It was jubilation galore for workers of the Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo, with Micro Finance salary accounts as they received their four months’ salary arrears last week. This came at a time the affected staff who had waited patiently for many months had become agitated and threatened a show down.
To this effect, the Acting Rector of the Polytechnic, Sir John Okechukwu Mbadike, thanked Governor Hope Uzodimma, for coming to his aid by paying the affected staff whose delayed salaries had created simmering crisis in the Polytechnic. He lauded Governor Uzodimma for his understanding of the plight of the workers and his unparalleled support to him since he assumed office as Acting Rector. He noted that Governor Uzodimma is poised to reposition the Polytechnic to an enviable height. The Acting Rector stressed that the one hundred percent salary paid to workers of the polytechnic by the Uzodimma administration is an indication of the governor’s goodwill towards the institution and a sign of better days ahead.
He advised staff of the institution to embrace peace, dialogue and due process in every situation and eschew violence as it has never solved problems anywhere but rather escalates it. He called for discipline among staff as it is the bedrock of a good workforce and enjoined them to ensure respect for constituted authority, even when making legitimate demands, stressing that self-discipline is the hallmark of educated people which distinguishes them from charlatans.
Sir Mbadike restated his resolve to make the welfare of staff and students of the institution his top priority. He solicited for their cooperation as he is poised to move the polytechnic forward. He maintained that management under his watch will endeavour to work in synergy with all stakeholders of the institution to improve staff welfare.
Sir Mbadike also emphasized the need for staff to follow laid down communication channels in their correspondences with management and the state government.
When our reporter interviewed some of the affected staff last Monday, they described their ordeals during the four months’ salary delay as a very excruciating experience that subjected them and members of their families to untold hardship and pain. They thanked Governor Uzodimma for approving the payment of their salaries. They also thanked management of the polytechnic, especially the Rector and the Bursar, for their efforts in ensuring the rectification of the oversight by the Imo state government in the staff verification process and appealed that their erroneous belief that the duo did not do the needful in processing workers’ salary at the onset should be pardoned, as a hungry man is an angry man.
The affected staff pleaded with the state government to continue in like manner in future payment of staff salaries to ensure industrial harmony in the polytechnic since they are bonafide staff of the Polytechnic and not ghost workers. They also implored the government to pay few other staff of the institution whose pay-points are with other commercial banks in the state, that are yet to be paid their salaries since March 2020.
It will be recalled that some staff of Imo State Polytechnic have not been paid their salaries since February 2020 because their salary accounts were domiciled with the Imo Poly Microfinance bank which the Imo State government had put a question mark on, over suspicion of harbouring ghost workers.
This situation came to the fore when the government of Imo State requested for the BVN of all staff of government establishments. Hence, only workers with salary accounts in notable commercial banks were paid, leaving those of the Microfinance bank and few other staff whose status are questionable.
This situation raised a lot of dust in the institution as the affected staff pointed accusing fingers at the Management of the Polytechnic, especially the Polytechnic Bursar, Mr. Chukwunyeaka Linus Okafor, Head of the Bursary unit, whose office is responsible for the preparation of workers salary. The Bursar was at a point threatened to be ruffled by some of the affected staff if they were not paid in June 2020. They believed that their personal account details as requested by the state government were not submitted to the government on time by the bursary unit. In addition, they demanded for the payment of February 2020 salary by the Management as the government had already paid it to the institution through subvention.
But our investigation revealed that the delay in the payment of salaries of the affected staff was not caused by the Polytechnic Bursar, rather because of the verification process that the Imo State government adopted to sift legitimate staff from ghost workers; and that the bursar submitted all the documents requested for by the government. He even resubmitted some severally.
On the issue of the outstanding February 2020 salary arrears, our source gathered that, prior to the emergence of Governor Hope Uzodimma whose government has now decided to pay hundred percent salary to staff of the institution, previous governments paid a subvention of seventy percent to the institution as a result of the agreement signed by the Imo State branch of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) with the government of former Governor Rochas Okorocha.
In that situation, while the school was receiving seventy percent salary subvention, the school management was paying eighty percent salary to staff, hence the subvention of the subsequent month was used to augment the previous one. This, according to a reliable source, created a huge wage deficit on the financial sheet of the institution coupled with the dwindling Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), resulting from the free education policy of Governor Okorocha’s regime. It is this situation that created a gap when Governor Uzodimma’s administration in March 2020 took the responsibility of paying salaries directly to staff. But the issue is being addressed by the state government, as management of the Polytechnic has made representation to the government with the expectation that payment of the February 2020 salary will be effected in no distant time.