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Imo: Waxing Another Song On “flogging”

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By Ethelbert Okere

It is not entirely surprising that some people are trying to reap political capital from an observation   I made in an interview with some Owerri-based newspapers on the pensions matter in our dear state, Imo. I have also observed that some pensioners themselves took offense at my comment. One actually called me to say that I was “cruel” while another said I was “unkind”.

One political commentator claimed that it “was another page of excuses and blames on Imo workers and pensioners for the failure of this clueless, inept and incompetent regime to pay salaries and pensions for many months”. Another gale of rhetoric on clichés. He continues: “But the only worry is that it’s coming from a clergyman of a sort that touches lives with his heart-searching and heart-rending sermons”. The fellow wrote further: “No blame at all should be leveled against the hated and flogged unpaid pensioners and serving workers.”

I had in response to an observation by one of the reporters to the effect that the worry about government’s efforts to get to the root of the matter is that it “seems to be lasting forever”, I told them that complaints about unpaid salaries and pensions did not start with the current administration in the state and that because the matter of delayed salaries and pensions is perennial, it has become a handy weapon for most workers and pensioners to explain themselves out of embarrassing financial situations.

I think the statement is innocent and straight forward enough and did not in any way suggest that pensioners or civil servants are to be blamed for the delays. I don’t know where that interpretation came from. Ordinarily, my attitude to the tendency of some elements to reap political capital out of the pensions challenges is to see it as cheap, but now that it is becoming increasingly evident that the matter will remain susceptible to convenient semantics, I think we would do our state no better good than to be more exhaustive in our appraisal of it.

At no time has the administration of His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma, blamed the pensioners and civil servants for the wages and pensions logjam. Where he has laid the blame squarely on is on the humongous and perennial financial scam that has been visited on the collective patrimony of the people in the past eight years and even beyond.

Thus, although it goes without saying that some of the pensioners and serving civil servants might have been, directly and indirectly, complicit in the perennial heist, no government would use that as an excuse to deliberately delay payments. In at least two previous outings, I expressed the view that any governor who, knowing full well that salary and pension bills were fraudulently manipulated and goes ahead to approve such bills, becomes part of the fraud. Differently put, I think we should set such a standard and the time to start is now.

I laugh each time I read or hear that the immediate past administration, headed by the highly cerebral and down to earth fellow, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, perfected everything about pensions before he left office after just seven months. In at least three articles, I had kept asking, “How?”. At the risk of sounding repetitive, let me once again note that the former governor should feel embarrassed with such superlatives because it is simply impossible. One of those who commented on my interview under reference even wrote, “… if Uzodimma wanted, he too should have sustained the great pace and tempo of good works set by the governor he took over from …” And I asked: “Great Pace?” How?

Just last week, an internal audit report in one of the most strategic agencies of government in the state, the Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (IMSUBEB), showed that more than sixty dead persons are still in its payroll and that several people who are above the retirement age of sixty are still in its employ while not less than forty members of staff who had absconded for years are still in its payroll. Now, if such a discovery is just being made through an internal audit exercise, not one conjured up by Governor Uzodimma to target Ihedioha, as some of his people would claim, then how “great” was the previous pensions verifications exercise made under His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha?

In an earlier report, it had been discovered that 1000 people who retired as far back as 1976 are still in the pensions payroll of the state. In a rebuttal, one of the former administration’s insiders said the figure is 14 and not 1000 and I said in my own reaction: “ show us the fourteen because at age 104 at least, they deserve special attention from the state government, not just pensions”. As I noted in the interview that is now a bone of contention, mum has been the word since then. Ditto for the matter an N330 million which was being cornered by just eight people. Three names sakes of the eight names mentioned in the report came out to say that they knew nothing about the fraud and I said in response: “where are the other five?”

