We have been abandoned, cheated By A’Ibom Government- Immediate Past Councilors Cry Out
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By Ekemini Simon
Councilors of the 6th Legislative Council in Akwa Ibom State have cried out over what they describe as abandonment and cheat by the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The Immediate Past Councilors few weeks after leaving office have come out to say that they are aggrieved over the fact that they have left office with most of their entitlements and that of their Constituents unremitted.
The 6th Legislative Council Councilors who spoke in an interactive session with this reporter under the aegis of Concerned Councilors of the 6th Legislative Council noted that the State Government is owing them Severance allowance of N2.2 million each.
They noted that besides the monthly salary of N232,000 which was paid them until March 2020, the State Government is owing Councilors from most of the Local Government Areas statutory Furniture Allowance, Imprest and Constituency Projects.
The Immediate Past Councilors complained that from March 2020, in line with the State Government decision to deduct some percentage of salary of elected and appointed government official, N50,000 was taken off from their salaries while Leaders of various Legislative Council had 60,000 deducted from April 2020.
According to one the Former Councilors who refused name on print, ” All the entitlements owed us are our statutory right. With the Multi Millions of naira that came into the Local Government Areas, we expected the State Government to pay us. Sadly, they are interested in finishing our funds through Joint Account Committee and as a result, we were not paid. Very few among us got furniture allowance.”
Another Former Councilor said ” In our three years service to the grassroots, we can tell you confidently that the few who got imprest did not get up to five months. Where are the rest?”
” Now, we expected that at least immediately at the end of our tenure, we should be given our severance, but there are clear indications that this may not be so owing to how this administration is known to address issues of pension, gratuity and promotion arrears. We simply beg that we should not be treated same way.”
” We sacrificed deeply for this administration through how we reached out to the electorates at the grassroots. Besides the fact that we preferred this administration, we knew that if another administration came in, all Councils would be dissolved and the highest you’ll do would be to go to court which the litigation may take throughout your tenure”.
” We made great sacrifice for this administration. The N185,000 that was later paid us as salary took us no way because your Constituents would still be dependent on us especially through these hard times. We thought we would at least be paid other entitlements before leaving. But this has not come. Clearly, we have been abandoned and cheated on”.
Reacting to why they choose to speak out only after leaving office, the Councilors said they lacked adequate opportunities to make the Governor understand and address their concerns.
They said the only time they met with the Governor was few months into office on April 5, 2018 which he pronounced a bus for them along with promises that they will get what is due them. The Former Councilors noted that another opportunity they had to meet with the Governor was together with Chairmen and Vice Chairmen when Senator Akpabio defected to the APC. They stated that the meeting did not afford them opportunity to raise their concerns as it was strictly about discussions on how to stop defection.
The Concerned Councilors of the 6th Assembly however accused Chairman of Councilors Forum of the 6th Legislative Council, Barr Bassey Etim for being behind their plight.
They accused him of compromise with the State Government against the interest of the former Councilors.
The Concerned Councilors alleged that Barr Etim had surreptitiously collected the bus the Governor announced to the Councilors which was to be given from the office of the Secretary to the State Government and thereafter sold it.
They further accused the Chairman of their forum that he refused to fight for their right because he was paid N1 million monthly.
” The money he got monthly made him to work always against our interest. There were several times we wanted to protest but he will disrupt it in the interest of government. It was one of such times that we could take it no longer that made us meet with the House of Assembly and thereafter you saw impeachment threats in many Councils towards the end of our tenure”.
The Concerned Former Councilors said they are ready to take to the streets if their severance among other withheld entitlements are not paid.
Contacted, Barr Bassey Etim denied receiving the promised bus and N1 million monthly.
He said ” I have never collected any. I asked and I was told that there is no fund for that. I have never received it. It was never given”.
Contacted, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Barr Ini Ememobong said it is untrue that the State Government has abandoned the Councilors of the 6th Legislative Council.
He stated that the Local Government is a tier of government on its own hence that some Local Government Areas were able to receive some months of imprest among other entitlements were dependent on how Council Chairmen of such LGAs were able to manage their resources after Joint Account Committee took care of salaries of workers.
He added ” You can only give what you have. What the Local Government experienced also affected other tiers of Government. Government is a Continuum.it is not the first time severance is yet to be paid at that level and after a period it is paid them.”
” It would be paid them. Not that the State would pay them but they have a precedence in the Local Government system where severance was not paid immediately but after a while, severance was paid.”