We don’t want caretaker chairmen, NULGE tells Dickson

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Simon Utebor

The National Union of Local Government Employees in Bayelsa State has asked Governor Seriake Dickson to jettison any plan to reappoint caretaker chairmen to administer local councils in the state.

The state Chairman, NULGE, Mr. Akpos Ekiegha, said this during a news conference in Yenagoa on Saturday.

He said the cost of running the caretaker system amid dwindling federal allocations was responsible for the salary arrears owed council workers in the state.

Ekiegha urged Dickson to allow heads of the local government areas to run the councils as acting chairmen for a period of eight months in order to clear the arrears owed workers in the various councils.

The NULGE boss stated, “If they are allowed to run the councils as acting chairmen, there will be nothing like salary arrears.’’

He cited Cross River and Delta states as examples of states doing that.

“If civil servants are allowed to man the system, they know their boundaries. They cannot ask for a security vote of N20m but the caretaker chairman will ask for a security vote of between N20m and N40m.

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“They (caretaker chairmen) would say there is a security problem in  a particular community. Therefore, they will say they need N100m to solve the problem, but we, as civil servants, have a limit. Our main focus is to pay our workers’ salaries and if any money is left, it will be intact.”

He said within the brief period the caretaker chairmen of the eight council areas were relieved of their appointments, coupled with little improvement in federal allocations, backlog of salaries owed council workers had reduced to only four and a half months.

Ekiegha also appealed to Governor Dickson to fulfill his promise that by September, the government would take over the payment of primary school workers from the local governments in order to pay their salaries regularly.

He said the non-payment of the primary school workers by the state government was part of the reasons the state council workers were currently on strike.

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Debunking claims that the state government was interfering with local government funds, he said there had never been such. “Rather, the government ensured the judicious use of council allocations,” he said.

He further said the Joint Councils of NULGE and Medical Health Workers Union requested during the last days of the elected council chairmen that the governor should direct the withholding of January to March 2016 allocations.

He, however, said the allocations were subsequently released to the immediate past caretaker committees for the payment of workers’ salary arrears.

Ekeigha commended Dickson and the Commissioner for Local Government, Dr. Agatha Goma, for the timely release of the July allocation to the councils. He added that the money assisted in the payment of salary arrears of two and three months depending on the financial strength of the councils.

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