BY ISAAC OLAMIKAN
Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has rolled out bumper package for workers, job seekers and pensioners in the state which includes recruitment of new hands, approval of outstanding promotions and provision of social housing for workers in the state.
The governor also said outstanding issues with pension arrears payment are being addressed as he has approved the release of N1.5bn from the Paris Fund Refund to liquidate the outstanding local government pension arrears.
Speaking to workers on the commemoration of the 2018 Workers’ Day at the University of Benin Sports Complex, Ugbowo, Benin City, the governor said the workers have been supportive and instrumental to the successes being recorded in the state.
Noting that capacity building forms a huge part of the reforms in the civil service, he said, “An Edo State Civil Service Training Institute for civil servants will be unveiled before the end of the year. The facility is ready with relevant technology and experts are now putting together courses, training modules and the faculty. This is to empower our workers and make them relevant to our developmental goals. All Edo workers will henceforth have the opportunity to attend one or twotrainings annually. This will strengthen our civil service and empower our workers to do much better.”
On social housing for workers, he said the state was working with partners to develop a package to provide housing to workers in the state, adding, “In delivering Housing to workers, plans are on between the Federal Mortgage Bank, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Edo State Government to provide Housing for Edo State workers. The repositioned Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA) is also working on social housing for Edo workers by private investors.
According to him, “The process of computerising all government offices is on-going. The first set of 1000 computers have been procured and distributed. Another set of 1000 computers are on order. Workers are being trained by the ICT Agency. The overall goal is to maintain document security, reduce waste, improve efficiency and enhance service delivery. I am pleased to note that our workers are responding appropriately to this initiative.”
He added that the state government has not sacked any worker, but rather provisions are being made to employ more hands.
“This government is proud that it has not sacked any worker even those that were moribund in their functions. Rather, we have done so much to reabsorb, retrain and reassign these workers. About 186 staff of the moribund Edo Line and Edo Courier have been redeployed to the Ministry of Infrastructure while we are working out ways of liquidating its debt of about N1.5bn. In a few weeks, the Civil Service Commission will advertise to recruit more civil servants to fill critical vacancies in the system,” he said.
The governor stressed that efforts are being made to ensure workers get the best support to work and deliver on their tasks, noting that a revamp of the offices and government buildings would make the work environment more appealing.
According to him, “In line with our policy of making the workplace comfortable, our Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that will supply uninterrupted power to all Government Establishments along the Sapele Road axis as well as light up our streets at night will come into operation in October this year. We also continue to renovate offices, provide new equipment, and working on providing new office spaces.
“Apart from promotions coming into effect as at when due; we have commenced rectification of pending promotions which so far have been updated to the year 2017. In a short while from now, all pending cases of promotions would be harmonised and resolved. Every worker that deserves to be promoted will get the promotion.
“We have introduced a new Reward System to motivate our workers. Those that work hard need to be further encouraged. Our goal is to encourage our workers to reach the highest points of their creative and productive abilities. Hence, our new system makes it possible for a worker to gain accelerated promotion for outstanding performance; without recourse to established sequence or last date of promotion.”
On reforms to automate the processes in the civil service, he said, “We have approved the conversion and training of about 200 Secretarial Assistants to Data Processors for efficient service delivery and to enable them to move beyond the secretarial cadre in the State Civil Service. Their conversion will be accompanied with further training to empower them to perform better.”
Noting that reforms are ongoing in the education sector to up-skill the teachers, he said, “In addition to restructuring and repositioning the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in the interest of our children, we are investing in infrastructure, technology, and trainings. This April we trained about 2,500 teachers and school heads on the modern trend of driving teaching and learning with technology. We are very concerned with the future of our children because we believe that if the foundation is flawed, the future would be compromised.”
Explaining how the state was addressing issues with pension management system, he said, “To avoid the past suffering of persons who were under the Direct Benefit System, where retired persons were not paid their benefits as and when due, we introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme since January 2017. Since then we have been faithfully remitting the Employers’ and Employees’ contributions and workers have been receiving credit alerts on their contributions and interest generated.
“Edo State has been adjudged as one of the few states that pay their contributions on time. The Contributory Pension Scheme also comes with a Group Life Insurance Policy which entitles a beneficiary to three times the amount of the annual salary.”
He continued, “We have commenced payment of pension and gratuity arrears as far back as the year 2000. So far, we have paid batches 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41. As we resolve a few lingering problems, other Batches will be paid though I must note that resources are limited. We have meetings with retirees every two weeks and we have an open line of communication to avoid misunderstandings. Our commitment is to make our retirees that have laboured so much for our present and future, feel comfortable. In line with my promise last year to resolve all outstanding pension issues, I have directed that the amount used for paying outstanding pension arrears be doubled by 100 per cent from N100 million monthly to N200million.
