States At Dagger Drawn Over Abia's Sack of Non-Indigenous Workers
Umuahia — MORE than 1,800 workers of Anambra State origin, who were disengaged from the Abia State public, took their plight to Governor Peter Obi at Government House, Awka, Thursday, October 27, to see if their current state of despair could be salvaged.
They wanted Obi to either absorb or prevail on his Abia State government counterpart to drop the sack policy.
However, they did not get any immediate answer but an assurance by the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Paul Odenigbo, who received them on behalf of the state chief executive, that Governor Obi who is the chairman of South East Governors Forum, would continue to plead with his colleague, Chief Theodore Orji of Abia, to rescind the decision to sack non-indigenes.
If Chief Odenigbo handled his visitors with tact and diplomacy, the State House of Assembly was blunt in its livid reaction.
After beholding the helpless and hapless workers who stormed the House of Assembly complex in buses with the inscription 'back-loaded,' the House unanimously resolved to send a strongly worded letter to the Abia State governor to rescind what they regarded as an unpopular policy which they described as a breach of the constitutional rights of the affected workers.
The House, which adopted a motion on the issue sponsored by Hon. Chigbo Enwezor and two others further, said it would encourage the back-loaded workers to challenge Abia State government in court.
The Princess Chinwe Nwaebili-led House alerted Obi of the danger in allowing Abia State government to succeed with the policy, as it would threaten national integration.
While debating the motion, Gabriel Onyenwife (Anyamelum constituency) said: 'Abia State government has started a policy that is indefensible, unconstitutional and condemnable.'
The decision to transfer the services of non-Abia workers in the public service of the state was formalised during the State Executive Council (EXCO) meeting held on Monday, September 5, 2011.
Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Don Ubani, told newsmen the following day that the issue was comprehensibly discussed at EXCO and the cabinet gave its nod for the implementation of the policy.
The back loading of the non-indigenes to their home governments commenced October 1.
The Moment on Sunday gathered that a circular to that effect had been issued about a week before the EXCO decision to proceed with the policy.
The policy affects non-indigenes of all cadres, including those on command employment and Abia daughters married to non-Abians.
Giving reasons why Abia government adopted the drastic policy, Ubani said it was to make room for the absorption of Abians displaced from parts of the Boko Haram-troubled North and for the state to be able to shoulder the financial implications of the N18,000 new minimum wage.
The policy, he added, would help to create employment opportunities for the teeming youths of Abia.
'Abia State government has to take a decision that non-Abians in its public service should be transferred to their states. Ochendo (Governor Theodore Orji) wrote to their state governors asking them to appreciate the precarious situation of Abia State,' Ubani said.
Since those affected were served their letters, the Abia State government has known no peace.
The policy has attracted varied reactions; some mild criticisms, some wild and outright vituperations and others offering wise counsel.
Expectedly, many Abians and government agents have applauded the action, describing it as a step in the right direction. Conversely, those affected and their home governments see the policy as obnoxious, a breach of their fundamental human rights and a threat to Igbo unity.
The first public reaction against the policy came from the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Rt. Rev. Lucius Ugorji.
He described it as injustice, adding that it was bound to create social disequilibrium and economic hardship given that Abia has become a second home to the workers who were being asked to go. He appealed to the government to rescind the policy.
Imo, Enugu and Anambra states have also reacted angrily to the policy. Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Obinna Duruji, speaking on behalf of his state government, described the policy as 'anachronistic, patently obsolete and completely reprehensible.' He threatened reprisals from Imo.
For Ebonyi State government, it is wait and see. Chief Press Secretary to Ebonyi Governor, Dr. Onyekachi Eni, said the state government initially regarded the disengagement of non-indigenes from Abia public service as rumour because there was no official communication between the two governments.
He, however, said that when it became evident that it was no longer a rumour the state executive council discussed the matter. He did not disclose the position of the state government on the issue.
