X-raying the issues with Abia parastatals and pensions payment (1)

By FN Editor on 14/05/2019

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By John Okiyi Kalu

Recently, Abia State Commissioner For Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku, released a press statement titled “Our Position on Parastatals' Salary Issues” to essentially bring to the public arena facts on what the government is doing to support state parastatals pay workers as and when due.

One key thing about Mr Oriaku’s media engagement on the issue was that he did not try to pass the buck but rather focused on solutions already in the works to solve the challenge. Having read him and the response of well meaning individuals to his statement, permit me to shed more light on the real issues behind the challenge Abia State parastatals are having with workers' payment and leave you to share your views and suggestions.

First, I need to correct a misrepresentation of facts regarding the outstanding owed workers. While the total outstanding in a parastatal might be X number of months, it doesn’t mean that workers in those parastatals have not been paid for the past consecutive X months. For instance, pensioners might have 17 months in unpaid wages but in March 2019 they received one month pay and just last week (May) they received another month’s pay. The notion that they have not been paid anything for the past 17 months is not factually correct. Same applies to all the parastatals with outstanding. In December 2018, for example, Governor Ikpeazu ensured that every Abia worker in our MDAs and Parastatals as well as pensioners celebrated the Yuletide (Christmas) with a minimum of one month salary paid to him or her.

It is also on record that the majority of Abia workers are in our MDAs. As at today, our MDAs are up to date with salary payment. They have already received April 2019 salary. The same applies to our primary school teachers who are not owed even a month’s salary.

Even with parastatals, we currently have about 15 state parastatals and less than half of them have salary payment challenges. The majority of our parastatals are up to date with salary payment and some of them like Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA) are also up to date with pension payments. Kindly feel free to verify from any BCA pensioner if he or she is owed any pension. Indeed, during the last May Day protest by pensioners, I asked one of them who is a former BCA staff why he joined the protest and he replied: "Commissioner, injury to one is injury to all”,

Fair enough to me. We do not want any “injury” to any of our pensioners or workers.

My note on the challenge with some Abia parastatals is not meant to give excuses or pass the buck. The focus will be to present to the public arena issues around the distressed parastatals as well as what the Government is doing or planning to do to solve the challenges.

There is no state in Nigeria without ailing parastatals. It will not be fair that because workers of Odumegwu Ojukwu University, for example, are currently on strike over wage issues, then one should now generalize and say Governor Willy Obiano is not paying Anambra workers. Likewise, JAMB announced today that they remitted N5b to the federal government from what they made and that clearly shows that a well managed parastatal can contribute to state revenue, comfortably run its operations and pay salaries of its workers if properly run by their management and not serve as draining pipes of state treasury for themselves and their vested interests. Along the same line, that a neighboring oil producing state is owing 14 months in unpaid pensions does not necessarily tell the whole story.

To those who dwell on rhetorical questions like “who appointed the heads”, it is important to point out that the same person appointed the heads of the successful parastatals. When those non performing heads who give all kinds of excuses to defend poor performance are sacked or suspended from the same place they were complaining about they return to lobby for re-appointment. We all know why and also know why even workers who complained of being owed in a parastatal will resist transfer to MDAs where salaries are paid regularly. Don’t we all know?

Make no mistake about this: the administration is determined to solve the challenges with parastatals and pensioners in a manner that will serve the best interest of our about 38,000 workers and the more than four million other Abians who also need dividends of democracy such as good roads, hospitals, schools etc.





Posted on May, 14 2019

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