“I want to thank all of you for coming to celebrate ourselves, and for and on behalf of the millions of workers in Anambra State
Today, the speeches we have listened to are from the organised labour, which is a very small percentage of the entire workforce, but nevertheless, we have listened to workers.
What we have come for is in solidarity. We stand on behalf of ndị Anambra to say to our workers, Happy Workers’ Day. We are all workers, whether elected or appointed.
As I stand here to talk about the entire workforce, I remember that keke rider, tipper drivers, sales girls and boys, those cleaning the streets, those who are self-employed, eking a living. I don’t want us to forget that those of us who are privileged to be in the organised labour, we must not forget the majority down there because they don’t have a voice. But as a governor, I stand on behalf of all, self-employed, unemployed, under-employed, because the motto of my political party, APGA, is ‘be your brethren’s keeper’.
We came to celebrate all workers. The statements made to me today, I only consider them in the context of all, that the concerns and issues raised are just part of the microcosm in the macroscosm of the needs of workers of Nigeria and Anambra State.
I thank you all who are working in Anambra, for uniting to work, the continuing partnership with the organised labour in Anambra. The public servants, civil servants and those in various agencies and parastatals, you have been very great; your work is visible.
My idea of unionism is the solidarity of all workers in Anambra, whether the keke rider, or the woman selling one thing or the other somewhere under the sun is working and contributing. It is the union of all of us that will make Anambra State stronger, prosperous and liveable. I’m not talking about comradeship and agitation. I’m talking about ‘the union will make Anambra State strong’. I want us to always keep our eyes on the big picture.
Everywhere it is labour, despite the fourth industrial revolution and the fact that digitisation and robotics will become major threats to human labour in decades to come, but we will continue to celebrate the human labour. And for me, my commitment to the welfare of workers is not something I advertise. I live through it, I empathise, I sympathise. Anything that we don’t do for the workers, it means it is not financially feasible. If it is feasible, we will do it.
Did you talk to me about pensioners and their gratuity? You didn’t talk to me when we started making payments to them. When I came and heard that people were retiring without gratuity and are being owed gratuity for four years. All those who retired from 2018 till we assumed office last year, were not paid their gratuity. I saw it and thought that was unacceptable.
But despite the dwindling revenue and lean treasury, we said no and started to tackle it. So far, we have committed to it that anybody who has retired under my watch has been paid their gratuity, and we have gone back to 2018. Every month, we put in something, clearing it gradually and systematically.
There is a training that has gone on for a while now; ten thousand people are recieving digital skills.
We run a very transparent government. No magic about it. The budget for this year is predicated on generating about four billion naira IGR a month. So far, we are making [an] average of two billion naira a month. So, for four months already, you have a deficit of eight billion naira a month.
The same way, our expectation from the federation account, we are running about four to five billion deficit, but at the same time, the House of Assembly approved for us last year to borrow 100 billion naira. But as we speak, we still have not been able to borrow one kobo out of that, because we are trying to negotiate the best of rates because the commercial bank rate is so humongous.
It entails that a lot of things we have in the budget cannot be funded. If we do pro rata, you will discover that some of the things happening in other states will begin to happen in Anambra. Some of the states owe salaries. But we decided to ring-fence salary payment. We shouldn’t take it for granted.
When I assumed office, I had pressure to review the salary upwards and cut the workforce by half and significantly do the consequential adjustment because the revenue is not increasing. All of us must now work to increase the revenue, if you want the same revenue to remain. I had the pressure to review the payroll/workforce. If we yielded to it, the story would have been different.
I’ll tell you this, when I came here I met a thousand eight hundred and something political appointtees.
Today as we speak, many of the MDAs, commissioners and so on and so forth don’t have vehicles.
We have not even appointed up to ten percent of what we met, because people ask for appointments. Many put in their time and resources to get us here but we don’t have space because we can’t afford it.
What is my message? The change we are preaching to you starts from me. We are not going to borrow in order to consume. That’s not what we promised ndị Anambra. We will look into your demands.
Finally, I want to tell you something, my dear friends: the sit-at-home thing has become a convenient excuse. We must get back our state to work. Because to whom much is given, much is expected. As this union works for the state, we must get back to work five days in a week.
In summary, our government remains focused. We are determined to deliver our agenda and all of you are critical partners. It requires reciprocity. You give value to the state and the state in turn will give value to you. I know that many of you are working very hard. Some of you go to offices every Monday, but we must keep our offices fully open. We can’t be working seventy percent and expect to be paid a hundred and ten percent. It is not the new Anambra we intend to bequeath to the next generation.
By the time I give my second year report, it will be the reports that all of us deliver as a team. Anambra will continue to go from layer to layer, doing better.
Thank you all.”
Extracted by Christian Aburime.