By Chukwuemeka Opara
Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi has accused civil servants in the state of illegal collection of leave allowances from 2011 to 2015.
He also said that he would report the issue to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) national leadership if the organised labour in the state failed to acknowledge the development and seek an amicable resolution of the issue.
Umahi levelled the accusation against the state workforce on Thursday in Abakaliki during an interactive session with representatives of labour unions and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Ebonyi chapter.
According to the governor, continued payment of leave allowance to workers in that state was illegal since it has been covered in the consolidated salary structure which they receive.
“Civil servants have forgotten that I was the deputy governor during the immediate past administration in the state which paid the allowance.
“I mediated in the labour and state government dispute and know everything about consolidated salary payments having done all the calculations concerning it.
“The immediate past administration paid until I took over and the state Accountant General and my Commissioner for Finance continued the payment with no one asking questions.
“The civil servants intentionally did such thing but I came with the anointing of God who revealed the development to me,” he said.
The governor threatened to report the state branch of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to its national leadership except the state workers accept that they owe the government.
“We will discuss with the representatives of the workers and if you accept that workers owe the government, we will resolve all areas of differences.
“We would, however, invite the national leadership of the NLC to the state if you insist that workers are being owed leave allowance because you are not telling the people the truth.
“The state accountant general is directed to calculate the whole amount we have lost on leave allowances and if there is no consolidation on the leave, we would know what it is supposed to be on yearly basis,” he said.
He advised the state civil servants to understand that the government cared about their welfare but that whatever accrued to the state was for all sectors and not only for them.
“When we therefore pay higher salaries than other states with bigger assets and oil deposits, then we are supposed to be pitied,” he said.
Prof. Bernard Odoh, Secretary to the State Government (SSG) urged workers in the state to focus less on salary increment and engage in entrepreneurial ventures to make ends meet.
“There is no amount of salary that would solve all needs of workers and the emphasis should be in supplementing their earnings through entrepreneurial ventures.
“This is the case in states such as Anambra where I lived as I urge the state’s committee on accessing the Bank of Industry (BOI) funds, to expedite action for workers to access it.
“They should immediately release the first tranche to workers so that people would see its impact and become interested in accessing it,” he said.
Mr Leonard Nkah, state NLC Chairman, thanked the governor for his concern for the workers and pleaded that all issues of disagreement between labour and government be settled amicably.
“We feel that this matter has not reached the state of inviting the NLC national leadership as we felt that since the issue of consolidation was implemented, it was justified,” he said.