Dr Alex Otto OFR
Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
My dear brother, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, I bring you greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I beg to let you know that even though this letter of appeal I am sending across to you bothers on issue of governance in our dear state of Abia, it bears little resemblance to my previous interventions that sought to assess your performance or criticize your programs we found fault in.
I must also plead with you to ensure that this letter is not politicized or trivialized like my previous releases so that its essence would not be lost to attacks and counter media attacks.
My dear brother, facts on ground show that Abia Civil Servants are presently owed up to ten months salary arrears, while pensioners are owed up to sixteen (16) months pension arrears. I do not intend to delve into the issues of Leave Allowances and Gratuity which are also as neglected as Salary and Pension.
I chose to make this passionate appeal at this point in time because facts available show that the situation has become very critical and pathetic for serving and retired Abia civil servants.
Like me, I am sure you must have read or been informed of series of reports concerning the untimely, and avoidable deaths of Abia civil servants and pensioners who had need to take care of their health, but had no money, because government chose to owe them unjustly.
I do not just read this sad situation only in the newspapers and on social media, I get text messages and calls that are painful and very pathetic, and which convinced me that the situation has indeed taken a dangerous dimension and thus must not be allowed to continue.
I would not want to bandy figures of Abia’s statutory monthly allocations for the state and the seventeen (17) local governments, internally generated revenues and oil derivation funds, but I do know that they have been more than enough to execute monumental projects as well as pay Abia workers and pensioners up to date if your government had managed such resources with high sense of frugality and responsibility.
Is it not such a provocative tragedy of immense proportion that the state under your watch received little over Thirty Billion Naira (N30B) Naira in Bailout fund and Paris Club Refunds from the Federal Government, and yet could not pay salaries or clear the pension arrears even when the government repeatedly assured it would do so?
Does it mean that Abia State government would have been owing more than one year salary arrears if the Bailout fund and Paris Club Refunds didn’t come in the first place?.
This sincere letter is not anchored on rumour or driven by hearsay, thus I wouldn’t want to believe the insinuation and alleged boast by some agents of your government that you intend to clear the salary arrears just before the 2019 election so as to get the support of civil servants for your re-election bid.
Such selfish political strategy, if it is true, would only increase the number of deaths arising from hunger and sickness due to prolonged non payment of salary arrears. It is only the living that can vote.
It would also confirm the generally held view that your government has the capacity not to owe salaries but intentionally chose to.
In one of my articles, published in my Thisday Column and republished by numerous other media platforms who found it very interesting, I harped on the moral and economic obligations that would have been met when salaries are paid promptly and I would like to revisit and restate a few lines here.
The Bible reminds us that ” We should not muzzle the ox while it threads out the grain, and that the labourer is worthy of his wages”. 1 Timothy 5:18.
God went further to sound more angry as if he was referring to the case of Abia workers when he warned that “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who moved your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty”. – James 5:4.
The Quaran was also very much in agreement when it stated that “The Prophet said, you should pay the labourer his wages before his sweat dries up”. Sunan Ibn Majah (Volo 3) (2443)
A similar injunction was made in the Quaran with the message that says “And oh my people! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people, the things that are their due”. Quran 11:85
From the economic point of view, I comprehensively explained the positive impacts of payment of workers’ salaries on the economy in times of recession.
Even though our economy has recovered a bit few months after I wrote that piece, yet my argument on the timely payment of workers salaries and positive impacts of money circulation on a struggling economy like ours remains valid. It therefore follows that the failure of your government to prioritize the payment of workers’ salaries and pension arrears, hurts the economy of the state.
One of the most dangerous developments arising from the failure of your government to pay salaries as has been discovered is that, workers now go about begging and borrowing to sustain their families, only to pay back with interest when they manage to receive the meager salaries behind time, thus they are usually left with nothing. The long term implication of this is that, there would be no room for savings and investment, because they were indebted with interest, but owed by the government without interest; what an injustice!
Another dangerous implication of the maltreatment of Abia workers by your government is that it kills their service morale, slows productivity, destroys patriotism and creates room for corruption.
What of the children and wards of civil servants who have been forced to miss exams, miss academic sessions or completely drop out of school because you failed to pay their parents and guardians?
You can see that the spiral effect of your government’s failure to pay Abia workers and pensioners their salaries and pension arrears is horrendous and far reaching, therefore I am appealing to you to have mercy on Abia workers and show some humanity.
Dear Governor Ikpeazu, even if your government can’t do any other thing, let it try and pay workers’ salaries because lives are involved.
Let me thank you in advance for your anticipated immediate action on this matter.
Dr. Alex Otti OFR