By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Criticisms and knocks are trailing the promise by Governor Nyesom Wike to employ 10,000 youth into the Rivers State Civil Service about two months to the end of his tenure of office.
Most of those who reacted to the promise said it was another ploy by Wike to buy votes for the candidates of his party ahead of the 18 March governorship and state assembly elections.
Wike made the promise during a courtesy visit to his office by a delegation led by the chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Alex Agwanwor and the chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Emechete Chuku in Rivers at Government House in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
The Governor also promised to implement all the outstanding promotion in the State Civil Service, according to a press statement signed by Kelvin Ebiri, his Special Assistant on media.
The Governor told his visitors that to actualise the plan, he has forwarded the list of new members to be appointed into the Rivers State of the Civil Service Commission to the State House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
He said the new members of Civil Service Commission will oversee the process to fruition.
He also accused the former leader of NLC in the State, Beatrice Itubo of peddling lies against his administration that pensioners are owed 15 months of entitlements.
“We have been paying pension and gratuities every month. Not less than three point something billion Naira is set aside for that purpose, including payment of benefits.
“In fact, the former Accountant General of the State told me yesterday that those of 2016 and 2017 have been cleared, but you hear her (Beatrice Itubo) go to say that we have not paid for 15 months. That is unfair.
Comrade Ituboh who is the Governorship candidate of Labour Party,LP, is also the immediate past Chairperson of NLC in Rivers State.
“How will a government, it has never happened in this State, that built a secretariat for NLC and TUC at the same time be anti-labour,” Wike said.
The Governor noted that Itubo was also involved in other antagonistic activities that totally destroyed the cordial relationship that once existed between workers and the State government.
Wike blamed her for the delay workers had witnessed in getting their due promotion, but said with the new NLC executive in place, promotion will be implemented for workers expeditiously.
“Now that she has left, to welcome you, we are going to start the promotion process. I didn’t want her to take credit. You should take the credit.
“So, there is nothing government cannot do for you if we have a good relationship. There is how you go about it. You don’t go about plotting against the downfall of a government which will also affect the welfare of your members.”
Wike also said the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Rivers State is a originally from the civil service.
He therefore wondered why Rivers workers are not excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity they now have and own the electoral process to ensure that Sir. Siminialayi Fubara wins his election.
“So, I thought that the civil service, the union ought to have taken it up themselves to say this campaign is our own, that we are getting one of us now who will be in charge of the affairs of this State.
“The deputy (running mate) is also experienced in civil service job. She has also been a permanent secretary, became a commissioner and a lecturer.
“We don’t need to come and speak to you. You are the ones to take it upon yourselves. Can we miss this opportunity now.”
Recalling his experience, governor Wike said:I am not a civil servant, so, it even took me time to understand the rudiments of civil service bureaucracy and all that.
“Now, this is somebody who has passed through these levels; from the junior cadre up to senior cadre to Permanent Secretary and become Accountant General. So, who is more qualified to preside over the State?
“It is not all these people who in private businesses. Private business is not public service. When you come in, you’ll know it’s a different ball game.”
Wike also warned Rivers workers against supporting Tonye Cole, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers.
He claimed that Cole, in connivance with the former minister of transportation , Chibuike Amaechi, sold Rivers assets and is currently facing prosecution over $50 million proceeds from that sale.
In his address, Rivers NLC Chairman, Comrade Alex Agwanwor said his executive committee was elected two days ago and they came to present themselves to the governor and pledge their loyalty to his administration.
He noted the sour relationship between government and the Rivers workers. But he assured that NLC in the State will right the wrongs, return to that path of cooperation in order to attract better welfare for workers.
Comrade Agwanwor pledged that Rivers workers will rally support for Sir Siminialayi Fubara to become the next governor of the State.
Also speaking, Rivers chairman of Joint Negotiating Council, Comrade Emechete Chuku, acknowledged the unequal infrastructural development strides of the Wike’s administration and said it was sad that the former NLC leadership could not sustain a cordial workers-government relationship.
He thanked governor Wike for paying workers salary regularly, initiating the payment of pensions, clearing up to batch 2014 and assured that workers in the state will be mobilised to deliver winning votes to Sir. Siminialayi Fubara as next governor of the State.
However, in swift reaction, Oraye St Franklyn, a former Senior Special Assistant to Governor Wike in a statement posted online dismissed the promise of employment as desperate move by the Governor to get votes for his chosen candidate.
According to Franklyn: “The vacancies at the Rivers State Civil Service have existed for at 5 years.
“What we saw in the last 7 years were selective and secret employment of associates and community members of the Governor.
“The compromised and tribalised Rivers State University, RSU, employment saga is still fresh in our minds.
“To now suddenly open up employment days to election is at best a desperate response to the rejection notice served by Rivers people.
“Rivers people are smart. They will take the employment but sustain their rejection of a government that has largely weaponised poverty.”
Also, Olumati, Isaiah C, Labour Party candidate Rivers House of Assembly,Port Harcourt Constituency One, queried why after several years of service without promotions and many failed negotiations, Wike suddenly decided to take care of workers.
He described the promise by the governor as another cunning attempt at vote buying.
Olumati described the Governors promise as manipulations at all levels.
“If the Governor has a strained relationship with the leadership of the NLC and Beatrice Ituboh how does that affect the thousands of people employed by the government into the civil service and why must they bear the brunt? There is nothing more petty.”
The aspiring Lawmaker recalled that “in 2021, Mr Governor promised 5,000 jobs, we are yet to account for it. A few months ago, a hoax employment scheme was launched for some Universities in the state one of which is the Ignatius Ajuru University of education. None of the recent employees have been paid till date, no Identity Cards offered, no office spaces for the said employed staff and I can tell you the end game; they will be dropped because it is no employment, it is a shadow game and I feel sorry for those who keep showing up daily in the hope that the Government is serious with their lives.
The LP candidate for Rivers House of Assembly pointed out that people have grown passed this level of deception.
He urged Agwanwor of the NLC, not to fall for the antics of the Governor. There is not going to be any promotion in the Civil Service for those due for promotion and doing it now after many year does not translate to being right and this vote buying.
Solomon Lenu, Spokesman of the Rivers State Civil Societies Organization also dismissed the promise of the governor as a mere political statement aimed attracting votes for his preferred candidate, Siminalayi Fubara.
He wondered why it was it about eight years for the Governor to suddenly realize that he made a promise to employ into State Civil Service and promote civil servants.
Ituboh had not reacted to the Governor’s allegations against her and his promise to employ 10,000 and also to promote those in civil.