Below is a response from Onyebuchi Ememanka, the Spokesman to Ex-Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu following the sack of Abia State civil servants by Governor Alex Otti’s administration.
The attention of the immediate past Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has been drawn to yet another very reckless statement made by the Otti administration concerning him and his administration.
In what has become a dangerous obsession, the Otti administration has become incurably unable to do anything without looking for any possible means to blame the Ikpeazu administration, even for things that make absolutely no sense.
Their latest ploy is to blame the Ikpeazu administration and in particular, former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for their decision to sack several thousands of workers from the Abia State Civil Service.
In a statement credited to one Okey Kanu, Commissioner for Information in the Otti administration of Abia State, he attributed the decision of the Otti administration to sack these workers to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu whom he accused of employing people “illegally”.
It is disturbing that someone who speaks for a state government is blatantly ignorant of the workings of government. How can actions carried out by a sitting Governor in offering employment to teeming Abians be termed as illegal?
The term illegality connotes some form of criminality. What is criminal about the decision of an incumbent Governor to offer employment to the people of the State, putting them on the payroll and paying them salary?
According to the statement under review, Mr Kanu accused the Ikpeazu administration of “employing people through the back door and back dating employment letters given to them”.
This statement is ridiculous and preposterous. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Ikpeazu administration had absolutely no reason to backdate any employment letter issued to any person employed in the State Civil Service.
The reason is simple. Ikpeazu remained the Governor of Abia State till the midnight of 28th May, 2023, and by that token, all administrative actions he took within that period were covered with the robe of legality.
Even speaking from a purely legal perspective, all actions taken by a sitting Governor enjoy the presumption of legality.
One of the powers of a State Governor is the grant of waiver for employment to the people of the State. Dr Ikpeazu as Governor duly exercised this power for the benefit of teeming Abia youths and had absolutely no apologies to anyone for that action. One of the most important responsibilities of government is to provide employment opportunities to the citizens of the State.
Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is proud to have taken that decision to create jobs for our people. If Governor Alex Otti has chosen to sack these workers who were duly employed, then he must accept full responsibility for that decision and not blame another person for his indiscretions. It is as simple as that.
The point must be made that contrary to the falsehood contained in statement made by the Commissioner, these people who have now been sacked by Otti were employed under clearly defined due process supervised by the State Civil Service Commission.
There is not any single person employed into the State Civil Service whose employment did not go through the Civil Service Commission whose statutory responsibility it is to manage the process of employment into the State Civil Service. The records are there.
Unknown to this Commissioner who appears to be totally ignorant of the workings of the Civil Service, the process of employment into the Civil Service takes quite some time and doesn’t happen automatically.
First, the state government under Ikpeazu introduced biometrics in the assessment of the actual number of workers in the State Civil Service and this revealed several valid vacancies which led to the commencement of the processes for filling them.
Qualified Abians were offered employment into the Civil Service and were being maintained until this new administration came and sacked these workers, treating them as if they committed any offence by accepting employments from a sitting administration in the State.
The simple truth is that Governor Alex Otti came into government with overflowing vendetta in his heart which he has exhibited without any inhibitions whatsoever. What of the Permanent Secretaries he sacked from office? Were they employed by Ikpeazu too?
This is the first time in the history of our State and indeed anywhere in the country that a new administration came into office and sacked the entire Body of Permanent Secretaries together with the Head of Service, leaving only 2 Permanent Secretaries.
Such arbitrary display of raw totalitarianism is strange to the public service where careers enjoy substantial stability. There are clear procedures to be followed in sacking a Civil Servant under the Civil Service Rules.
These Permanent Secretaries were issued no queries, they had no subsisting displinary cases, they just woke up one morning and heard over the radio that they have been removed from office.
These are men and women who have served the State all their working lives. They have reached the pinnacle of their careers only to be kicked out like common casual workers. Was that Ikpeazu’s fault too?
Meanwhile, Otti brought the current Accountant General of the State from an Insurance Company in Lagos, ignored all known rules of public service and made her Accountant General. When it became clear to him that he had committed a massive blunder, he quickly granted waiver for her to be employed as a Level 16 Civil Servant without going through the Civil Service Commission. This is the height of hypocrisy!
