Sack of Imo state workers : In defence of Governor Rochas Okorocha – By Louis Iguilo

old-manI have never been a fan to Governor Rochas Okorocha. I have never benefited from him as a person or as governor. I have criticized all his policies that are unfavourable to Imo people.

However, in as much as I understand what it means for one to lose his job, the attendant difficulties that sometimes take lives, the pains and starvation of families of those who lost jobs, the dreams cut short and so on, I will confess that I do not want to join the fray of those calling for his head on this. My position is that a middle ground must be taken by all parties involved.

The truth is that Imo state civil service and indeed civil service all over the nation, is over bloated with tons of unproductive personnel. The local governments are the worst hit on this. I weep for the state each time I visit most ministries and parastatals. Having been in the private sector all my life, I am pretty sure that no productive organisation can maintain such quantum of workers who merely sit around to either gossip, break egusi, or do other trivial things while waiting for month end to share allocations.

With the dwindling income worldwide occasioned by the fall in oil price, even multinational multimillion dollar company like Shell is cutting down over 10,000 workforces. Down-sizing is sweeping across the globe and across all sectors from oil and gas to banking, to insurance, and manufacturing. One will be living in a fool’s paradise if he/she does not understand the worldwide economic realities.

Regrettably, Gov. Rochas Okorocha, in his characteristic conqueror and emperor manner, has chosen to approach this matter from the wrong side. SACKING is a wrong choice of word when an organisation or government wants to downsize. It is synonymous to dismissal. It sends wrong signals to those affected and those who fear they may face same fate. This is because a worker is usually sacked when such employee contravenes his/her contract. In this case these workers have not done that. RETRENCHMENT and REDUNDANCY would have made more sense.

I cannot imagine how much the state spends on the salaries of these multiple and bloated workforce who are state civil servants. They receive salaries for 35 years and some of them for doing nothing, and continue to receive gratuity and pension till they die while some mischievous families continue to collect such pensions even after the death of such workers. In today’s economy, I too as a governor will not condone such bloated workforce.

WAY FORWARD:

Gov. Rochas Okorocha needs to revisit the retrenchment of these workers to make it people oriented. It should target unproductive workers across all ministries, agencies, departments, parastatals and local government councils. I can bet that over 25 % of the state workforce need to be reappraised. Those unproductive workers should be retrenched appropriately with befitting PAY OFF to enable them easily fit into the private sector and by extension create more jobs and diversify the economy more. Retrenchment all over the world is never a crime so long as the appropriate compensations and entitlements are given to the affected workers.

It is right to say this is occasioned by dwindling revenue, but has the governor looked into his retinue of aids: SAs, Pas etc. with a view to trimming costs from there? Has he discussed with the organised labor with a view to finding a lasting solution to the bloated workforce? A people oriented governor would have called all stake holders, laid the entire cards of poor income, bloated workforce and inability to pay salaries by the government on the table for all concerned to make input. This would have thrown up so many solutions and suggestions than the governor would have imagined because no one will definitely force anybody to retain employees he/she cannot pay.

The crux of the matter would be how to pay off the affected workers. On the side of the workforce, they should see retrenchment as part and parcel of every employment. They should insist on significant PAY OFF and redundancy benefit which would cushion the immediate effect of job loss as well as enable them venture into private businesses which sometimes may grow beyond the stipend from the civil service.

Louis Igwilo (MA)
Public affairs analyst.

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