In the same rebuttal, a key functionary in the administration admitted, in black and white, that part of the pensions verification exercise under Governor Ihedioha was yet to be concluded and uploaded into the server by the time that administration was terminated. I ask: Is that not good enough reason? What is wrong in admitting that because of the unexpected exit of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ihedioha, from office, he could not complete the exercise and indeed could not continue with the bright ideas he had on how to take the state to the next level? Let me ask for the umpteenth time: How could an exercise that lasted for only about three months been able to correct a monumental pensions scam that had existed for at least sixteen years? How could, how could, how could…!! Please somebody should give me a cup of water!

Going back to the main topic of today, however, it is petty that some of the pensioners felt the way they felt with my observations in the interview in question but I as I noted earlier in this article, it was not intended to shift the blame over the pension logjam to them. Conversely, I think they should also repudiate any ploy to reduce the matter entirely to that of “we versus them” or indeed, “we versus Hope Uzodimma”. Differently put, they should resist being dragged into an unnecessary dramatization of their plight by those who may be hell-bent on using the current challenges they are confronted with as a weapon for political self or group aggrandizement.

Let’s face the reality as Ndi Igbo who is essentially conservative, I think it gives a wrong signal of a family whose aged father or mother is seen carrying a placard on the streets for whatsoever reason. In other words, I want to assume that it might not be true, after all, that those who have been seen protesting on the streets of Owerri were hired by the so-called opposition. I am inclined to so believe because not one rebuttal has come from the genuine pensioners to say that those protesting were hired.

On the matter on Tuesday, August 3, 2020, during which a faction of the pensioners disagreed on a planned protest and there was a clash, some people claimed that one of the factions was fake and was hired by the government to “flog” the genuine ones. Yet, there has been no word from the real pensioners repudiating the fake ones and indeed taking measures to ensure the total elimination of the fake amongst them. Even so, the government does not need to take such extreme measures as flogging since it is on top of the situation.

As I noted earlier, if the genuine pensioners yield to the antics of some politicians to use them as cannon fodder, then it may become necessary for the rest of the society – not every Imolite is a pensioner or civil servant – to begin to interrogate the matter with all the required rigor; which means that it will no longer be as simple as matching out into the streets to protest since by so doing, the pensioner may, knowingly and unknowingly, trample on the rights of the other citizen.

As a matter of fact, some of the pensioners can, by every measure, be described as “elder statesmen” or women; which means that, even as hard as things are today, they are still expected to do the things with the hesitance of age. This is why I believe that those who went to town to say that some of the pensioners were flogged, when nothing like that happened, are those to be sanctioned for dragging the collective esteem of our elder’s statesmen to the mud.

 In any case, I advise Ndi Imo that we should not make another song and dance about “flogging” because our fellow compatriots out there will say to us: “There You Go Again”. They would remind us that ten years ago, we claimed that a certain Rev. Father was flogged and as a result of which we nearly pulled down our state. Yet, less than two years after, those who masterminded the false allegation came out to confess that there was no such thing. An entirely new song was waxed to repudiate an earlier one that heralded the alleged flogging. The rest of Nigeria would tell us that whatever we are suffering today, including the pension palaver, got impetus from that fake tale about flogging. So, let our elder statesmen and women, the pensioners, stop subscribing to this caricature of the collective image of our dear state.

Differently put, the pensioners, whether individually or collectively, should endeavor to comport themselves better and not to allow anybody to drag their image to such a low that even a mere contemplation of flogging their aging bodies could exist. Fortunately but ironically, they can find solace in the wisdom of the Lagos kid: “CALM DOWN”; and trust that the Uzodimma administration is on top of the situation.        

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Leadership

Shadow Govt Scores Uzodinma 40%, After 9 Months In Office, Advises Him On Good Governance

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Shadow Government, a pressure group that monitors activities of the Government at all levels as well as its agencies with a view of ensuring that the Government in power does not derail from providing and giving the populace good governance has beamed it light on Uzodinma’s nine months in office and scored him, forty percent.