However, Eni's response put a question mark on the claim by Abia government that Governor Orji engaged his colleagues on the issue prior to the disengagement of the affected workers. Curiously, the South East Governors Forum, which met in Enugu on September 9, did not discuss the issue.
One of the founding fathers of Abia State and an elder statesman, Prince Benjamin Apugo, is one of those against the policy.
He roundly condemned it as 'unpopular and ill-advised,' saying it would breed bad blood between Abia and other South East states, and called on Governor Orji to immediately halt the exercise.
'As a Nigerian I don't support what Abia State government is trying to do by disengaging non-indigenes. Many of them were born here and they were employed in the civil service by the state. It will look very bad for any government to throw them out because they have contributed to whatever development, if any as at now,' Apugo said.
He suggested that Abia government should negotiate with its workers on the new minimum wage instead of disengaging them. He expressed fears that the policy might backfire.
Still in Abia, the Nigerian Bar Association, Aba Branch, also condemned the action.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its monthly meeting held on October 14, the group offered free legal service to those who may wish to seek judicial interpretation of the policy.
'The NBA encourages all persons affected by the discriminatory policy and decision of the Abia State government to challenge such actions in the courts up to the highest level, and in this regard, members of the NBA, Aba Branch, have volunteered and shall render free legal services to the affected workers and their families,' the communiqué endorsed by its chairman, Mr. C. U. C. Eduzor, and secretary, Mr. Kelechi Ukaumunna, read in part.
On its part, the Abia State government has risen in stout defence of its action. Ubani said there was no going back.
'The decision of Abia State government on this is legitimate, irrevocable and remains the best the state could take in the light of her compelling circumstances,' Ubani insisted.
The Abia information boss lampooned Imo State government, describing its condemnation of the policy as a clear manifestation of hypocrisy.
'To begin with, should nine years be too long for Imo State government to have forgotten that she successfully implemented a policy decision that led to the summarily, un-notified, unceremonious and the most cruel dismissal of all Abia indigenes who were in her public service in 2002?' he said.
Continuing, Ubani said: 'On what premise should either the Imo State government or the religious leaders stand tall to claim to have forgotten that even recently (2010), the Imo State government primitively and with extreme heartlessness bundled the files of her pensioners of Abia extraction, who had served her with all youthfulness, paying their taxes to Imo State government and contributing to the overall development of the state, back to Abia State for the latter to shoulder the pecuniary burden of pensioners who worked for Imo State?
'Yet Imo State government has the shamelessness of talking of Igbo unity. Imo State government should tell Ndi Igbo where she placed Igbo unity when she ferociously and un-administratively dismissed all Abians working in her public service nine years ago.
'If Imo State government was oblivious of what she now calls "Igbo unity" nine years ago, what was her take on Igbo unity just a year ago when she, in the most sadistic display of inhumanity, bundled the files of her pensioners of Abia State extraction back to Abia?'
The commissioner ended his reaction with a poser: 'More so, to newspaper and organisations that feel that Abia State policy on transfer of service of non-indigenes is a negation of the principles of federalism, it is obviously doubtful that their feelings are a true comprehension of what federalism stands for. What are their answers to questions on, one: should a federal legislature make laws on salaries for states and local government workers?
'And, two: should the Federal Government control the revenue generating resources of a state?'
Prominent Abians have also risen in defence of the state government and they are united it should not be crucified for threading the path other states had taken in the past.
One of them, Mrs. Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, wife of Nigeria's first military Head of State, advised those affected by the transfer to take it in good faith as government will not go back on the policy.
She said that it was a pity that people from different parts of the country, especially the South East, were misunderstanding the action of the Abia government, which she said was for the benefit of Abians.
Prof. Joshua Ogbonnaya, one of the few surviving founding fathers of Abia State, said: 'It is he who wears the shoe that knows where it pinches, so the back-loading of non-indigenes to their states of origin by Governor Orji was handled in a matured way unlike what other governors did in the past.'
The foremost surgeon called for the convocation of a meeting all the governors of the South East where the problem should be discussed. 'I know that such a meeting of the South East governors exist; they should meet there and sort out the problem, if there is any,' he said.
