By Rejoice Ihunanyachi Ihedioha
Chief Fabian Agba, a human rights activist, vocal commentator on contemporary issues and former Chairman, Association of Retired Permanent Secretaries in Imo State, recently bared his mind on some burning issues.
In an exclusive interview with Nigeria Watchdog Reporter, Rejoice Ihedioha, he spoke on nagging issues of nonpayment of salaries and pensions, insecurity etc, and how to address them.
Question: There have been complaints that government has not been paying pensioners and civil servants. What do you have to say about this?
Answer: You see, if you go and hire somebody to come remove your teeth when he is not a dentist, you may end up losing the whole teeth. I don’t know who they have gathered and who is paying Imo workers, because they have not made us to know them and even their credentials. This is because when you are doing a job, those you serve should know you, so that if they have some information and complaints to make, they will come to you. But the people who are paying salaries are not known to Imo workers. Anybody who knows them should tell me where they are. Because of this, anomaly, many things are going wrong and this creates room for more mistakes.
This thing they call verification started with Okorocha. He came in and said our identity cards didn’t look beautiful and that he would give us more beautiful one. He got some contractors who gave us duplicate and said they will give us permanent ones that are more beautiful. What transpired between him and them I don’t know but we ended up not getting the beautiful one. Then he turned around and said that he was trying to identify dead pensioners. That was why they did the verification. But in the first place, before you verify something, you must have an idea of what makes that thing genuine. Do they have a master list of workers and pensioners. If there is no list, then with what are you verifying? Because I know that there is a list people were being paid before they came. They just wanted to throw the system into confusion. If there were no list, how do you say who ought to be in the list and who ought not to be in the list. That is why what they have been doing is documentation and not verification. This is because each time they do this they say bring your letter of employment and identity card. The identity card is meant to verify you, so if they are doing that there would be no need for identity card but by telling you to bring your letter of first appointment, they are saying the person who gave you the identify card may have swindled you. But they don’t make any check and did not discover anything during the exercises. All they have done is to compromise payment of salaries of pensions.
Question: With the increasing outcry of civil servants about the nonpayment of salaries, what do you think can be done to address it?
Answer: My plea is that, it is either they go back to the Accountant General’s Office or set up an identifiable institution backed by law that will have an identity. If they don’t pay you, then you can go to them and say you have not paid me or if there is an error or you can also go to them and lay your complaint. There is no person being responsible for the payment of salaries and pensions in Imo state and that is a very big tragedy. For the disbursement public funds and even personal funds somebody has to be in charge. The Accountant General’s office is responsible for all payment and accountants are recruited to do this efficiently. Payment of salary is a full time job, it requires much intellectual inputs because those who decide who to be paid are different from those who pay. That is why for the governor to say that he is now the one who pays looks funny. The question is, if he has left his full time job as governor and becomes a full time paying clerk, who then is our governor? The governor’s duty is not to execute. People who are advising him are not advising him well, because with this, more money will be lost by Imo state government without even knowing. I am surprised that no person has challenged the single treasury account because it is creating alot of confusion.
Question: Sir, you said something about the single treasury account creating confusion, how?
Answer: The single treasury account has undermined the Independence of bodies that were created independent. If you have the money of the university and pay it into the states account, how do they operate? Alot of things have been ruined. These bodies are created as independent bodies. You can take IMSU to court without the governor’s consent. But by the single treasury account, you have muddled up everything. Part of the reasons ASUU strikes is that the government is now controlling payments of workers, and this introduces inefficiency.Why will we not be marching backwards when we are not doing things the way intelligent people do.
Question: Concerning the insecurity in the state , what is your take?
Answer: It is unfortunate that it is already in story that we have insecurity all over the country but the solution to it is not disbanding the Nigeria police, reorganizing it yes. Because when you have a police force that is scattered in private buildings, if you have an emergency, you can’t call the police force. Whoever stopped them from living in barracks is the person who has created the problem of insecurity because when thieves came in Imo houses in the past, they first cut off the telephone lines so they won’t call for help but with GSM there are no telephone lines to be cut off. But when you call the police and they don’t have the force to come what happens is as good as cutting the telephone lines. These people the bandits take in the North, spend up to two hours on the road. So if the government has bites, they would cordon off the areas. If you go once and you are captured, you won’t have the opportunity to go again. But they go and do it and go scot free. So the whole thing continues, going on. This issue of kidnappers killing people in uncompleted buildings and in the forest has become a regular occurrence . If we have association of hunters and their dogs, they can give information about where they are and when you catch one or two the nonsense will stop.
Imo people have been given two numbers for emergency but that is not enough. Every police station must have a steady line and nothing stops them from having their own telephone system so that when you complain to them, they can help. There should also be more police stations located nearer to the people because not everyone has a telephone. So that when he or she runs in, the person in the office can now radio(call) others. This is because when a crime is committed in a particular place, you might not catch the person but when you cordon off the place, the person will not escape . Like they came and took the Chibok girls, how many hours did it take them and yet nothing happened.
What I hate to hear is that people want a state police, because state police is anarchy and once there is anarchy, insecurity will increase. And the argument they are using for state police does not qualify for a state having its police, rather it qualifies the local government. The security in Nigeria is not even safe what more having a state police.