–          Owes categories of staff 6 months arrears

–         Takes over University IGR 

The crisis bedeviling payment of monthly salary to various categories of workers in both the civil service, parastatals and agencies of Imo State, has again reared its ugly heads and eaten deep into the fabrics of Imo State owned university,(IMSU),Owerri. 

At the last count, some of the principal officers including the Vice Chancellor, Prof (Mrs) Victoria Adaobi Obasi and former University Librarian, Prof Okee Okoro, have not received their salaries for the past six (6) months. No reasonable explanations have been adduced aside the speculation that the consultant hired by Imo State government to oversea payment of workers salary may have considered them as ghost workers.

Though this is unimaginable and unbelievable but it is the stark reality and true position of things in Imo State University. With the recent Imo State government pronouncement that all those in it’s employ who have not received their salaries as at June 2020, are ghost workers, it implies that the Vice Chancellor of Imo State University (IMSU) Owerri, Prof (Mrs) Adaobi Obasi and the Ex- Librarian, Prof Okee Okoro who is a former Commissioner for Environment and ISOPADEC Review Committee member and over 670 staff of the University are by speculations of the government  ghost workers, who deserve no monthly salaries, yet receive no pension or gratuity from a government they have served dor over thirty years.

Recently on Oziza FM Radio Station,Owerri Phone-in Programme, the Imo State Commissioner for Education, Prof BTO. Ikegwuoha, contrary to the facts available to Weekend NIGERIA WATCHDOG, disclosed that “no IMSU staff is owed any outstanding salary”. By , this statement ,it means the government may have deliberately skipped their salary which many view as uncharitable.

A senior lecturer who spoke to Weekend NIGERIA WATCHDOG on condition of anonymity described the development as strange, saying that he has never experienced such since his 25 years in IMSU.He said,”One has been tempted to ask if this is deliberate, or an oversight on the part of the Imo state government so much, it appears that they lack the capacity and records to ascertain the number of staff on its employ and to determine those that have been paid on monthly and quarterly basis or not and how much each staff is entitled to as monthly salary and total emolument as the case may be”, he queried.

An independent investigation carried out by this reporter, revealed that out of the four (4) months salary arrears earlier paid by the state government to IMSU staff, only 900 workers were effectively captured. A total of 700 staff were left out without salaries or allowances.Available record showed that most of those who received alerts, were shortpaid.

Even the additional one month salary for the month of June 2020, which was released to the staff through their bank accounts on July 24, failed to capture the Vice Chancellor, Prof Adaobi Victoria Obasi, and the Librarian, Prof Okee Okoro and host of others.

Speaking to Nigeria Watchdog Newspaper over this seeming impasse and logjam, when contacted Prof Okee Okoro, whose last appointment was on the review panel of ISOPADEC,confirmed that he has not been paid for the past six (6) months. He is worried over this glaring miscalculation or omission which confers on him that notorious status of a ghost worker, though he is yet to be informed on how he became a ghost worker as at press time.

Perhaps, one reason the state government is probably up in arms against Prof (Mrs) Adaobi Obasi, is the case of remittance of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) into government bank accounts, through the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA) scheme instituted by Buhari and domiciled in Imo state by Emeka Ihedioha. Ihedioha as a Governor had brokered an understanding for the university to adhere to and comply with the TSA provisions by paying in all Internally Generated revenues into the state government.

Between January 2020, when this came into effect, the university received only a monthly subvention of N197 million for its services and operations, including payment of staff salaries. However, the wage bill has remained in excess of N324 million monthly.

It was therefore impossible for the university authorities to fulfill its financial obligations as obtained when the university upon receiving N197 million monthly subventions was able to augment the payment of salaries and other expenses  through Internally Generated Revenues including payment of school fees. With TSA in place, IMSU requires between N3 million to N4 million to settle electricity and sundry bills. But under the present situation, this can hardly be sorted out including payment of EEDC bills. The university is at present stagnant. Nothing seems to be working. And this is a case of things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.

To worsen an already bad situation, most lecturers are grumbling over non-payment of six (6) months salaries like the V.C and ex-Librarian. Some are owed less anyway. 

The explanation by the Accountant General of the State, who blamed none-submission of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) as reason, is grossly flimsy, untenable and irresponsible since there are verifiable and evidences to prove that many of the victims of this obvious vendetta and onslaught including the Vice Chancellor, Prof Adaobi Obasi and Prof Okee Okoro, had for long submitted their BVNs in compliance with the government directives.   

“So what is the mystery behind this non-payment of salaries to certain categories of government workers?,”one of the sources queried.

When contacted, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Adaobi Obasi declined comment on the matter but referred our reporter to the University spokesperson for any inquiry regarding the school.

Effort to reach the commissioner for education, Prof BTO Ikegwuoha for comment on the issues raised by his colleagues proved abortive as he did not take his calls at he time of going to press.