OPINION: Ugboaja And Abia Employment Scam

Posted by FN Editor | 3 years ago | 770 times

By Ebere Uzoukwa 

He hails from Akpaa, Obingwa, Abia State. Chief Okezie Ugboaja was part of 'Okezuo Abia 2014/15' that served as a campaign council for the election of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State in 2015. 

While he served as Deputy Director, Administration under Chief Kingsley Megwara (Ikporotu), yours truly was the Deputy Director, Media and Publicity, under Dr. Osita Ikpe. As a matter of fact, we worked closely and respectively from our directorates to ensure Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu was elected to serve his first tenure. The synergy was brotherly bonded as both of us from Obingwa worked for an Obingwa man that would later ascend the governorship seat no Ngwa person had occupied before 2015.

Dee Okey, as we fondly and respectfully call him, was  later appointed Chairman, Local Government Service Commission (LGSC), Abia State by Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu. The Governor, no doubt, considered him for such sensitive appointment given to reasons sufficiently anchored on 'trust'. Ugboja had before the appointment garnered requisute administrative experience in the public service that could equally trigger such consideration. Recall that he had served as Managing Director, Abia State Housing Corporation.

It is a public knowledge that the Local Government Civil Service Commission (LGSC) is constitutionally saddled with the responsibilities of recruiting, promoting, discipling and transferring senior staff of the Local Governments in the States of Nigeria. Dee Okey, as I will always and respectfully call him, had this assignment rested expressly on his shoulders. The Commission under his leadership/headship was expected to serve the State and her people with every sense of responsiblity and patriotism. 

However, the situation at the moment is not only heartbreaking but utterly embarrassing. There is no gainsaying that Ugboja has turned to a disappointment to Dr. Ikpeazu and his administration given his fraudulent activities. Beyond plunging Dr. Ikpeazu and his government into a near irredeemably image crisis, the former Chairman of Abia LGSC fatally proved himself a corrupt administrator thus rubbishing a hitherto noble program that would have seamlessly injected about 1,500 graduates into Abia Local Government service. 

It was shortly after 2019 election that certain but freightening signs began to suggest that Ugboaja would monsterously end in calamity. My own brother would descend mercilessly on my wife whose only offence was that her husband didn't support the re-election bid of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. 

The Governor had before the 2019 election approved and granted a waiver for employment in the Local Government service which I personally transmitted to Ugboja in his office. That he received and treated accordingly. But on flimsy ground that I didn't support Dr. Ikpeazu's relection bid which never stopped the governor's re-election was Ugboaja's reason for denying the woman a government job. 

After fulfilling all rigorous recruitment processes when  her name alongside others was shortlisted, which include aptitude test, oral  interview, medical examination and documentations, Ugboaja withheld and pocketed her appointment letter. Acting a  'demi-god', Ugboaja in his ignominy vowed to punish the innocent woman and his daughter-in-law. Ugboja without mincing words diverted and probably sold that employment slot the  governor graciously and specifically approved because of politics.

As she was psychologically traumatised and frustrated, all I could do was to console her. Ugboja would at some fora and events brandished the appointment letter as he  made caricature of her. Even when I prevailed on some influential brothers including Comrade Ikechi Nwaigwe, the President, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) to intervene, Ugboja would not reconsider his wicked stance. 

However, the core issues being interrogated in this piece is not neccessarily about the innocent woman Ugboaja denied one of the job slots he fraudulently diverted and sold. It is about the embarrassssing employment scam, its damaging effects and the willful disrespect to Dr. Ikpeazu and his government. It is about the wanton corruption committed by Ugboaja and his accomplices. What about the image crisis he inflicted on the Government of Abia State for employing over 5,000 Grade Level 8 workers as against the 1,500 approved slots by the government? Can we pause and calculate how much Ugboja and his cartel may have fraudulently raked into their pockets through this corrupt practice and empowerement racketeering? The bottomline is that Ugboja and his agents may have exorbitantltly sold about 3,500 slots to desperate unemployed youths and helpless job seekers at N150,000 per slot as investigation revealed. This suggests that Ugboaja and others involved in the scam fleeced their victims about N525M. 

It is established according to records that these  thousands of job slots sold by Ugboaja and his agents over-bloated the wage wage bill of the 17 Abia Local Government Areas. This unexpected but sad development may have jolted the Government of Abia State to suspend the employments. No right-thinking person could have on the other hand expected the leadership of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Abia State, under Hon. Ibe Nwoke (Abu Dhabi) to stomach the drawbacks of the overbloated wage bill amid expectations of developmental projects at the grassroots within their tenure. The interim  suspension of the employments is unarguably and administratively the right step to assume in solving a corruption inflicted problem of this nature in public service.  

Therefore, my candid advice is that Dr. Ikpeazu and his government should confront  and solve this enmbarrassing problem and erase the scandal perpetrated by Ugboja and cohorts in a manner that will not adversely affect the future and career of the victims.

That Ugboja is perching around some influential persons in the State pleading to be reinstated after his fraudulent outing is an insult to Ndi Abia to say the least. On what ground is the governor expected to consider such plea? This is a man that should at the moment facing the wrath of the law.

It is expected that the State Government will commence the trial of Chief Okezie Ugboja without further delay. Recall Abia State had before the Local Government employment scam battled with similar job scandals including one involving the Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB). A step in this direction shall  not only serve as a deterrent to other public servants waiting in the wings to commit similar fraud against the State and the people but will largely redeem the battered public image of the present administration.

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