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Why Obaseki sacked Commissioner, others over street sweepers protest

Dismisses crisis with FG over Benin Industrial Park project

SIMON EBEGBULEM,

BENIN CITY

Since he assumed office as governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki has repeatedly told people, particularly government officials about his resolve to wield the big stick against any official that tried to sabotage his efforts in making the state one of the best in the country.

As a matter of fact, on the day of the swearing in of Commissioners, Obaseki declared that “this administration intends to industrialize the state and make Edo an investment haven. And any Commissioner who fails to key into the Edo project will be shown the way out¨. He is popularly referred to as the ¨Wake and See Governor¨, following his ongoing beautification of the cities and road constructions across the state. However, the people of the state woke up last Wednesday to hear of the sacking of a commissioner, Permanent Secretary and Mr Aiyemenkhue Akonofua as the General Manager of the state Waste Management Board. After that announcement, a major shake up was equally witnessed in most of the Ministries in the state where Permanent Secretaries were redeployed. This is the first time most people were seeing the other side of the governor.

Godwin Obaseki

The problem of the officials of the Ministry of Environment started last Tuesday after Women and youths who were engaged to sweep the streets of Benin City by the Edo State Waste Management Board, stormed the state government House, protesting non-payment of their six months salary. The street sweepers carried brooms and palm fronds, casting aspersions against the government. They battled security agencies at the Government House gate and forced themselves into Government House. They alleged that the state government was responsible for the non payment of their salaries, having sacked the contractors earlier handling the street sweeping.

One of the protesters who gave her name as Osarodion Ogechi claimed that Chairman of the Board, Prince Aiyamenkhue Akonofua, promised to pay them before the Easter holidays but nothing was heard from him. According to her, “We have been working for the past six months and we have not been paid. They promised to pay before Easter but they failed to keep to their promise. We are here to demand for our money. When the contractor failed to pay us, we protested and the state government decided to handle the payment themselves. It is the Edo State Waste Management Board that is supposed to pay us but we have not seen the money.” Another protester, Mrs. Gladys Nkpor, said many of them have been evicted by their landlords over inability to pay house rents. “They have not paid us. We come out as early as 4am to keep the roads clean but we don’t get paid.”

Saturday Vanguard gathered that the protest embarrased Obaseki especially after seeing the old women lamenting alleged neglect by government which the governor felt was not the true situation. On Wednesday, April 4, Obaseki was said to have arrived the state Exco Meeting an angry man, expressing his disappointment about the way and manner some officials have been conducting the affairs of government. He particularly frowned at the protest staged by the sweepers attributing the problem to the failure of the concerned officials to do their jobs. The governor further lamented what he described as sluggishness in payment of contractors and others despite approvals and vowed that henceforth he would not hesitate to show erring officials the way out of his government.

Few minutes after the Exco meeting, the government in a statement signed by the Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie, announced the sack of the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability, Mr. Reginald Okun and the General Manager, Edo State Waste Management Board, Mr. Aiyamenkue Akonofua.The governor also directed that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Obahiagbon R.E., be redeployed. The statement directed the affected officials to “handover their assignments to the most senior government official in their offices with immediate effect. They are also to handover any government property in their possession to the appropriate authorities.”

In the statement, the government thanked the disengaged officials for their service to the state and wished them well in their future endeavours. Shortly after that, Obaseki redeployed top civil servants across Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs).   The redeployment affected permanent secretaries, who were reshuffled across MDAs, even as six newly sworn-in top officials were assigned offices.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Obaseki tasked civil servants to be diligent and committed to their duties, adding “this administration is committed to strengthening the state civil service for optimal productivity. Civil servants should be ready to contribute their quota.” He maintained that capacity building and training for civil servants would be given top priority in his administration, as they will be used as criteria for promotion. “Strong institutions are needed to drive development and we are determined to fix our civil service to ensure its reforms¨.

Obaseki also used the opportunity to dismiss the claim by the PDP that the state was at war with the Federal Government over the Benin Industrial Park project initiated by his administration. According to him, ¨The project is currently being developed at a considerably fast pace. Government is already receiving subscription requests for space within the facility from investors within and outside the country. To buttress this, three co-developers have already indicated interest to work on the project, even as we expect that over 1000 companies will be hosted at the park. Also, it appears that the tale bearers within the Edo Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have forgotten that there is harmony in governance between the Federal Government and the Edo State Government. It is laughable that they will try to concoct a non-existent feud between both levels of government, which are being efficiently run under the same political party, the APC. It is understandable that some people within the ailing Edo PDP, who do not wish Edo people well, are apprehensive about the huge success being recorded by this administration in industrialising the state. They are worried by the frenetic pace with which major industrialization projects in the state, including the Benin Industrial Park, Gelegele Seaport and others are being implemented. So they are concocting lies and outright falsehood with the intention of misinforming Edo people and Nigerians¨.


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