Whither Okowa’s ‘prosperity for Deltans?’

Politics
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In the next four months, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State will be three years in office. In this piece, Asaba-based public affairs analyst, Ifeonu Okolo, says the administration has not delivered on its campaign promises, because its policies are impacting negatively on the welfare of workers. 

WHEN the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was inaugurated on May 29, 2015, there was joy among Deltans, especially the people of Delta North senatorial district who had based their expectations on the fact that the governor is from within their ranks. It was the first the senatorial district would be producing a governor; the two other districts had in the past dominated the position.

But, with the administration getting ready to celebrate its third year in office in a matter of months, the people’s enthusiasm has been dampened by the seeming lacklustre performance of Governor Okowa. Worst hit are the civil servants, who have been impoverished by the governor’s policies. For them, Okowa’s first term campaign mantra of ‘prosperity for all Deltans’ is fast turning into ‘poverty for all Deltans’.

While the situation for the average Deltan has remained one of forlorn hope, the state executive of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) headed by Jonathan Jemireigbe has no doubt compromised their position, thus leaving the Delta State workforce at the mercy of Okowa.

While the former administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had employed over 10, 000 Deltans, the present government has systematically removed the names of over 10, 000 workers from the payroll, using various pretext which to the average Deltan remains unreasonable.

Besides owing local government workers over 11 months arrears of salary, which his spokespersons have tried in vain to explain as untrue, the workforce at the state level is no better off, as they have been traumatized due to their inability to access their cooperative funds, which the present government hardly remits to the cooperators.

This is despite the several billions of naira that the state has received from the Federation Account, with a firm promise to offset the worker’s salary arrears and pensioner’s emolument. The Okowa-led administration is yet to disprove the allegations of misappropriation of funds leveled against it by Dr. Cairo Ojugbo, who recently dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Ojugbo alleged that the N10b received by Delta State government in the last trench of the Paris Club refund was not channeled towards the payment of workers.

Sad as this may seem, the government rather than addressing the weighty issues raised by Dr. Ojugbo had resorted to mudslinging. Worst still, traditional rulers who should have played a fatherly role by investigating the allegation chose to take sides by describing Ojugbo’s assertion as hate speech.

Following the investigation of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Okowa’s Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, had attempted to explain how the last tranche of the Paris Club was used. He disclosed that N5b out of the N10b was to be used in offsetting arrears. But Aniagwu however left a vacuum in his effort to fool Deltans, by not stating specifically the kind of arrears the N5b was meant for.

Dr. Ojugbo alleged that Okowa used the so-called arrears in paying himself. This has remained an incontrovertible fact, since Aniagwu’s assertion itself over how the N10b was used never explained if the arrears were for local government workers or for promotion arrears of the state civil servants, which Okowa’s administration has stopped paying. Where is the prosperity for all Deltans in this?

But, beyond that, even the public-private partnership the state government entered into with God is Good Motors to take over the state transport fleet, Delta Line, has thrown much questions up which the present government is yet to address. The Acting Delta APC Publicity Secretary, Leonard Obibi, also wondered why the government refused to accept the proposal by labour to make the sum of N2b available to the government and run the transport fleet.

Obibi is surprised that the administration preferred to give out 60 per cent share of the transport fleet to God is Good Motors, at the paltry sum of N161m. The question yet to be answered therefore by the government is: “What is the economic sense in such a privatisation, which on the other hand has thrown about 700 workers into the labour market? Where is the prosperity for all Deltans with such policy?”

Even the recent arbitrary deduction of workers’ salary on the grounds of a contribution for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by Governor Okowa has remained unchallenged, because the state executive of the NLC has been allegedly compromised with money to the detriment of the workers. Many of the helpless workers has been asking: “Does a government have the moral right to compel workers to contribute money into a ‘health programme’, which they do not benefit from; as most of them prefer to visit private hospitals where their needs are better served?”

Beyond that, the government has gone out of its way to block all manner of empowerment programmes for workers, just to impoverish the people. For instance, early in his administration, Okowa abolished the payment of the West African Senior School Certificate examination registration fees for secondary school students. If anything, it has even introduced school fees in public secondary and primary schools. While other states celebrate the performance of students in tertiary institutions, by awarding scholarships to such deserving students, the practice has been abolished in Delta State.

While most Deltans do not know the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR), various forms of obnoxious taxes are imposed on the helpless citizens, whose little earnings from other sources are squeezed out of them with intimidation. Such and many more are the prosperity Okowa’s government has brought to Deltans.

How would the people enjoy prosperity, when the Okowa administration runs a cabinet of over 2,200 political appointees, with a monthly take home pay of over N350m. This was revealed by his Finance Commissioner, Olorogun David Edevie recently.


– The Nation

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