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Ikpeazu Mulls ‘Pardon’ for 1,642 LG Workers with Fake Certificates

The move by the Abia State government to sanitise and instill discipline in the local government system appears to be heading for the rocks as Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has come under pressure to abandon the implementation of the staff verification exercise which exposed 1,642 workers with fake certificates. 

The State Executive Council had in a memo dated December 20, 2016 authorised the ministry to embark on the sanitation exercise to weed out fraud and its perpetrators in the local government system. It was also mandated to instill discipline, maintain a comprehensive data system for staff and issue unified identity cards that contain information on date of birth and expected retirement date of every employee. 

But the Commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, yesterday lamented at a press conference that the verification exercise was now being threatened following moves by some government officials and other interested parties to protect the fraudsters in the system. 

He told journalists that those kicking against the findings of the verification exercise had become so vicious to the extent of threatening his life in order to protect the fraudsters in the local government system. 

“I’ve been receiving knocks here and there with people pouring aspersions on me for, according to them, not doing what I was asked to do. But I leave everything to God and to Abians,” he said, adding that he had been receiving threats from opponents of the verification exercise. 

According to Chief Ogbonnaya, 1, 642 persons were found to have got employed in the local government system with fake certificates while over 300 employees were found to have manipulated the system and extended their service by upwards of three years after they were due for retirement. 

Governor Ikpeazu had already stated that he would not pardon the “criminals” in the local government system but those bent on protecting the fraudulent workers have continued to mount pressure on him to rescind his decision. 

Even the national president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel has appealed to the governor “to pardon” the indicted workers. 

“The unfortunate thing is that they are being covered and protected by the officials of the local government,” he lamented, adding the official who keep attendance register were found to be signing for the non-existent workers at a fee of N10, 000 each. 

Chief Ogbonnaya said that the fraud in the system had not only aggravated unemployment situation in the state but also caused the huge wage bill in the local governments as those due for retirement stayed put making it impossible for job opportunities to be created. 

For instance, the commissioner said that it was discovered that seven staff that were either never employed or had since left the employment of Bende local government had continued to draw salaries while engaging in their different pursuits in the United States, Malaysia and other lands. 

He painted an awful picture of the situation in the local government system saying that the 17, 400 employees gulp a monthly wage bill of N2.2 billion while the last federal allocation was just N1.7 billion. 

Not only that, the local government commissioner further disclosed that a leave allowance of N700 million for local government employees and N520 million for primary school teachers were still hanging on the neck of local governments.

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