Some days ago, the Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Representatives and federal lawmaker representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha came out with a bombshell: that the commissioners in the state executive council have been impoverished by Gov Okezie Ikpeazu and therefore have turned to beggars because of poor remuneration. Her argument was that a governor who is “found wanting in both physical and stomach infrastructure cannot be trusted”.
The statement exposes one thing: that the commissioners under Ikpeazu are inadequately paid, a situation that leads them to solicit for money elsewhere (herself inclusive) outside their call of duty.
Rep Onyejeocha cannot be far from the truth. In fact, there are people who will make a declaration and the people would listen and take what they utter line, hook and sinker. First, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha is well informed about the happenings in many fields across the nation. She is a federal lawmaker of immense magnitude and a principal officer of the National Assembly. With that, she gets firsthand information across the nation including her constituency.
Second, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha had served as a commissioner in Abia State under Dr Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration. And by that, she is in the grip of the happenings in Abia seat of power.
Third, some commissioners play the Nicodemus roles; lamb in the day, ravenous wolves at night. Therefore, the lawmaker is well equipped to make the assertion that is trending currently. But how are Abia commissioners treated? How are they faring? The truth is that the men and women in the executive council of Abia State are more than beggars. For instance, a commissioner in the state goes home with less than N200,000 a month.
Even during the regime of Senate TA Orji, their total monthly package was N250,000. Deductions that included taxes, benevolence to the party etc provided him with the sad consciousness of going home with the sum of N198,000 every month. Their consolation was a pledge to pay them a monthly imprest or security vote of N1million. However, the monthly release of this amount was breached and for two years in Orji’s second tenure, the security vote was contravene, thus making some of them more impoverished than they were before their appointment.
On the other hand, under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the scenario degenerated. At his assumption of office, Gov Ikpeazu reportedly told the commissioners soon after their swearing in that he would not be able to pay the security vote of N1million, but can readily afford N500,000. He gave the assurance that the money would be regular every month. Nevertheless, despite the assurances, the appointees did not receive 40 percent of it before they were sent packing in his first tenure. Similarly, those that are serving now are also suffering the same fate.
Sadly too, some officials blamed it on the reforms that had been carried out in the state’s financial system. Apparently, the same reforms may be the reason a commissioner serving in the state would go home with a pantry sum of N155,000. Meanwhile, there are 33 commissioners in Ikpeazu’s cabinet, many whom do not have ministries and properly defined commission and operational bases.
Certainly, these aberration and eccentricity have negatively impacted on the state. A hungry man will definitely perform below expectations in office. A man whose people expect some stipends or handouts from as he is their eyes in government, serving in the executive council, will surely be harassed socially or politically if he gives reasons of not meeting their expectations.
This oddity was so bad in the last dispensation that at end of that regime, a former commissioner went to the media lampooning his former boss, the immediate past governor, vowing to square up to him in any public gathering he sighted him.
Ironically, permanent secretaries in the state whom the commissioners superintend over earn as much as N550,000 monthly. In fact, the lookdown from permanent secretaries makes the office of a commissioner a knockdown.
Interestingly, the governor takes home a monthly security vote of about N750,000 million, his deputy about N40,000 million. What this means is that the commonwealth of the people is deposited in a single hand and that of few of his kinsmen who equally smile to the banks with millions every month. Ditto his deputy.
Therefore, Rep Nkeiruka Onyejeocha is right. Abia commissioners are impoverished and beggarly.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.