Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State on Friday suspended the Accountant-General of the State, Stella Udogwu, over the non-payment of the November salary of local government workers.
The governor also ordered the arrest of the branch managers of Ecobank and Access Bank where money for the payment was lodged, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, stated in a release on Friday.
The governor said that the suspension of the accountant-general would take effect immediately. He directed that the Chief of Staff appoint an acting accountant-general pending the appointment of a new person to the office.
Mr Okorocha said before now he had directed that the October and November salaries of workers in the state be paid at the same time in October.
He said he was dismayed that the directive was not carried out until he was informed at the 40th Anniversary ceremony of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Owerri on Friday.
“I had released the salaries of every worker in Imo State since the second week of October and so if Local Government workers are being owed, then somebody must take responsibility for it and will be dealt with according to law.
“This is a criminal act aimed at disgracing this government; what they do is that they take the money and put in the bank and collect the interest.”
The governor said he assumed the directive was carried out but was surprised to be told by the leadership of NULGE during the celebration that the workers had not been paid.
He further directed that the November and December salary of workers be paid on Monday since December 1 and December 2 fell on a weekend.
“Your salary must be released and your December Salary shall be paid immediately. All the interests from the salary kept in the bank must be collected and shared to the local government workers who are the owners of the money,” the governor said.
Mr Okorocha also announced that each worker would get N10,000 as Christmas bonus and that each local government director of administration and general services would receive N2.5m as car allowance.
He also said that staff of Local Government Service Commission could rise to GL 17 without having to convert to be staff of the ministry to get to the grade.
“From today there won’t be any need for any local government worker to try to convert to the Ministry to be able to get to level 17 or become a permanent secretary.
“Today, I have officially lifted the embargo on local government staff getting to level 17. Henceforth, staff of the Local Government Service Commission will be promoted to level 17 when they are due for it.”
Earlier, the South -East Vice-President of NULGE, Patrick Igwe, expressed appreciation for the reprieve granted 3,000 workers listed to be sacked.
“This is uncommon in our chequered history. When others were negotiating on how to pay N18,000 minimum wage, you went further to pay N20,000 and we know that once agreement is reached on the new minimum wage, you will be the first to pay.”
The President of Imo State Chapter of NULGE, Richard Eze, pledged the support of the local government employees in the state for Mr Uche Nwosu’s governorship ambition in 2019.
Mr Nwosu is the son-in-law of the governor whom he has been insisting is the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress for the election. (NAN)