Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi on Wednesday, said that he was not perturbed by the industrial action threat by workers in the state, especially such from staff of the state-owned higher institutions.
Umahi disclosed this during a meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), its affiliate unions and managements of the state-owned tertiary institutions over the disbursement of the second tranche of N7.6billion-Paris Club refund to the state.
The governor remarked that the threat did not bother him as it was the legitimate right of the workers to make agitations but advised that it should be done peacefully.
“The state-owned institutions for instance, are autonomous and instead of embarking on strike, I feel that the workers should instead dialogue with their managements to find solutions to their problems.
“The government does not inquire how the institutions manage their funds because it has problems managing its own funds and spends 10 per cent of its gross earnings on the institutions.
“The institutions are at liberty to recruit or reduce their staff but the government’s own duty is to offer subventions in which the state ranks the highest in the country.
“In a situation where you embark on strike, we will transfer the students to the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo and use the augmentation due to you to pay their fees,” he said.
The governor noted that N1.56 billion had been allotted to workers from the second tranche of the refund, noting that it could either be used for the contributory pension scheme or health insurance scheme.
“We can use the funds to offset what the government and the workers are supposed to pay from the contributory pension scheme because both sides do not have the ability to pay the funds.
“This will ensure the commencement of the pension scheme but you can still deploy it for the National Health Insurance Scheme if it is convenient for you,” he said.
He noted that the first tranche of N8.3 billion was put in a fixed deposit account, pending the appropriation for its usage by the state House of Assembly.
“The government received an interest of N700 million within the period the money was fixed as its policy is to fix any fund that would stay over 24 hours in the bank before being used.
“We have generated over N3billion within three years of our administration as interests from fixing such funds and I will never cheat civil servants or tamper with their funds even at the point of death,” he said.
“We gave the Local Government Areas N2.9 billion which was used to pay over 40 per cent of gratuities, offset pensions and workers’ salaries.
“The state government used N4.6billion to also pay over 40 per cent of gratuities, outstanding pensions, promotion arrears and leave allowances,” he said.
Mr Leonard Nkah, Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the state thanked the governor for his favourable disposition towards workers which had enhanced the relationship between government and workers.
“This is the first government that will grant workers audience to discuss pressing issues and ensure the payment of their salaries before the 15 of every month.
“We however, suggest that funds appropriated to workers for the Paris club refund be used to commence the contributory pension scheme while the health insurance scheme will follow suit.
“We however, make special case for the parliamentary staff workers union and the review of arrears of promotion and leave allowances due to workers,” he said.
Chief Frank Ogbuewu, Pro Chancellor of the EBSU, which received N1.1 billion from the second tranche called on the government to grant the institution more autonomy to run its affairs.
“We assure you that our staff will not embark on strike because they are more mature presently as no one wants to stay without salaries nowadays,” he said.