HOW CHIJIOKE EDEOGA BROUGHT BACK LIFE TO THE LOCAL GOVT SYSTEM IN ENUGU STATE
BY DR. ERIC NDUM
Before Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga assumed duty as Commissioner for Local Government Matters in Enugu State in 2015, life in each of the 17 local government councils in the state was virtually at its end. It was a hopeless situation.
Specifically, most workers in each of the local government councils could no longer meet their basic family responsibilities – no food on the table, no payment of house rents, no payment of school fees for children and wards, no payment of hospital bills, etc., while many of them had kicked the bucket due to hardships.
At the same time, there was virtually no activity going on at each of the local government councils across the state, as most workers no longer attended work. As such, apart from non-payment of salaries and allowances, most of these local government councils could not meet their basic constitutional duties. Everything was at standstill.
The reason basically was because most of the local government workers in the state were owed salaries ranging from 15 months and 24 months, and leave allowances running into several years. As for pensioners in the local government system, they were owed for more than three years, and nobody talked about paying them gratuities.
All that the government had been telling the people was that the local government councils were not receiving enough statutory allocations from the Federation Accounts with which they could carry out their constitutional responsibilities.
For Chijioke Edeoga, as soon as he came in as Commissioner for Local Government Matters, he saw the task before him as though daunting, but not unsurmountable. Thus, determined to make sense out of a seemingly hopeless situation, he swung into action by embarking on biometric audit of workers and pensioners in the local government system.
Edeoga did not delegate anybody or any group of people to do the job for him. He physically visited each of the 17 local government councils and met with their workers so as to determine who actually were working there, and who also were pensioners in order to juxtapose them with the figures that were in the payrolls.
At the end of the exercise, the number of workers and pensioners in the local government system in the state came down drastically, as it was discovered that the payment register contained names of hundreds of people who actually were not existing, but who were drawing salaries and pensions from the system.
Having thus succeeded in the exercise, which brought down the number of workers and pensioners in the payrolls of these local government councils to a manageable level, Commissioner Chijioke Edeoga began to pay them arrears of their salaries and leave allowances, including pensions to retired local government workers. In no time, he was able to clear these several months of arrears of salaries and pensions owed to local government workers and pensioners.
Life suddenly returned to the families of these local government workers, and the local government system itself began to work again, as the workers began to attend to both their family needs and official duties.
Not done, Commissioner Edeoga introduced peer review system among local government councils by which each of the local government chairmen would lay their scorecards in the public domain. This led to competitions among the local government chairmen.
Throughout the period Chijioke Edeoga was in charge of the Ministry of Local Government Matters, no local government worker in the state was owed any salary or allowance, and he made each of the local government council to actively perform their constitutionally assigned duties.
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