Gov Obi laments govt takeover of schools
From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state yesterday lamented that educational standard took a plunge after government took over schools from the missionaries, describing the development as the root cause of decadence in the society. Governor Obi made the remark while addressing staff and students said of the Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, (QRC) Onitsha when he paid a routine visit to the school.
I Cannot Join Issues With Ngige, Says Obi
FROM UZOMA NZEAGWU, AWK
GOVERNOR Peter Obi of Anambra State yesterday said he would not join issues with Senator Chris Ngige for saying he started the construction of Amansea-Ebenebe-Oba-Ofemili road during ‘Issues’, a radio on Rhythm Radio in Awka.
Obi said this while inspecting the completed, but yet to be commissioned Odor Bridge, which is 165 meters and remains the longest bridge in the state. Obi, who said that his government is constructing about 15 bridges in the state, added that he would rather concentrate attention on projects than devote time for idle talks that do not add value to the state.
Obi said he is used to people claiming his projects as theirs, describing the trend as dishonorable. “Let me inform you that I personally flagged off the construction of the Amansea-Ebenebe-Oba-Ofemili road. I started it from the scratch. I do not know what somebody stands to gain by claiming what he did not do.
“We had our challenges on the road, including the broken Ebenebe Bridge which we shall complete very soon. I assure people of the area that having started the road, we shall complete it within the life of this government.”
How Anambra is Forging Ahead
HISTORY is both the account of events and the role of prominent actors in these dispensations. Every nation or state will always have its defining moments. At such critical junctures, we may encounter a protagonist whose fortunes interweave with those of the larger society.
Inevitably, the mention of certain states evokes the names of certain leaders because of the role played by these figures in the founding or restructuring of their societies. What is important is that the leaderships gave expression to the dreams and aspirations of the people.
In Anambra State, Governor Peter Obi’s perseverance in nurturing to fruition the vision behind the creation of Anambra State on August 27, 1991, has rallied the discerning citizenry behind him.
With a concentration of human capital, inhabitants of the area around the Anambra River had for long been hungry for development. Relatively early exposure to Western civilisation gave the people a head start in education, public service and entrepreneurship. But an artificial dichotomy had been created between the northern and southern halves of the old Anambra State. This environment was restrictive of the zeal to excel. The new Anambra State was thus envisioned to harness the potentials of the state and the individual to bloom.
The state was created during the General Ibrahim Babangida regime and was successively governed by two military regimes. As officers on military posting, the governors were probably not aware of the people’s vision for the state and even if they were, would not have considered it binding on them. Successive civilian administrations before the Peter Obi government had contributed their quota to the building of the state according to their capacity and the circumstances.
The Chukwuemeka Ezeife administration made feeble gains in its two-year span before it was truncated by the Abacha coup of November 1993. Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s government and Chris Ngige’s regime were engaged in survivalist battles for the most part of their duration.
While Mbadinuju’s reign was marred by frolicking and clientele politics, Ngige’s government was burdened with legitimacy syndrome. Ngige had not set out to be a Governor in 2003 and so not much would realistically have been expected from him. It is not in doubt though that he performed better than Mbadinuju.
The popularity of Obi’s mandate ushered in a refreshing era in Anambra’s history. His reign indeed proved the key to peace in the state. Obi’s acceptance cut across the socio-political landscape, a fact buttressed by his re-election in 2010. It was also clear that Obi came prepared for the job he was to do. His systematic approach to rehabilitation of institutions and infrastructural development was evident of rigorous thought and planning.
But perhaps, over and beyond these factors, what endeared Obi to civil society was the demonstration that he placed service and governance before politics. Whatever reservations one may have about Obi, no objective assessor would doubt the Governor’s selfless commitment to the cause of the state.
Obi’s passion for the development of Anambra State, evident in his well-thought out infrastructural projects, high sense of fiscal discipline and value-suffused policies, has continued to unite progressive minds in the State. There is a new sense of the commonwealth that seeks to uphold the common good as the highest law. Obi’s leadership not only ushered in the era of peace but perhaps even more significantly, eroded the barriers of political differences that hitherto held down the state.
