Pensioners Protest: Exhibiting A Habit Of Ingratitude
By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, since assumption of office, has given face to democracy in the state, and also briefed to the people that self-denial is something very important in his service delivery.
It is quite unfortunate that some people don’t understand the division of labour as far as arrears of salaries and pensions are concerned. It is rather worrisome that we forget so early, the fact that Governor Emmanuel, on assumption of office in May 29, 2015, in any way in could, paid a 10-year backlog of pensions and gratuities to both the teachers and local government employees.
Touched by the gesture, the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Teachers Union (TU) had to write a letter, thanking the Governor for that level of intervention. There has never in the history of Nigeria that a governor of a state went to source and paid local government workers, which is entirely the responsibility of the Federal Government. A lot of people have forgotten that it is the Federal Government that gives allocations to local governments, and then the blame game is being repositioned.
On Monday, 11 July, 2016, a tiny set of paid group of people, some of who were young, claiming to be pensioners, stormed Barracks Road, the seat of Government House, Uyo, in protest of what they termed non-payment of salary arrears and pensions. They were protesting at a wrong place. They should channel their industrial action to the local government.
Let us go and fight from the source. You cannot work in the mosque and expect to be paid in the Church. In other words, if you work for the Federal Government, you are to be paid by the same source. If you work by state government, you will be paid by the state government.
The local government employees should not wear cover shoes in a political leg and pretend to be protesting for what they already know of. They know quite alright that they get their salaries arrears from the Federal Government. If the state government intervenes, it shows that there is love for Akwa Ibom citizens to be taken care of.
This is democracy. The pensioners have the right to channel their matters to the State Government or House of Assembly, which can equally move that to the Federal Government. This is a serious matter, not hiding under politics to do what they are not supposed to do.
Ever since Governor Udom Emmanuel intervened to pay a decade of pension arrears to the local government employees, none of them has ever thought of coming out to thank the governor. Let us not exhibit a habit of ingratitude, rather, let’s celebrate the governor. I know it was politically-manipulated for a pensioner who was sympathised by the Governor when he was sworn-in, to equally go and protest on his birthday. It was not a nice action. Let us call spade a spade, and let us do the right thing in Akwa Ibom State. Politics is over. It is time for governance.
This gesture by Governor Emmanuel was done not minding that fact that the payment of pension and gratuities to local government workers and teachers is solely the responsibility of Local Government Council.
Just last Friday, 8 July, 2016, Governor Emmanuel again, intervened by making funds available to pay for month of pensions to the local government workers. It must be stated here again that it is not the responsibility of the state governor to pay salaries and pensions of local government employees. The payment of salaries and gratuities to teachers and local government employees is the sole responsibility of the Local Government. And then the Local Government chain up the Federal Government because they get their allocations from the Federal Government.
The 2015 election is a settled affair and Governor Udom Emmanuel has been working had to meet the obligations of the people in spite of the paucity of funds, he has gone the extra miles to ensure that workers’ salaries and emoluments are paid on time.
Let me reiterate here that Governor Udom Emmanuel will not be distracted from the task of providing superior performance and bring home the people of the state, of which was massively elected to do. The governor has so far proven some level of integrity, politically and otherwise. This kind of a governor with such credibility should be supported.
Those who are on the side line of pulling down or bringing down Akwa Ibom State need to understand that when they fight with the government of today, you are fighting with the entire state.
The pensioners know where they got their appointment letters from, they know where they normally get their salaries and pensions from, so why diverting attention? Instead of writing the Federal Government or House of Assembly by way of democracy, they decided to toe this path. It is obvious that they are being compelled by whatever means or opposition to bring down the reputation of the state.
If you have a governor who intervened and paid you money that federal government is yet to refund to him, you should give some level of respect. If Akwa Ibom State is doing this while other states are still backward, I think we have the responsibility of saying thank you to our Governor, instead of paying him back in bad coins – even on his birthday.
The fact is that if the federal government says Nigeria is broke, who are we as a state to defer from it? But His Excellency came on board and decided to industrialise the state, has taken credible steps in the area of agriculture and manpower development. This is one aspect that we can stay as a state and run the affairs of the state without really relying on the federal government, but we have to understand that the economic is in a dilapidated state.
His Excellency decided to deny himself a birthday celebrated, he said his 50th birthday was not his priority, but how he could transform the people of Akwa Ibom State. If a governor could say that his golden jubilee celebration was not his priority, why can’t we come and reason together as one entity for Akwa Ibom State?