One other distinctive feature of the Civil Service is respect for Seniority. When Otti removed the State Head of Service from office together with the Permanent Secretaries, he ignored all known rules of seniority and took a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education and named her Head of Service, bypassing all serving Directors in the State Civil Service.
Funny enough, the lady who is now Head of Service became a Deputy Director in the Service by virtue of the Command Promotion given by the TA Orji administration in the State, which Dr Ikpeazu upheld upon assumption of office as Governor. But Otti came in and nullified command promotions given to Abia workers by the Ikpeazu administration.
Otti’s penchant for sacking of workers should not come as a surprise to any close watcher of his professional life.
Otti spent his entire working life as a banker. The modus operandi of banks are well known. They are set up primarily to make profit and do not, by any stretch of the imagination, run on the principle of welfarism which governments stand for.
Once banks are under any form of financial pressures, the first casualty is always the worker. Laying off, sacking, downsizing and rightsizing of the work force is synonymous with banks and their overzealous capitalist tendencies.
This is exactly the mindset Otti came into governance with. Sack workers and keep the wage bill manageable. Simple!
Within the first 100 days of his administration, Otti has sacked close to 10,000 workers across various strata of the State workforce.
Perhaps, the most disturbing aspect is that they declare human beings who come to work every day as Ghost workers!
These people have come out in the open to complain and cry, yet in the books of Otti and his administration, they are ghost workers, simply because they could not be captured by the contractors they brought from Lagos with their strange technology!
A good case in point is the case of workers in the Abia State Liason Offices in Lagos and Abuja. They were all mandated to come to Umuahia for physical verification. Some of the workers are drivers and other junior workers who earn about 40,000 per month.
They came to Umuahia and were kept for about 5 days unattended to and without any plans to offer them any form of assistance in terms of accommodation and food. When they elected to return to their stations, they suddenly became Ghost Workers.
The gale of complaints from workers who beseige the office of the Accountant General on a daily basis to complain about being branded Ghost Workers is clear evidence of a badly managed process.
Otti must take responsibility for his decision to sack workers. Ikpeazu has no hand in it. Ikpeazu employed them and paid them salaries from the time they were hired. It is common knowledge that workers in the State Ministries received their salaries regularly under Ikpeazu up until March 2023 when that judgment of an Abuja High Court froze the accounts of the State Government.
Ikpeazu’s salary obligations to workers in the State Civil Service was up to the month of April 2023. While he paid Local Government workers up to that month, workers in the State Civil Service were only owed for one month, April 2023!
We concede that we had some gaps in the salaries of some agencies of government and pensions but the situation was not as bad as the people were meant to believe.
Ikpeazu battled to pay salaries to workers even with the dwindling revenue profile of the State. Today, on account of the removal of Petroleum Subsidies by the Federal Government, Otti has received in three months what Ikpeazu never got in almost one year, yet he chose to sack workers!
For the avoidance of doubt, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is proud that his administration provided a platform for Abia youths to get jobs and deal with the challenges of unemployment and insecurity. He was very creative about it.
It was Ikpeazu who as Governor, created agencies like the Abia State Public Utilities Management Agency (APUMA), the Abia State Traffic Management Agency, the Homeland Security Corp which created thousands of jobs for Abia Youths.
It was Ikpeazu who built 2 factories – the automated Shoe and Garment Factories which have both been totally abandoned by the Otti administration with hundreds of millions of Abia money rotting away in equipment in those factories.
Ikpeazu will never apologize for giving jobs to Abians.
Since this current dispensation, state governments across the country have been rolling out measures to employ more of their citizens into the public sector. The contrary is the case in Abia State where people are being fired.
It takes sheer wickedness to sack people in an inflationary economy.
Otti should leave Ikpeazu alone and be bold enough to bear the responsibility of his own decision to sack Abia workers and expose them to the elements of a biting economy at a time when there is more than enough money to pay them.
Sir Onyebuchi Ememanka
Spokesman to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
September 7, 2023.