By Edward Ngwu
I read with utter disbelief the piece by Mr. Tony Iredia titled “Enugu State, Its Workers, and Prado Jeeps” and published in Vanguard of November 1, 2015. The article was predicated on an earlier false, but retracted allegation that the Enugu State Government gave free cars to Commissioners and members of the State House of Assembly.
It is rather surprising that even though Mr. Iredia admitted not having the complete information, he still went ahead to do a speculative stunt.
Again, he said he would ordinarily have commended the workers for settling amicably with the government following the dialogue with the governor, but would not do so because issues earlier raised by labour were not addressed.
The fact that the labour leaders not only retracted their ill-informed press statement, but also apologised to the Enugu State Government as reported by the press clearly showed that all necessary issues were satisfactorily addressed. Must they render minutes of their dialogue with their governor? They were obvious victims of falsehood sold by some political desperadoes who still do not know that the race to the Enugu State Government House had since ended with the inauguration of the present administration.
The workers saw that the vehicles were from government pool. They saw that contrary to the car-spree misinformation, which they swallowed hook, line, and sinker, they were also given on the precondition that the vehicles must be returned to government pool at the end of their tenure. The whole idea was that since the state cannot afford the luxury of procuring new cars for the lawmakers under the previous arrangement where they go home with the vehicles at the end of their tenure, government allocated its pool vehicles to them to enable them discharge their duties and return them at the expiration of their tenure. This, by implication, means that the government will no longer spend a dime on vehicle allowance for its lawmakers or political appointees, which takes lion share of government resources. That way, the governor has saved hundreds of millions of naira for the State.
Governor Ugwuanyi does not need tutoring on prudence or the State of Enugu’s economy. I recall very well that he stressed the need for “belt-tightening” in his inaugural address. He however added the difference between his model of belt-tightening and the one Nigerians used to know “is that the belt-tightening under this administration will start with government functionaries and business”. “We will lead by example. We will lead a lean government to free up resources and channel them to the real development issues”.
True to his promise, Ugwuanyi is perhaps the only new governor that has not bothered to buy new official cars for himself or his convoy since May 29th as has always been the tradition. Instead, he not only uses whatever his predecessor bequeathed, but also deployed some of the personal vehicles he was known with over the years to his convoy to save the State costs. It is also on record that Governor Ugwuanyi still lives and goes to work from his private residence of many years.
But, even more important in this context is his commitment to the welfare of the Enugu State workforce. He has been making frantic efforts to clear the humongous salary arrears he inherited from his predecessor. While some states that received bailout from the Federal Government are bickering with workers to pay part salary arrears, Ugwuanyi’s administration, which has not yet received the bailout funds, pays Enugu workers between the 22nd and 25th of every month. On some occasions, when the federal allocation does not arrive before 25th of the month, the state government goes the extra miles to ensure that the workers receive “alert”. He has always upheld that bible injunction that “a worker is deserving of his wages”. He has always acknowledged that Enugu State is a civil service State, hence the State’s economy suffers a great deal once workers are owed.
I do not also know of any new Governor sworn in last May who has assisted his state workforce to own 100 units of houses within 100 days in Office. But in line with his campaign promise to cater for the welfare of workers, governor Ugwuanyi’s administration has paid 30 percent Equity Contribution to enable interested Enugu State civil servants from Grade Level 01 to Grade Level 10 (lower and middle cardre) to acquire one of the 100 units of one bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa, Nike, Enugu on 1st September, 2015.
His natural proclivity for peace and respect for other workers’ viewpoints on issues manifests in his preference for dialogue rather than force and intimation. For instance, even though labour rushed to the press over the car matter without first trying to crosscheck their facts with him, Ugwuanyi did not waist time to invite them to a dialogue.
In the past, members of labour and their leaders who as much as protested non-payment of the new minimum wage were cramped into the Enugu Prisons. Desmond Ugwu (a.k.a Prisoner Without Offence) is still alive to tell the story.
Furthermore, whereas a national daily even misinformed the public that the Enugu State Government used bailout fund to sponsor car largesse for political office holders, it is a well-known and verifiable fact that the State is yet to receive any bailout. In fact, Ugwuanyi has met with the labour to discuss modalities for the disbursement of expected bailout to clear the remainder of the arrears he inherited. He insists no kobo will be spent without labour’s approval.
It needs to be stressed, however, that despite the financial crunch, Ugwuanyi’s regime is not all about paying salaries, much as it is part of his priority. He solved the hitherto intractable headache called Ogbete Enugu Main Market entrance road in less than 100 days in office. Apart from the aggressive maintenance of roads in Enugu metropolis, Ugwuanyi’s administration, recently awarded contracts for the construction of eight roads across the state. As I write, heavy duty equipment of the most contractors have mobilised to their various sites preparatory for commencement of work. The roads include Abakpa Nike and Nike Lake Roads, dualisation of Opi-Nsukka Road, Amankwo-Ameke-Amah Brewing Junction, 9th-Mile By-pass, Ohom Oba junction-Imilike Ani-Ezimo Agu- Imilike- Ogbodu Aba- Obollo Etiti- Amalla-Obollo–Afor- Udenu Ring Roads, among others will be reconstructed in recognition of their socio-economic importance.
Funds were also approved for the active participation of Enugu State in the N2 billion Staple Crops Processing Zone (SCPZ) FG/African Development Bank agricultural programme. This is geared towards the rehabilitation and expansion of the Adani Irrigation Scheme, provision of infrastructure, feeder roads, etc.
The government procured 20 tractors for mechanized agriculture at the grassroots and renovated four blocks of buildings at the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in Emene, Enugu towards economic empowerment.
Construction of 200-bed Ultra Modern Specialist Hospital at Amalla, Orba in Udenu LGA is in progress. The sickbay and classroom blocks at Queen’s School, Enugu has been renovated and equipped. Braille Machines, Jaw Readers, Desktop Computers and other Accessories were installed for visually impaired students of the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu.
Far from being wasteful, Ugwuanyi is robustly plugging financial loopholes and funds recovery. He constituted an 11-man Committee on Local Government Staff Audit and Biometrics Data Capturing Exercise to audit staff and other related matters in the Local Government Councils. He also constituted an 8-man Administrative Committee on the Completion of Enugu State Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) projects in the primary schools in the state.
Ugwuanyi commissioned the construction of a 15km Inter-Town-Connection (ITC) 2.5MVA Injection Sub-Station at Ezi-Nze in Udi LGA to power communities across Udi, Uzo-Uwani and Igbo-Etiti Local Government Areas of the state.
If anyone has benefitted from vehicles largesse, it is even the security agencies, which have so far received 20 patrol vehicles to boost security in the State. According to the 1999 constitution, security and welfare of the people are the primary purposes of government.
The Ugwuanyi administration has indeed given governance a human face, extending humanitarian gestures and social responsibility to schools, hospitals, churches, etc, sponsoring several open heart surgeries for children and paying hospital bills for tens of indigent patients.
One thing is sure- the attempt by political losers to incite labour against the performing governor has failed. Ugwuanyi’s people-oriented programmes and developmental strides will continue to endear him to the people of Enugu State and beyond.
- Ngwu writes from Enugu