This solidarity was demonstrated recently in two significant ways. The commemoration of the state’s twentieth anniversary on August 27, 2011, rallied the elite and civil society as had never been witnessed since the creation of the state. And it was not just a massive response and identification with the governor’s untiring efforts; the feeling of camaraderie was unmistakable. The resolution from the distinguished assembly was simple but profound:
Thank you, dear Governor, for bringing us this far. If we had started this way two decades ago, we would have gone places. Now, nobody can doubt that united, we can do it. The second instance of how the new Anambra is working was revealed in the mediation of the dispute between the state government and organised labour over the implementation of the March 2011 Minimum Wage Act.
On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress succumbed to public pressure and suspended the three weeks old strike by junior public servants in the state. Five days earlier, the Trade Union Congress, the umbrella body of senior officers, had taken the same line of action to the commendation of the citizenry. The industrial action had pitched the labour unions against the rest of the State.
Mr. AMAECHI NWOKENIFE, a policy analyst, wrote from Awka, Anambra State.
Ofala festival: GLO empowers 100 Onitsha youths, donates classrooms
By OGECHI OHAEGBULAM
Globacom has given the people of Onitsha two huge corporate social responsibility projects as part of its sponsorship of the Ofala festival, as Onitsha youths pledge to turn the city into a green community for Glo.
The telecom company trained 100 young entrepreneurs and equipped them with free Commercial Telephone Operation (CTO) facilities comprising of Glo Business lines, handsets, tables, chairs and parasols. The company also commissioned the construction of a block of classrooms at the famous Metropolitan College Onitsha.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony and the presentation of the youth empowerment scheme to the 100 youths, the Obi of Onitsha, HRH Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe thanked Globacom, saying the projects will benefit “our people tremendously. It fits into our strategy of making Onitsha youths more productive.
“It has been a wonderful partnership. Our prayer is that this partnership will continue to grow. Glo will continue to grow from strength to strength. Our youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Any investment in them is a worthwhile one”, the Obi added.
In his remarks at the events in which the Anambra state Governor, Peter Obi was represented by the state Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Dr. Chinwe Anowai, Mr. Mohamed Jameel said Globacom has “demonstrated again that we are adding value to enhance the lives of our people and bond with the communities we do business with at all levels”.
He said the CSR projects Globacom initiated during the Ofala Festival were aimed at building the capacity of the youths and empowering them with the tools they need to become self-employed and captains of their faiths. “We have also introduced Special Ofala Glo SIMs for the exclusive use of Onitsha people. These SIMs come with the cheapest tariff in the market to enable the people to talk more and pay virtually nothing.”
The SIMs are not time-bound and they come with an unprecedented promotional offer that will give the people of Onitsha the opportunities to win any of our prizes, including a brand new Toyata Corolla car, Ipads, laptops, Blackberry phones and other items at every Ofala Festival sponsored by Globacom.
The Obi of Onitsha made the symbolic presentation of the youth empowerment scheme to two of the beneficiaries while Globacom’s Head of Public Sector, Mr. Tunde Amunikoro and his team presented the other beneficiaries with their packages.
In his remarks, the Onitsha Youth Leader, Patrick Aghamba, expressed appreciation to Glo for empowering the youths. “We promise you that we will make Onitsha a Glo community and that everywhere you go will be green in our community,” Aghamba declared.
From the Obi’s palace where the youth empowerment project was commissioned in the presence of Globacom’s management led by the company’s Group Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Mohamed Jameel and members of the Obi’s Council of Chiefs, the delegation moved to the Metropolitan College where the Obi performed the ground-breaking of the block of classrooms. It is a modern block comprising four classrooms and an ICT Centre. The 66-year old Metropolitan college is known to have produced many prominent Nigerians including Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu(rtd), former Governor of Old Imo state and Lagos state and Major Gen. Chris Alli ( rtd).
