Monday Ogbodum, Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Cross River State branch, and Chairman, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Cross River State Council, in this chat with Vanguard’s Ike Ucheckukwu, spoke on the issue of nine years unpaid gratuities among others issues.
What is your thought on the issue of gratuities in the state and your assessment of the eight years of Gov Ben Ayade?
For eight years, it has been trouble for civil servants in Cross River State. The civil service in Cross River State under Governor Ayade has not been too well with us. I commend him for payment of salaries, but payment of salaries to workers is not an achievement.
What is important is the ability to make the workforce of the civil service to work in a manner that would be benefiting to the civil servants. The joy hasn’t been there at all. Workers go to work without chairs, light, and most times no tables at their workplaces.
So the zeal to stay at the office and work is not even there. Sometimes the work is not even there at all. Those of us who are technical in nature, what gives us joy in the past administration was projects and project supervision; but since this (Ayade’s) government came, it hasn’t been the same again.
What would you say about the projects he initiated during his tenure?
When this government came in 2015, with this flamboyant projects like building a Trailer Park, my department swung into action, I was the head of the team that were to handle those projects. But the project died till today. And that is why you can see Trucks littered all over the city today.
Yes,he had good initiatives, but his major problem and set back is implementation. Civil Servants have suffered a great deal. Before Governor Imoke left, he paid gratuity for civil servants who had left up till 2012 and for state workers, he paid up to 2014.
But ordinarily, Governor Ayade who came in 2015 would have also taken it from there, and pushed for at least three years, but he came and left it where it was so as we speak, since 2015 we have not been paid gratuities.
But after the last strike, an MOU was reached where the government agreed to pay 50 million to both state and local government workers’ gratuities. But only N200 million was released to the committee which was set up to effect the payment. Along the line, the total amount to be paid for gratuities beginning from March 2014 where Imoke stopped was N232 million, but only N200 million was released. As I speak, we could not effect the payment of gratuities to all the retirees of March, 2014. From then till date it is still pending, nothing has been paid again.
On pensions, contrary to what the government has put out, currently pensioners have not been paid for April. Sometimes, it increases to three or four months. But as we speak, the pensioners who retired from the Cross River State civil service are owed the month of April and we hope they get paid before May 29, 2023 which will be handing over from the old administration and swearing of the new government. You know these people live on medication, and they need their monthly supplies. It is not something that should be delayed or owed because it not easy to serve for 35 years.
Is it true that no worker has been promoted since the inception of this administration?
For promotion implementation, since 2016, some of those promotions that were given have not been implementated. So eight years after, you were promoted, you are still underpaid. We thank him that the embargo on promotions has been lifted. We hope that the exercise would be completed before the 29th of May, 2023 if not the burden will be left for the incoming government.
However, there is hope that we will be promoted because it is eight years already. Every three years, we are supposed to be promoted. This means that almost all the civil servants are going to have double promotions hereafter.
How is the morale of the civil servants in the state?
The morale of civil servants in the state has been very low. I remember a certain Commissioner in this present Government asked civil servants to go home if they have nothing to do.
That is the kind of government we find ourselves in. Government offices have been taken over by weeds. It is shame to see the way that the place looks. Look at the government house, a place where the power of the state is domiciled. You cannot find good convenience at the Governor’s Office, no light, no water, nothing.
Has minimum wage been fully implemented in Cross River State?
For Minimum wage, we had a committee set up, and for state, from level one to six was implemented, but for level seven and above, the consequential adjustments for level seven to seventeen were at N250 million, the government said they had only N100 million. The balance of N150 million till date has not been paid. So Minimum wage is not fully implemented.
The numerous industries scattered around the state are not working else they would have been avenues for employment. None is functioning. None of those industries that is beneficial to the state civil service. We sent a memo calling on the government to stop privatization of the industries because their ownership status was not clear to us. Organised Labour in Cross River State does not know the status of those projects built by Governor Ayade.
What is your agenda for the incoming administration?
When we met with the incoming Governor during his consultation, we have been engaging with him, telling him that labour is interested in the next government. Appointments of people who are not qualified for public offices is a problem for government.
We need a government that can shape all ministries of government in proper perspective as we use to have. It is not about the number. We have a work force of about 17,000 Civil Servants in Cross River State. Monthly wage bill is between N3.1 and N3.2 billion, so there is much to be done by the incoming administration because a lot will exit the service this year and 2024. More people are needed in the workforce now.