Abia state government has assured that backlog of salary arrears owed council workers by the 17 local governments in the state would be cleared before the end of the year as the formula evolved to solve the problem was yielding positive result.
The assurance is coming on the heels of a threat by the council workers to embark on industrial action if nothing positive happened to ameliorate their suffering after their prayer session Penultimate Friday across the 17 local governments for divine intervention.
Council workers in Abia have been groaning under huge salary arrears owed them which assumed a worrisome dimension since this year as many local governments could not meet their obligations to the workers with months passing by.
But Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, High Chief Johnny Ukpabi, said the debt profile of the respective councils have reduced drastically with the application of the suspend projects–for-salary arrears formula which saw six local governments clearing the arrears owed workers last month
Ukpabi told The Tide in his office that Governor T.A. Orji gave a directive that local governments should suspend execution of projects pending when the workers salaries were cleared.
Following the directive, he said he called a stakeholders meeting which endorsed that 55 per cent of excess crude revenue accruing to each local government should be used to pay salary arrears owed workers; 20 per cent to political office holders including councilors; 10 per cent to servicing of bank debts, another 10 per cent for contractors and 5 per cent for royal fathers.
”Only three local governments did not owe their workers when I assumed office. His Excellency directed that excess crude revenue be used to pay salaries rather than execution of projects.
”I called a meeting of the 17 council chairmen, the councilors and the Nigeria Union of Local government Employees (NULGE) and they endorsed the directive by the governor. Almost 99 per cent of the local governments complied. As at August, nine local governments have paid their workers in full out of which five do not owe both workers and the banks,” Ukpabi said.
He said that the governor has equally directed that the formula be retained until the workers’ arrears were cleared.
He said that his Ministry has initiated steps to rid the councils of ghost workers syndrome by authorising that only workers who come to work and were physically present at pay points should be paid salaries.
Reacting to the threat by NULGE to call out the council workers on industrial action, Ukpabi said they should exercise patience, adding that God has answered their prayers with the rise in oil prices.
The commissioner challenged NULGE to fashion out ways of improving the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) capacity of the councils from which the local government could equally pay salaries, not just to rely solely on what comes from the federal government.
Ukpabi said he shared the sentiments of the Chairman of Abia state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Lucky Akabuike, who vowed that council workers would thwart the ambition of non-performing council chairmen planning to come back for a second term.
COVID-19: Arik Airline Sacks 300 Staff
At least 300 staff of Arik Air have been relieved of their appointments by the airline’s management.
This was announced in a statement by the airline on Friday.
It blamed the sacking on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The press statement was titled, “Arik Air management declares 300 staff redundant”.
The company explained that a redundancy package would be provided for the affected workers with the help of the aviation unions.
The statement read in part, “Arising from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the constrained ability of the airline to complete heavy maintenance activities and return its planes to operations, stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leadership of the impacted unions has been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff.”
The airline added that over 50 per cent of its workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months.
In a separate statement also forwarded to our correspondent by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Banji Ola, the airline apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the protest carried out by the National Union of Air Transport Employees on December 3, 2020.
The picketing disrupted operations in Lagos and prevented the airline from processing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1 and 2.
S’East Leaders Laud FG Over EndSARS
South-East leaders on Saturday, lauded the Federal Government on the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protest and agitation.
The leaders of the zone, which included Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members as well as traditional, religious and youth leaders, gave the commendation in a communiqué issued after their meeting with a Presidential delegation in Enugu.
The presidential delegation was led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.
“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement, which was read by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umehi, said.
It also called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.
“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful herdsmen who have been living peacefully with us.
“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – NIGERIA; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.
It also called on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be elected as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The statement thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in Akanu Ibiam International Airport rehabilitation as well as intervention in road infrastructures in the zone.
“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s mausoleum.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ it said.
The statement said that the states in the zone will provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protest, help to rebuild police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.
“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.
Minister Hails Meeting With S’East Leaders
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as “extremely fruitful” the meeting which a presidential team had with leaders and stakeholders of the South-East.
“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told journalists on Sunday in Enugu.
The delegation, led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, met for more than eight hours in Enugu with selected South-East leaders.
Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.
“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.
He noted that the Federal Government had been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.
“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda.
“This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed noted.
According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.
The presidential delegation met with South-East governors, statesmen, elders, religious and traditional leaders, as well as market women and youth leaders.
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