Senator Theodore Orji, the immediate-past Governor of Abia State, has asked his successor and the incumbent Gov Okezie Ikpeazu to stop blaming him for his failure to pay the salary areears owed workers in the state.
Orji in a press statement asked the governor to take responsibility for failing to pay workers.
This is coming on the heels of workers in the state vowing to continue with their ongoing indefinite strike until their salary arrears are sorted.
The workers have also denied claims by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Chris Ezem, that the strike had been suspended, dismissing the claims as untrue.
Expressing shock over the dilemma of the workers, the Senator, representing Abia Central who spoke through his Chief Liaison Officer Hon Ifeanyi Umere, asked Ikpeazu to stop shifting blame and own up to his failures.
In the statement entitled: “Ikpeazu Should Carry His Cross”, Orji explained that when he left office in 2015, core civil servants were not owed any salary arrears while workers in parastatals were owed not more than four months.
He, therefore, expressed surprise that his successor had allowed salary arrears to accumulate up to 40 months and still points accusing fingers at him.
The statement read in part: “It’s unfortunate that I am forced to comment and refute the half-truths being dished out by those who through their own bad choices have found themselves in a quagmire. For the avoidance of any doubt, neither myself nor my administration is responsible for the staggering salary arrears owed both civil servants, parastatals, and pensioners in the state.
“Before my administration came to an end on May 29, 2015, core civil servants were not owed even one-month salary arrears. Parastatals were the ones that were owed between two and four months. The records are there.
“At any rate, the arrears were necessitated by the dwindling federal allocation occasioned by the worsening global economy. The price of crude had crashed and the states were getting a paltry two to three billion naira monthly which was not even enough to run the state including capital and recurrent expenditures.”
The immediate-past governor insisted that his successor should have cleared the few months of arrears that he did not pay because he received bail-out funds from the FG.
“Those who took over from us inherited both assets and liabilities. In this case, the government is a continuum. So, if we were owing two to three months, we expected our successors to clear them.
“This expectation was based on the fact that they received bail-out funds from the federal government more than three times running into billions of naira. Again the economy had picked up considerably enabling the outgoing government to chalk up considerable income as can be confirmed by the Ministry of Finance.
“So why was it difficult for them to offset the debts? Again if for any reason they couldn’t or were unwilling to offset, why did they allow it to skyrocket to between 35 and 40 months? Why are they also owed core civil servants? So basically, I am not the problem. They should carry their cross.”
Meanwhile, the Labour union has urged workers to ignore claims by the State Government that the strike had been suspended, arguing that Government has no right to suspend a strike it did not declare.
A release by the Secretary, State Council of Congress, Comrade Emeka Alozie, read: ”The attention of the State Council of Congress has been drawn to the press release signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Chris Ezem with the intent that the ongoing strike declared by labor has been called off.