Press Statement By Abia State Government:
“Our Position on Parastatals Salary issues”
While we acknowledge that there are lingering salary issues to be cleared in Abia State, especially with parastatals and pensioners, we wish to state the following facts to clarify the distortions and present concerned members of the public with details of ongoing efforts by the Government to tackle the challenges
Parastatals like the Hospital Management Board (HMB) and the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) are institutions to which the State pays subventions on a monthly basis, these institutions generate revenue which they are supposed to use for their operations including payment of salaries of their workers.
Following a painstaking review of the operations, processes and procedures of these parastatals which are discovered to be grossly flawed, the Abia State Government was left with no other option but to wield the big hammer by dissolving their Boards last week to pave way for more efficient management team that would reposition these institutions, shield them from undue external interference and pressures and deliver on their mandates seamlessly. These steps are in addition to the series of meetings representatives of government had with the Nigeria Medical Council (NMC) and a holistic review of HMB/ABSUTH operations last month wherein it was agreed that that state government pays two months subventions every month to the institutions to help them clear the outstanding. Implementation of this agreement will commence this May. It is our sincerest hope that ABSUTH workers will seize this opportunity to call off their industrial action. It is our firm belief that after the review and implementation of the recommendations of the committee set up by the state government on these institutions, they will become more efficient and self-sustaining.
The secondary school teachers salaries’ outstanding is due to the restructuring of the sector that has affected the Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB). It is on record that Abia is the only State in the entire federation that still manages a Junior Secondary School system that is distinct from its senior category. With the recent signing off on the review of the sector by the Governor, the Junior Secondary School system will be joined with ASUBEB as obtainable in other states of the federation and with its resultant effect on staff delineation from SEMB to ASUBEB. It is expected that this process would be completed this month and the secondary school wage bill would be easier to manage unlike what is currently on ground. The State has also concluded plans to be paying the teachers two months salaries every month effective from May allocation to clear the outstanding.
This is also one of the agencies the Governor has signed off its reform. Currently, the ASUBEB headquarters staff are being paid by the State Government whereas they are staff of the local government system. Their pensions and gratuities are paid by the local government. This is a misnomer, and an aberration for them to have operated this way for years without being corrected. The Governor has also approved that their outstanding should be paid off immediately while they are realigned to the local government where they rightly belong. These processes will also be completed within the month.
There is a fundamental problem with the management of Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu (ASCETA) which must be addressed headlong. Student population has a lot to do with smooth running of any school, it’s the oil used in the factories for production. Sadly, ASCETA has been unfortunate in this regards. The school has about 500 students with a staff strength of about 430 workers. This is certainly not sustainable!
Recently, the State government increased their monthly subvention by over 200% from N10m monthly to N30m. However, the poor student population has continued to hinder the school from generating the much needed revenue to enable it thrive.
The State Government has set up a committee whose membership includes Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa, former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, to review the operations of the school with a view to making it operate optimally. We also hope to include the institution in the two-month-salaries-per-month template as the committee settles down to work.
The extant review committee report on Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, and others, have been submitted to the Governor who has also given directives on same to the State Exco Secretariat and definite decisions will be taken next week. I can assure you that the report is holistic and it will restore the school back to its past glory. Already, the school has witnessed relative academic peace as Management has introduced some positive changes in the institution with new courses and marginal growth in student enrolment.
On the State judiciary workers, the Governor has also signed off on the report on Judiciary Reform headed by the Attorney General of the State. The implementation committee on the proposed reforms has also been constituted and will be inaugurated by next week. We expect to see a more focused and more motivated staff of the judiciary after this exercise.
Let me first of all acknowledge the hard times being faced by our pensioners but also quickly reassure them that government is working hard to reduce pension outstanding in the State even as payments commenced yesterday, 2nd of May, 2019 even though April allocation is still being expected . While we disagree with the months stated by the Union as outstanding, we acknowledge that we have some months outstanding. We are working on the fundamentals that gave rise to a N450m monthly State pension obligations and N380m monthly local government pension obligations. These figures are, no doubt, very outrageous when compared to our total wage bill viz-aviz our monthly revenue including FAAC. Already, we are at the final stage of migrating to the contributory pension scheme but we must address some basic issues still.
Today, in a State where we have some pensioners earning as much as N800,000 and N470,000 monthly, we also have those earning N5,000 as pension. The Governor, with a view to ensure that the right things are done, has mandated a committee to review this situation and conduct another verification exercise after payment of two months of the outstanding.
The last verification exercise was done 3 years ago and it has become pertinent that we review our books once again. It will be recalled that during the last verification exercise, we identified a cabal that works on introducing non civil servants into the pension basket. The detection of such fraudulent inclusions will help reduce our pension obligations to what we can sustain.
Let me also quickly state that the picture being painted as if we have not paid since last year is not true as they were paid last in March (Documents attached).
Local Government Administration
The Governor has signed off on the implementation of the review report on local governments in the state. This review was initially carried out in 7 of our 17 local Governments. The next phase of this reform continues with the outstanding local governments. It is expected to bring sanity to the local govt system as ghost workers issues and those earning from two agencies were well captured
The present adminstration has resolved more than ever to reform/restructure the public sector management system to make it more functional and optimally effective. We only ask for support as we embark on this journey which will help redirect our state to the path of sustainable development.
One thing I can assure you all is that our Governor is determined, more than ever before, to leave Abia better than he met it.
-Mr Obinna Oriaku
Honorable Commissioner for Finance, Abia State