A visit to any of the 17 local government council headquarters of Abia State, presents an objectionable picture of truancy. Many employees of the various councils do not bother to come to work at all, while some of those who grudgingly report for duty abandon their duty posts before 12 noon to attend to their private businesses.
But it is a different ball game on pay day as all the council headquarters are filled to the brim with ‘workers’, who only come around to collect their pay, and thereafter vanish into the thin air.
However, like Eneke the bird in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, which reasoned that ‘since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching’, the Abia State government introduced a bio-metric data machine to fish out ghost workers as well as check absenteeism among the work force.
The machine is expected to capture the time the workers report for duty Monday through Friday, as well as the time they close for work.
But while some members of staff of the local government system accepted the introduction of the bio-metric data machine as an innovation, others went into frenzy; cursing Theodore Ahamefula Orji, Abia State governor, for introducing the white man’s technology to monitor their movement.
LEADERSHIP gathered that ‘unknown’ aggrieved workers in four council areas of Aba North, Ukwa West, Ugwunagbo and Ikwuano, destroyed the bio-metric data machines installed in their respective council headquarters, and challenged the governor to a fight.
Chief Emma Nwabuko, commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, is reportedly worried that the workers could go to the extent of thwarting government’s efforts at instilling transparency in the council system in particular and governance of the state in general.
It was gathered that council workers opposed to the introduction of bio-metric data machine, felt that government ought to have fought the ‘manifest’ corruption among top government functionaries before beaming its searchlight on what goes on in the councils.
A worker in one of the council areas expressed dissatisfaction over the way the state government ‘meddles’ with statutory allocations meant for the local government councils. “What the councils in Abia State get is only money to pay salaries, so the government should tell us what happens to the rest of the money allocated to us from the federation account”, the aggrieved worker said.
For now, each of the 17 local government councils, is ran by the Head of Personnel Management, HPM, contrary to part two, Section 7, sub-section (1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states that. “The system of local government by democratically elected local government council, is under this constitution guaranteed, and accordingly, the government of every state, shall subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils”.
Governor Orji, appears not to be in a hurry to conduct local government council election in the state. He has just submitted to the State House of Assembly, names of some party loyalists to be appointed chairmen of caretaker committees in each of the 17 local government council areas.
Again, most staff of the local government councils, describe this step as “unconstitutional”, as the caretaker committee chairmen would naturally be subject to the whims and caprices of the governor, instead of the electorate.
The chaotic situation in the local government administration in Abia State, many say, has given rise to the rebellion of workers in some of the council areas.
According to a civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity, the destruction of the bio-metric data machines is “akin to a game of wits’. He reasoned that while government is anxious to whip the council workers into line, the affected workers are using their ‘heads’ to confront the government.
The State House of Assembly is, this week, expected to approve or reject prospective caretaker committee chairmen submitted to it by the governor