This is even as the group appealed with him to step up and get focused on those policies that are human-oriented and jettison those that are not.

In a press release signed by the president of the group Dr. Iroegbu Njoku and made available to Lead, they charged Imo State Government to foremost clear all the arrears of the salaries owed to workers, speed up the ongoing Road construction particularly those in Owerri to save motorists and pedestrians nightmares they go through plying Imo Roads.

As contained in the Release, Shadow Government described as a lofty idea, buying Buses to convey Civil Servants to offices to enhance productivity but expressed dissatisfaction on the timing adding that such policy of donating vehicles to workers does not arise while the majority of them are yet to receive their arrears of salaries and pensions which run in months.

In the release, the group further disclosed that the vehicles including the ones given to the Commissioners as well as the civil Servants should have waited until Roads which have turned death traps are put in Better forms and shapes.

Advising the Uzodinma led administration, the Shadow Government charged Imo Government to hasten its an effort in rebuilding the two major Roads in Imo which include the Roads from Owerri to Okigwe as well as the one from Owerri to Orlu.

In the release, they advised Uzodinma use other good companies to do the above-mentioned Roads if the state finds it difficult to employ the services of Julius Berger as earlier promised Imo people pointing out that with such Roads in place, the economy of the state would be boosted hence the Roads are commercial Roads which link Imo to other States.

Uzodinma led administration had a few weeks ago, gave out vehicles to Appointees of the Government as well as civil Servants to be used in conveying them to offices, an act which received varying reactions from various quarters.

While some persons condemned the gesture on the grounds that it would boost productivity in the state, others condemned it on grounds that first things should be done first which include payment of arrears of salaries, pensions, and putting the bad roads in better shape and form.

Senator Samdady Anyanwu in his press release commended the State Government for providing vehicles for workers but insisted that Roads should be put in proper shape.

In a release signed by his media Aide and made available to Lead, Samdady appealed with the state Government to speed up, ongoing Road construction in the state, which according to him has set Imo backward when compared with other states.

On the other side of the coin, the leadership of the PDP in Imo had condemned in its entirety, the idea of giving vehicles to Civil Servants and Appointees while arrears of salaries are yet to be paid.

In a release signed by the PDP Publicity Secretary, Ogubundu Nwadike, and made available to Lead, they described the vehicles given to Appointees as gifts which ought not supposed.

Recall, that Dr. Anthony Iroegbu, the President of Shadow Government was one of the Aspirants that contested for the Governorship seat of IMO State in 2019.

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Duru, Nnabuife, Others Emerge Umuna Clan Caretakers

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Umuna Clan, the umbrella body that harbors two sister communities of Umuna and Uzoubi Umuna had over the weekend, appointed the Interim management committee to oversee the affairs of the clan pending the next election.

This however followed the expiration of the pioneer president, Columbus Nwadike.

The event marking the said appointment which took place at the Urban Secondary School Umuna had in attendance, a good number of Umuna and Uzoubi Umuna.

Stakeholders of Umuna and Uzoubi-Umuna Autonomous Communities, Board of Trustees of Umuna Clan Development Assembly (UCDA), PG and Royalties from the Umuna nation on Sunday, 14th of September gathered at the hall of Community Secondary School, Umuna and constituted their interim leadership of the joint body of the Communities, the UCDA.

The process of this event yesterday brought to an end the long conflicted struggle over the leadership of the Clan body which some had highly misunderstood as taking over roles of the autonomous status of Communities.

Speaking during his brief remarks before the nomination of the officers, the Chairman of the BOT of the Clan, Barr. Hyacinth Mbachu disclosed that the previous leadership of the Clan was on the Convention day dissolved and the BOT under his leadership was handed over to help coordinate the process of a new leadership of the Clan body. He enlightened that a dissolved leadership had no power anywhere in administration to hand over power to anybody of his choice.