Police Arrest 30 Pregnant Teenagers, Others At Motherless Babies Home
FROM CHUKS COLLINS, AWKA
THE Anambra State Police Command yesterday arrested the Managing Director of one Iheanyi Ezuma Foundation at Ihiala in Ihiala Local Council of Anambra State, Mrs. Ngozi Ezuma and three of her workers for not being able to explain how 30 pregnant teenagers came into her motherless babies home.
The command raided the home following a tip-off from a concerned neighbour on suspected criminal activities at the centre.
Four of the pregnant teenagers have so far put to bed since their evacuation to Awka yesterday at the Enugu-Ukwu General Hospital, while two others were already in labour, as at press time yesterday.
Surprisingly, 27 of the girls were said to be secondary school dropouts, while three claimed to be students of the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri.
State Police Public Relations Officer, Emeka Chukwuemeka (ASP),who confirmed the arrests, said investigations were on-going to unmask all those directly or remotely connected to the alleged syndicate.
He said the command might also hand over the girls back to their families once they are traced. He warned randy men and boys to desist from luring under-aged girls so as no to ruin their future, and all illegal motherless babies homes and orphanages to desist from operation or face the full wrath of the law.
He said: “People should stop taking advantage of these innocent girls for business rather than going into charity work they registered for, ” Chukwuemeka said.
Ezuma said that the teenage girls were brought to her foundation with the consent of their parents and guardians, and that they were helping the girls out purely on compassionate grounds.
According to her, the foundation encourages their families to allow the young girls with pregnancy to carry them to term instead of abortion and that the foundation’s major trust includes providing love and care for the pregnant teenagers and home to the homeless.
Ezuma pointed out that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was aware of their operation, as it had earlier taken away a 15-month old baby from the home.
The ministry allegedly acknowledged that the baby was undergoing fostering process and that the documents about the baby and pictures of those that brought the baby are intact as it was never a business deal between the ministry and Mrs. Ezuma, but an official process of fostering a child.
Judge blasts plaintiff for wearing ‘rags’ to court
A mild drama ensued yesterday at the Nnewi High Court II, when Justice Onochie, presiding over the court, almost refused to admit a plaintiff to the witness box, for allegedly wearing rags.
Our people no longer return home, Anambra group laments
For over 40 years, Orsumenyi town in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State has been enmeshed in disputes and conflicts following the demise of the last traditional ruler of the town.
As the community has been without a monarch since the end of the civil war, its people floated two parallel town unions.
Obi - National Security Can Be Achieved
Emeka Osondu And Adebiyi Adedapo
Anambra State Governor Peter Obi has suggested that the security challenge of the country be managed through peaceful means.
Obi said this at a reception jointly organised by the Anambra State Towns People Association and Anambra State Public Officers and Elders Forum at the weekend in Abuja. He stated that insecurity can be well tackled if stakeholders, and various religious group make conscious effort to foster peace.
The governor expressed sympathy with the families of those who lost their lives to the suicide bomb attack on the United Nations building in Abuja and stressed that his administration was ready to partner with relevant stakeholders to address the issue of insecurity in state.
He stated that his administration will continue to collaborate with the federal government to reduce the menace of in security by way of fostering peace and unity.
In his keynote address, President of the association, Sir Emeka Mbagha, said the civic reception which was organised in honour of political office holders and National Assembly members from Anambra, was also aimed at brain storming on challenges mitigating against the overall development of Anambra State.
Meanwhile, Obi has assured the people of Ebenebe, Oba-Ofemili, Ugbene in Awka North and other communities in the Anambra State that he would complete the Ebenebe bridge before the end of the year, and the entire stretch of the road that transverse many
communities before the end of his tenure.
Obi, who gave the assurance at the weekend while inspecting the progress of work at the bridge expressed satisfaction with the work done on the bridge, which was commenced in 2010.
