engaging with the Federal Government and we are following those discussions closely.

 

“As soon as a concrete agreement is reached, we shall immediately do the needful as a state.

 

“We have also noted your other demands, including the payment of arrears of leave allowance, promotions and other accumulated debts owed our workforce in the last eight to 10 years.

 

“We shall carefully consider these requests and deal with them on a case-by-case basis, and subject to availability of resources.

 

“What you can, however, go home with today is that your welfare shall remain a priority to us.

 

“We shall continue to put you first in all policies and programmes of government, and in appreciation of your immense contributions to our economic and social development,” Gov. Otti affirmed.

 

He thanked Abia workers for their services to the state and for committing their productive years in the development of the state, adding that much of the dominant issues and challenges raised in this year’s Workers’ Day would have been effectively dealt with by next year’s celebration.

 

In a speech, the State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Okoro Ogbonnaya, lauded the governor for his developmental strides in the past 11 months and for taking the welfare of workers in the Abia seriously.

 

Ogbonnaya appealed to him to defray the arrears of leave allowances and salaries owed workers by the immediate past administration and others before it.

 

“This year’s May Day celebration in Abia was said to be very significant as it brought together the top hierarchy of leadership in government and the organized labour in an atmosphere of peace and fanfare.

 

“The last time both government and labour were said to have come together for such event was over 10 years ago.

 

“It was heartwarming watching members of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, who were recently given a new lease of life by Gov. Otti with the full payment of their pension arrears, exuding joy as they marched past and saluted the Governor.

 

“While we commend government for regularizing the payment of workers’ salaries, making the owing of monthly salaries a thing of the past, may we draw the attention of the government to the plight of Abia workers in the MDAs.

 

“Workers in the following agencies of government are being owed salary arrears as follows.  Hospital Management Board (15 months), Abia State University Teaching Hospital (21 months), College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu (22 months).

 

“Others are Abia State Polytechnic, Aba (33 months), Abia State University, Uturu (11 months), Local Government workers (2 months), Abia Line Network Company (34 months) and ABSRDA (16 months).

 

“Our amiable governor, it is a fact that the payment of gratuity was done last in Abia over 22 years ago. This situation brings fear to prospective retirees in the state.

 

“The governor of our time, sir, it is our plea that you apply the same system used to clear part of pension arrears to take care of outstanding gratuity arrears.

 

“This we believe will gradually give hope to the hopelessness in the state workforce, thereby driving away the fear of retirement that is currently gripping prospective retirees, who are now thinking that ‘retirement is a death sentence’.”

 

The speech of the state NLC chairman once again reaffirmed the neglect suffered by Abia workers under the Peoples Democratic Party and former Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu led-government.

 

Despite the enormous resources available to the state when Ikpeazu was foisted on Abia as governor, including the Federal Allocation, Bailout Fund and Paris Refund Fund, Ikpeazu and his ‘Dorime’ foot soldiers placed their personal gains higher and above workers’ welfare.

 

Their draconian policy of core and uncore civil servants saw many government workers literally starving to death, hence the humongous arrears left behind for the current administration.

 

However, one can only thank God that PDP and its gang of selfish looters were sent packing in the last general election, thus paving the way for the workers-friendly Gov. Otti, who is currently rewriting the Abia narratives.

 

There is, therefore, no doubt that before the 2025 May Day, all the issues raised by the NLC would have been given the attention they deserved and never again would any future administration in Abia visit them with venom as was the case between 2015 and 2023.

 

To God be the glory! # The New Abia is here!

 

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from  Umuahia.

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