“Let it be clear that the UCDA championed the process today that made the election of the leadership of our various Communities possible. Umuna Autonomous Community had elected their PG and Uzoubi-Umuna Autonomous Community had also elected their PG. Both PG are to mind their Communities. The Clan is not against that. But who mans the Clan leadership must be a different body because all have different roles”, he explained.

He further averred that Communities are to manage their various resources for their own developments, but the Clan holds in trust the collective assets of both Communities for the overriding interest of Umuna nation.

He urged all to note that both Communities are not in contest, “but things must be done in agreements”, he added.

The meeting which went on even with the heavy rains produced the following members from our original five villages in the

 *CONSTITUTION DRAFTING COMMITTEE:*

1. BARR. HYACINTH MBACHU (Chairman)

2. DR. PETER UKAIGWE (Alternate Chairman)

3. BARR. OKORIENTA (Asst. Secretary)

4. COMRADE CHINEDU OGUBUIKE

5. MR. NDUBUISI ADIOHA

6. BARR. TOBECHI UGWUEGBU

7. BARR. GERALD ENYINNIA

8. BARR. CHINAKA ENYI

9. BARR. ROBERTS ALUKA (Diaspora)

10. BARR. EMMA OKWARA

11. BARR. JUDE ODUOMA

12. BARR. UGOCHUKWU AMAJIOYI

13. PROF. MIKE OKORO

14. CHIEF ALLEN CHARLES NNADI

15. HON. GREG NWADIKE GOC (Secretary)

Terms of reference given to the committee include, but not limited to *request and collate memoranda from individuals, PGs, groups, villages and communities, and prepare a comprehensive and well structured and stipulated draft constitution for the UCDA, and submit same to the General Assembly in the next proposed mini-convention of the clan in December 2020*

*INTERIM MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE*

House resolved that in line with an earlier resolution that the PG of the clan comes from Umuna Autonomous Community, only Umuna can produce the Interim PG, and since this is an interim position, the clause of home and abroad should be removed to pave way for the best hands.

House also resolved that since the PG of Umuna Community comes from Ebenese, Ikuku should be fairly allowed to produce the Clan’s PG. This was agreed by all present, hence only those who bought forms and declared interest to run for PG from Ikuku were nominated for consideration.

They are:

1. PROF. BEDE ALAM DURU

2. MR. ONYEWUENYI NOBERTH (REBOW)

3. MR. CHIGOZIE MGBARUDA (ESERE)

An election was conducted among these names with *PROF. BEDE DURU* emerging the winner.

Further nominations and elections held with the following 7-man Interim Management Committee emerging thus…

1. PROF. BEDE ALAM DURU (UMUNA) – PG

2. CHIEF PETER NNABUIFE  (UZOUBI-UMUNA) – V-PG

3. MR. WISDOM ESHIASO (UMUNA) – SECRETARY

4. DR. CLETUS ONYEANUFORO (UZOUBI-UMUNA) – ALTERNATE SECRETARY

5. MR. BENJAMIN NWOKEJI (UMUNA) – FINANCIAL SECRETARY

6. PASTOR ETHEL MADUAKOR (UZOUBI-UMUNA) – TREASURER

7. MR. ANACLETUS EKWURU (UMUNA) – PRO-2

8. CHIEF FRANCIS BOB-IHEDIOHA (UZOUBI-UMUNA) – PRO-1

The new IMC members were immediately sworn into office and charged to quickly put all fiscal book of the Clan from the days of the impassè till date to balance.

Following submission of the report from the CHIEF DR. FABIAN O. DIKE’S led Investigative panel on the alleged encroachment into the land of the Community Secondary School Umuna, the new EXCO was equally charged to study the report which was equally shared to all and quickly convene a general meeting of the clan for ratification of resolution.

Similarly, the new EXCO was charged to quickly explore all options (including legal action) to ensure that the Umuna land around Ama Egonu (Carrot junction) allegedly sold by Homeland is recovered with immediate effect.

