Comrade Osmond Ogu, Enugu State Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation and Chairman, Enugu State Workers’ Forum, tells JETHRO IBILEKE that the governor’s absence calls for emergency declaration
What do you make of Governor Chime’s long absence from the state?
We have always known him to be an itinerant governor. He has been known for leaving the state at will without due process. This is a state where the rule of law and due process are treated with indifference. For close to two months now, he has been out of Enugu and so many stories have been going round in respect to what really took him out of Enugu. But the main one, for which there has been no official statement, is that he has been sick and is being taken from one country to the other. That is to say that he cannot effectively perform the duties of his office as governor of Enugu State.
That portends danger. At the moment, nobody can give a true account of the state governor. Whether the governor is missing, whether he is dead or sick, nobody knows. There has been no official information as to what is happening to him.
We in the civil society groups are closely studying the development and, at the appropriate time, will come up with a position to the House of Assembly. We want to know the whereabouts of our governor; we want to know what is happening to our governor. He is not there on his own; he is there to serve his people and we must know what is happening. If he can no longer perform his official duties, we will apply the constitutional means to replace him. Nobody is indispensable.
How does the governor’s absence affect the day-to-day activities of the state government?
In a normal circumstance, the absence of the governor should not in any way affect the process of governance. But this is one state where the governor is an absolute leader and the acting governor is not bold enough to take some decisive decisions with respect to the governance of the state. The government is currently paralysed. We need to declare a state of emergency in Enugu State because the apparatus of governance is paralysed; because the acting governor cannot approve any contract, as he might not know his fate when the governor eventually returns. If he ever takes any decision outside the specific instructions given to him by Chime, the governor is sure to scheme his removal when he comes back, using the House.
How fair has Governor Chime been to workers in the state?
From every assessment yardstick, Enugu State civil servants are the worst treated all over the world in terms of remuneration, in terms of economic survival, in terms of existence. I continue to wonder how Enugu State civil servants survive. We all know the state of things in terms of prices of commodities, the cost of everything that makes a human being to live. Enugu State civil servants are completely disconnected from every means of survival because in economy, money is the determinant of everything.
The income of a Director in the Enugu State civil service is not up to N60,000. If you add the salary of a Director in Enugu state to the salary of his two domestic servants, the total will be about N80,000. Minus deductions, that is to say that he goes home with less than N60,000 every month. That is the worth of a Director, who has been a graduate for over 20 years. And that very Director has nothing attached to his office. He has no vehicle, he has no house. Enugu State workers are the most deprived people in the world.
If the situation of a Director is that bad, what happens to junior workers in the present economy?
On the opposite pole, you see government political officials buying cars for people, giving cars as birthday gifts to girls in a state where the civil servants who are generating the money are being deprived of their income.
Governor Chime came and created a sharp division in the society: the upper rich and the extremely poor. The Director to the lowest official in the civil service belong to the lowest poor, while the Permanent Secretary to the Commissioner and the Governor belong to the upper rich. Can you imagine that a Permanent Secretary here in Enugu goes home with a minimum of over N400,000 every month, while the highest income of a Director, who is supposed to be a deputy Permanent Secretary, is less than N100,000, including the salary of his two domestic servants.
How has the governor fared so far?
The state we live in is where corruption is animated and is walking like a human being. In other words, corruption is being incarnated, given flesh and blood and is walking about in Enugu State.
If what is generated internally is to be properly accounted for, it is so much. During the struggle for minimum wage, when the government said it had no money to pay, I brought out data to show the income that comes from the various segments of the society and from the various segments of the economy on a monthly basis. I challenged them to set up an independent committee to verify my claims.
The internally generated revenue is huge. But it is not being accounted for, it is not being paid into the state coffers. It is being paid into the accounts of individuals. What they do is to give those things to contractors, who are cronies to the governor and his agents. I am sure that the internally generated revenue is more than enough to pay the salaries of workers in the state. But those monies are not being properly accounted for; they are being diverted into private accounts of either the families of the governor or the commissioners or their associates.
In terms of performance, if somebody brings a bulldozer to rehabilitate a road, they call it development. But development must be determined by the quality of life of the people, the quality of education available to the citizens, the quality of health care.
What Chime has achieved is to destroy the people, create poverty, destroy people’s sources of income and there is no programme for employment generation here. Every policy that lacks conscience is an inhuman policy.
So when people say that when you come to Enugu, you see asphalted roads with street lights, is that development? Even if it is, it is only meant for a few people. When you talk about development, you talk about the extent the people are being developed, education is being developed and the mental and physical being of the people is improved upon. Those things are lacking here.