… Insists Level of Gratuity Settlement Insignificant
By Ekemini Simon
The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Akwa Ibom State Chapter has faulted the claim made by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel that backlog of leave grant arrears owed local government staff has been cleared.
It could be recalled that Governor Emmanuel recently in a live Interview programme tagged “The Governor Speaks, series 8” had claimed to have settled backlog of leave grant owed local government staff.
Governor Emmanuel had said “This is the
same state that when we came, even leave allowances of local government staff we had a whole lot of backlog, but today, we have cleared all of those leave allowances”.
But NULGE says the Governor’s claim is not in tune with the reality on ground.
In a press conference held on Wednesday, May, 19, 2021, in Uyo the President of NULGE, Comrade Anestina Iweh flanged by members of State Executive Council of NULGE noted that as at the time of the press briefing, the Akwa Ibom State Government has not cleared the arrears of leave allowances and arrears of salaries of local government staff in the State.
While stressing that there exist a missing link between the Governor’s claim and reality on ground, Iweh pointed out that staff in the employ of Akwa lbom State Local Government Service
are owed 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2021 leave grant allowances.
She explained ” That 2018 leave grant was paid to staff of 22 Local Government Councils while the staff of nine (9) LGCs of Onna, Eket, INI, Abak, Etinan, Nsit Ubium, Mbo, and Okobo have not been paid.
“That salary arrears are still owed staff of nine (9) Local Government Councils since 2014. The nine Local Government Councils involved and number of months of salary arrears owed are; Ikot Ekpene -4 months, Abak – 2 months, Ikono – 2 months, lka- 12 months, Urueofiong/Oruko -1 month, Ibesikpo Asutan- 1 month, INI -1 month, Onna – 1 month and Uyo Local Government Council -1month.”
The NULGE President also noted that there is disparity in the payment of promotion arrears to the staff of the Local Government Service in the State as against what is obtainable in the State Civil Service.
She maintained that the last time staff of the Local Government Service were paid promotion arrears was in 2014, whereas, their State counterparts have enjoyed the allowance up to 2020.
The NULGE boss said that the number of persons paid in the last payment involving gratuity to retired Primary school teachers and next-of -kin in the State is like a drop of water in the ocean, compared to the backlog of outstanding gratuity yet to be considered.
Iweh noted that it is the appeal of the Union that modalities should be put in place by the state government to commence the payment of gratuity to retired Local Government staff and their next-of-kin.
The State NULGE President stressed that the state government should not abuse their peaceful disposition through dialogue in agitating for improved welfare for her members, insisting that their pattern does not in any way undermine the Union’s strength and ability to deploy any other labour machinery other than dialogue in achieving her desired aims for the betterment of her members.
Iweh said if members of NULGE after weeks fail to receive the payment as claimed by the state government, they will be left with no choice but to picket the office of the State Accountant General, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Office of Chairman, Local Government Service Commission.
Contacted, the Chairman of Local Government Service Commission, Mr Monday Okon noted that the Governor has made provision for the arrears of leave grant to be cleared but the payment is delayed by bureaucratic processes.
Okon said “You should know that before the Governor would make such public statement, he has finalized everything on his part. I will contact the Accountant General to know fully the little bureaucratic processes delaying the payment”.