He regretted the hardship the people suffered because of the collapse of the old bridge, While appealing to the people of the area to be patient with his government over the development, Obi described the Ebenebe-Ugbene road as well as Ogboji-Aguluezechukwu roads among those his administration would deliver .
Speaking to the press during the inspection, Mr. Bethram Egunam, from Ebenebe, thanked the governor for remembering the communities. He said that those complaining of slow pace of work had forgotten so soon that Obi was the first governor that had remembered them since Anambra State was created.
Peaceful Transition at Enugu PDP Chairmanship Primaries
The PDP Saturday conducted primary elections for its chairmanship aspirants for the Dec. 10 local government elections in Enugu State.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the elections were devoid of violence in the local governments within Enugu metropolis and in Nsukka where correspondents visited.
The elections came on the heels of days of consultations between Gov. Sullivan Chime and PDP stakeholders from the various local government areas during which grey areas were ironed out.
In the Enugu North LGA, Mr Emeka Ede, the Deputy Chairman, beat eight others to win the chairmanship ticket of the party. Ede, a native of Ogui Nike, picked the ticket with 187 votes out of the 199 votes cast.
Mr Nestor Ochin, the Chief returning officer of the election in the local government, told NAN that it was relatively peaceful. According to him, the eight other contestants stayed away from the election venue, paving the way for the vice chairman to poll the highest number of votes.
"It was only Emeka Ede who was here present among the nine contestants. Others did not step down for him but they were not present to even make their minds known," he said.
On his part, Ede thanked God for His grace and his people for the opportunity to serve them again.
He said he would follow the good works of the government of Enugu State by focusing on infrastructural development, human capital development and peaceful co-existence among his people.
The deputy chairman pledged to involve his fellow contestants who did not get the ticket in his government if he became the chairman of the council.
In Enugu South Local Government Area, Mr Nwabueze Okafor, the incumbent chairman, won the primary with 264 votes out of the total valid 274 votes to defeat three other contestants.
Similarly in Enugu East Local Government Area, Mr Cornelius Nnaji won the party's ticket for the chairmanship seat. Nnaji, who is from the royal family of the Nike clan, contested with 13 other aspirants who stepped down for him. In Nsukka, following the stakeholders' meeting, the incumbent Chairman, Mr Tony Ugwu, was returned unopposed.
Obi Laments Menace of Erosion
By Emeka Osondu in Awka and Jaiyeola Andrews
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State has said the state lost lives and property estimated at over N30 million to erosion menace over the years, insisting there was an urgent need to stem the tide.
Also lamenting the impact of erosion in his state, the Nasarawa State Governor, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, has expressed concern over the extent of damage done by erosion in Doma local government area, saying the state would partner with the federal government in addressing the impact of the erosion.
Obi, who disclosed this while inspecting the level of devastation at the erosion site at Heritage Avenue, Omagba Phaze one kilometer one, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, said the state required over $2 billion to tackle over 500 active erosion sites threatening various parts of the state.
The governor, who expressed shock at the level of devastation, assured the people that the state government would commence immediate intervention to arrest the situation in order to save buildings the area and the road from caving in. He repeated his call on the federal government to intervene.
Meanwhile, Al-makura, while on-the-spot assessment of the area, promised to collaborate with the Federal Government in order to address the problem.
A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Iliyasu Ali Yakubu, said: “Erosion situation in Nasarawa state needs an emergency attention to salvage the people hence my administration’s resolve to collaborate with the relevant federal authority to alleviate the sufferings of the people.”
Al-Makura, who also visited the affected area in Lafia before visiting Doma local government area, said he was deeply concerned “over the extent of damage caused by the erosion which resulted to displacement of some residents and property worth millions of naira.”
While at the erosion site as well as the Doma Dam, Al-Makura promised to address all the erosion problems in the town in order to harness abundant natural resources for the development of the state.
He specifically promised to turn around Doma Dam into a highly recognise tourism site in the country.
Anambra South Senatorial seat: Not yet Uhuru for Uba –Pius Ukaegbu
Kidnappers hold Nnewi hostage