“To make things easy for serving civil servants in Edo State, we have introduced a system whereby a retiring officer will simultaneously enter the Pension Payroll from the date of retirement, provided all documentations are perfected six months before retirement. This way we avoid the usual confusion and frustration that retired workers experience. I urge all prospective retirees to take full advantage of this system, so we avoid the bottlenecks of the past.
“On Pension Harmonisation of 6 per cent, 15 per cent and 33 per cent, I assure you that we have completed the relevant paperwork and analyses, and in no distant future, we intend to effect the harmonisation. We want to ensure that everyone who is entitled to pension first receive their pension before we begin to harmonise. I believe that is the fair and just thing to do.
“On gratuity, I am aware that 2012-2013 have been screened. Limited resources prevented us from effecting payment. However, I can assure you that as soon as our revenues improve, this issue will be promptly addressed.
He disclosed that the state is developing a state health insurance scheme to make healthcare affordable and accessible to the people, noting, “Edo State is developing a State Health Insurance Scheme to the benefit of workers in the urban and rural areas. This will go in line with our plans to rehabilitate and make functional our Primary Healthcare System to bring healthcare closer to the people.
“We are doing everything to make access to affordable medical care available to all Edo workers and citizens. We commenced the rollout of our model Primary Health Centres with the pilot of the first 20. Within the next two years every ward should have a well-staffed PHC with water and electricity.
Noting that the state is not relenting on the effort to stem the tide of human trafficking in the state, he said, “As we work hand-in-hand to fight the scourge of human trafficking and irregular migration that has claimed over 3,000 lives of our young men and women in the desperate effort to travel to Europe via Libya, I urge you, as progressive workers, to join us in the fight against this horrible challenge. The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, is already in the forefront of the fight. We have established the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT) for this sole purpose and they need the support of labour to tackle human trafficking in all its ramifications. I am pleased to inform you that we have so far received over 3,200 returnees through our rehabilitation and reintegration programme.”
On restructuring of higher institutions in the state, he said, “We are drastically restructuring our tertiary institutions. In the past they engaged in reckless recruitment of staff and this bloated their wage bills. Some took loans at high interest rates to execute white elephant projects. With the restructuring currently underway, we shall sort out all outstanding matters including salaries once we complete verifications, programme review, financial and staff audits, and student realignments. Prompt payment of salary continues to be one of the hallmarks of the APC Government in Edo State. I assure you that this will continue.
Noting that extensive reforms have been carried out to make the local governments more responsive to the needs of the people, he said, “We are great full to the Almighty for the very peaceful and successful local government elections. With the new chairpersons and elected officials, are now poised to change the future and fortune of local government in Nigeria. I have instructed that all outstanding salaries and pension arrears due to local government staff must be paid before the end of this year.
“To ensure that this happens, yesterday, I approved that the sum of N1.5billion from the Paris Club refund should be used to liquidate part of the outstanding N2.5bn pension arrears due to local government employees. The balance will be paid before the end of this year. Our goal is to ensure that local governments move into the Contributory Pensions Scheme next year, thus putting an end to the pension crises.”
Speaking on efforts to industrialise the state, he said, “As you know, agriculture remains at the core of our overall development programme. This year, we are deploying 2,200 Hectares of Land located withinEkpoma, Sobe, and Usugbenu for the State’s Agripreneur project. We are also preparing 1,460 Hectares of Land for FADAMA; and an additional 19, 000 hectares of Land dispersed all over the State for other agricultural purposes. This will provide inputs for industry, real income for farmers and hundreds of jobs for our young people.
“Our industrialisation process is designed to create jobs for our teeming youths among other goals. Hence, projects such as the Edo Industrial Park, Benin River Port, Modular Refinery, upgrade of Benin Airport with Cargo Terminal, the new Shopping malls and many others will provide more jobs for our people.
“Similarly, with our Edo Jobs programme that has trained about 34,200 persons to become self-reliant or recruited into jobs through our synergy with the private sector, it has become clear that one of the major problems in the past has been the lack of post-graduation preparation for the labour market. In addition, our new engagements with the private sector, the influx of investors in the state and new opportunities that accompany our urban renewal and infrastructural development continue to create more jobs for Edo people.”
In their speeches, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun and his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Marshall Orhue, commended the governor for prompt payment of workers’ salaries, infrastructural development, reforms in the state’s basic education sector and economy.