Abia govt defends salary crisis rocking parastatals, pensioners

By Gabriel Chy Alonta

The Abia state government has absolved itself of blame on the salary crisis rocking the state’s parastatals and some pensioners.

An official statement issued over the weekend by the state commissioner for finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, clarified that the state government paid monthly subventions to parastatals and that those institutions were expected to generate revenue for their operations including payment of salaries of their workers.

The commissioners alleged that a recent review of the activities of some parastatals in the state revealed some flaws, leading to the dissolution of their boards to pave way for more efficient management team that would reposition the institutions to deliver on their mandates seamlessly.

Oriaku disclosed that the government, in conjunction with the Nigeria Medical Council (NMC), in a review meeting of the Hospital Management Board (HMB) and the Abia StateUniversity Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) operations last month, agreed that the state government paid two months subventions every month to the institutions to help them clear the outstanding bills, stressing that its’ implementation would commence in the month.

“It is our sincerest hope that ABSUTH workers will seize this opportunity to call off their industrial action. It is our firm belief that, after the review and implementation of the recommendations of the committee set up by the state government on these institutions, they would become more efficient and self-sustaining”, the release reads in part.

On the secondary school teachers’ outstanding salaries, the commissioner said, “it is the restructuring of the sector that has affected the Secondary EducationManagement Board (SEMB).

“It is on record that Abia is the only state in the entire federation that still manages a Junior Secondary School system that is distinct from its senior category. With the recent signing off on the review of the sector by the governor, the Junior Secondary School system will be joined with ASUBEB as obtainable in other states of the federation and with its resultant effect on staff delineation from SEMB to ASUBEB.

“It is expected that this process would be completed this month and the secondary school wage bill would be easier to manage unlike what is currently on ground. The state has also concluded plans to be paying the teachers two months salaries every month effective from May allocation to clear the outstanding”.

The commissioner said that ASUBEB headquarters staff were being paid by the state government whereas they were staff of the local government system, while their pensions and gratuities were paid by the local government.

“This is a misnomer, and an aberration for them to have operated this way for years without being corrected. The governor has also approved that their outstanding should be paid off immediately while they are realigned to the local government where they rightly belong”.

On the issue of the management of Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu (ASCETA), Oriaku regretted that the college could only boast of about 500 students, which, according to him, cannot sustain the staff strength of about 430 workers.

“Recently, the state government increased their monthly subvention by over 200% from N10m monthly to N30m. However, the poor student population has continued to hinder the school from generating the much-needed revenue to enable it thrive”, he lamented.

He further said that the state government had set up a committee whose membership included Professor Mkpa Agu Mkpa, former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University to review the operations of the school with a view to making it operate optimally.

“Similarly, the extant review committee report on Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, and others, have been submitted to the governor who has also given directives on same to the state exco secretariat and definite decisions will be taken next week. I can assure you that the report is holistic and it will restore the school back to its past glory”, part of the release reads.

On the state judiciary workers, the finance commissioner added, “the governor has also signed off on the report on judiciary reform headed by the attorney general of the state. The implementation committee on the proposed reforms has also been constituted and will be inaugurated by next week. We expect to see a more focused and more motivated staff of the judiciary after this exercise”.

He said that the government is working hard to reduce pension outstanding in the state, disclosing that payments had commenced last Thursday, while the April allocation was still being expected.

“While we disagree with the months stated by the Union as outstanding, we acknowledge that we have some months outstanding. We are working on the fundamentals that gave rise to a N450m monthly state pension obligations and N380m monthly local government pension obligations.

‘These figures are, no doubt, very outrageous when compared to our total wage bill vis avis our monthly revenue including FAAC. Already, we are at the final stage of migrating to the contributory pension scheme but we must address some basic issues still”, he assured.

He further said the governor had signed off on the implementation of the review report on local governments in the state which, according to him, is expected to bring sanity to the local govt system, adding that issues of ghost workers and those earning from two agencies would be exposed.


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