The new EXCO was assured of all legal and administrative backings from Umuna home and abroad to ensure that they succeed in whatever objective mission they undertake.

Almost at the point of dismissal at around 6.45 pm, the Igwe of Umuna, Eze Douglas Okwara with some chiefs from Uzoubi-Umuna and Umuna stormed into the venue of the meeting as they were on their way home from Umudioka.

The elders were briefed on the outcome of the meeting.

The Igwe who in his speech expressed anger that he was not carried along in arriving at the decisions of the new EXCO membership, however, gave his blessings and supports to all decisions taken.

He said he was impressed by the quality of men nominated for the offices and urged everyone to support good gestures whether they favoured him or not.

He also informed the House of the N100,000 he paid to the principal of the Community Secondary School Umuna for NECO EXAM re-accreditation and also reported of the N3m scholarship he attracted from a son of the soil which he claimed that N1m had already been brought and at the hand of Mr. NDUBUISI ADIOHA.

Igwe Okwara urged our people to drop all negative malice against each other and cautioned trouble makers and those milking our land to go search for meaningful jobs as gods of the land would always work against them.

He prayed for the new EXCO members and assured them of protection from the gods and the law.

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Call IMC Chair To Order, Ngor Okpala Tells Imo Govt, Accuses Him Of Running LGA As Sole Administrator

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The people of Ngor Okpala have called on the governor of Imo State to call to order, the Interim Management Committee Chairman, Mayor Nweke to order before the Local Government turns into anarchy.

This follows a report of high handedness amongst other vices that the chairman is accused of.

Information from the Local Government revealed that the chairman hardly involves other stakeholders particularly the councilors in the running of the council, an act described as against the directives of the state government.

Speaking to Lead, one of the councilors who spoke on the guise of anonymity posited that the said chairman has since the inception of his office, not held what he termed F8G meeting where issues bothering on the state government’s mandate is discussed.

Some of the persons interviewed alleged that during the Woman August meeting held at the Ngor Okpala/Aboh Mbaise Federal Constituency, the Ten Thousand Naira (N10,000,00) empowerment by the First Lady, Barr. Mrs. Chioma Uzodinma, meant for the less privileged and down-trodden, were manipulated and shared among the wives of the councilors and stooges of the local government chairman Hon. Mayor Nweke.

Our investigation reveals that seven (7) months down the line, the council has not appointed supervisory councilors to oversee the affairs of the departments, with some of the councilors alleging that he appointed over fifty (50) aides without due process, never presented the issue nor discussed it anywhere, as he does not call for meetings. They went on to say that he does not inform them of what he does.  The reason for his attitude is that he has people at the Government House that will always protect him because, according to our source, he was not made the chairman by Ngor Okpala Leaders, and therefore, he does not owe any explanation to any leader in Ngor Okpala.

According to one of them, “The palliatives and fertilizers sent to Ngor Okpala by the State Government were solely handled by him, without recourse to his colleagues the councilors and even party leaders. The truth is that we are not being carried along, and as such, we do not know what he is doing.

The committee members who carved anonymity (because of fear of being maligned) further alleged that the Twenty million Naira (N20M) released to each Local Government Area for renovation and resuscitation of infrastructure at the council headquarters was arbitrarily spent by the chairman without due process, as they were not informed by him.

They were emphatic that their interest was based on probity, accountability, and transparency, lamenting that, Hon. Nweke went behind them and compiled the lists of food vendors and those recruited into the Imo Security, in their wards-they lists, they stressed were made up the name of his cronies, without their knowledge and members of AA, Uche Nwosu, and Rochas Party.

Describing him as the “Lord of the Manor” they maintained that he does not heed to advice neither from their Traditional Rulers nor party leaders from the area and passionately appealed to the Government to investigate his activities.

All efforts made to get Hon Mayor Nweke to react on the allegation proved abortive as his mobile phone number was not available.

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