…Cries out over Dead, Bedridden Retires Owed Gratuity
By Ekemini Simon
The National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has said that they are no longer going to wait endlessly for the government to pay them their five years leave grants among other entitlements of Local Government workers in the State.
They are giving the Akwa Ibom State Government 21 days ultimatum from February 3, 2022, failure which the union said workers will be forced to initiate industrial dispute processes for their entitlements to be paid.
This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the Congress of NULGE Akwa Ibom State Chapter held on Thursday, February 3, 2022 in Uyo.
The Union noted that they are disturbed over the lingering outstanding statutory payments of staff benefits not given the expected attention by the Akwa Ibom State Government.
The issues highlighted included leave grant, promotion arrears, non-payment of gratuity, arrears of staff salaries, staff training and revenue collection at local government areas.
On leave grant, NULGE said nonpayment of leave grant which they described as a legitimate right for all staff of the Local Government is an issue that has been a recurrent decimal in the system since 2014 till date.
They wondered the rationale behind political office holders who served in the same Local Government between 2014 and 2021 continued to smile home with various packages whereas according to them prior to the inception of the current administration in 2015, the only arrears of leave grant paid was that of 2014.
NULGE said with the present trend of payment by installment of leave grants to the Local Government workers, they are afraid that governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration may leave office without clearing part of 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 leave grants.
The communiqué added ” The Congress therefore, say “enough is enough” and call on the State Government to pay up all arrears of Leave Grants to the staff as shown hereunder: 2014 Leave Grants to all Local Government Councils, 2018 Leave Grants to Eket and Okobo Local Government Councils, 2019 Leave Grants to 21 Local Government Councils at the same time as against as payment by instalment of 2020 and 2021 Leave Grants to all Local Government Councils.
NULGE expressed displeasure over what they described as age long practice in the Local Government where staff are promoted in a particular year only to enjoy their promotion benefits after about a year and four months.
They pointed out that the practice subjects their members to a one year or more loss of their financial benefits.
NULGE stated “The Local Government workers are so saddened by the nonpayment of their Promotion Arrears since 2012. Congress therefore resolved that, henceforth the Local Government Service Commission should conduct promotion interviews on time and if for any reason, there was delay in the release of promotion letters, arrears of that promotion should be paid as it forms part of the worker’s salary that he or she has worked for.”
On gratuity, NULGE said the Akwa Ibom State Government is unwilling to pay gratuity to retirees in the Local Government since 2012 till date.
The Union offered insight into the fact that the affected Elder statesmen and women have written several letters to the State Government without any reasonable response. They stressed that the attitude of the Government which they described as negative has caused some of them early graves, and some bedridden over the years.
NULGE who accused the Akwa Ibom State Government of not wanting to hear anything about 2014 arrears of salaries said they are owed arrears of Salaries in the following: Ikot Ekpene- four and half months, Ikono- two months, Abak- two and half months, Ika- half month, Ibesikpo Asutan, Urueofong/Oruko, Ini, ONNA, Uyo all a month each and Itu senior staff a month.
On staff training, the local government union said they are strongly opposed to the current in-house training programmes offered to Local Government staff by the Local Government Service Commission notwithstanding the statutory monthly one percent Staff Training Funds allocated to them from the Federal Allocation.
The Communiqué added “The current Local Government Service Commission has succeeded in reducing the training and retraining of Local Government Staff to the Commission’s hall in Uyo.
” We wish to place on record that, the leadership of previous Commissions, with the same one percent Training funds, usually embarked on In-Service Training for Local Government staff in various renowned Universities for both Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) programmes outside Akwa Ibom State. Congress therefore calls on the Commission to wake up to their responsibility as far as the one percent Training fund is concerned.”
The Congress of NULGE also brought to the fore controversial issues surrounding revenue generation at local government councils.
They said that congress frowns at a situation where staff of the Revenue Unit in all the Local Government Councils are made redundant as Chairmen of Local Government councils now give out revenue generation on contract to their supporters as political settlement.
NULGE added “Congress therefore appeals to His Excellency the Governor to direct all Local Government Chairmen to stop forthwith, the giving out of Revenue Collection as contract, a situation devoid of checks and balances, but rather allow the revenue staff to carry out the duties.
“We therefore call on the Government to also maintain peace amongst the workforce of the Local Government by clearing all the above legitimate unpaid entitlements to the Local Government workers within the next twenty one (21) days from the date of this Congress failure which, workers will be forced to initiate industrial dispute processes to achieve our indebtedness in line with the agreement the State Government had with Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in December, 2020.
Lending his voice, the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Sunny James said although the issues are not new to NLC, they will liaise with the government to see how to resolve them.
He said ” These problems are not new to me because in December 2020, the matter came to me and NLC took it upon itself to look into it. It is not only NULGE but we have a very pitiable situation among the primary school teachers in which they are also paid from the coffers of the Joint Account Committee.
“After engagement with the Governor, they set up a committee to look into it. Their indebtedness was established for the first time in 10 years. The process of paying those retired primary school teachers began. Four batches have been paid of not less than N200 million each. It might not be enough, but they are certain that every two months, they will have something.”
On leave grant, he said the engagement yielded some results as no local government was paid leave grant in 2018 but 29 local government areas have now been paid through the work they have done.
Comrade James added “What NULGE is saying is that they don’t want their money to be divided. It should be paid embloc. I can assure you that within the next one week, the NLC with NULGE will seriously engage His Excellency the Governor. They can be rest assured that their money will be paid.”
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ini Ikie appealed to NULGE to exercise patience with the government. He assured that the Udom Emmanuel’s administration will look into the concerns.