Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has pleaded with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Imo State University chapter, to call off the strike embarked upon by her members in the University, expressing shock that the lecturers would go on strike in the second week of March, over the month of February salary.
The Governor made the plea while swearing-in the new Secretary to the State Government, Mr. George Eche, a core civil servant who replaced the former SGI – Mr. Jude Ejiogu.
It would be recalled that Ejiogu was dropped penultimate week by the Governor who did not give reasons for the sudden removal.
In his speech at the event, Governor Okorocha said, “It is shocking that the ASUU in IMSU directed lecturers to go on strike in the second week of March because of February salary, when they had been paid full salary for the month of January. This is shocking. It is not acceptable to the state government. ASUU in IMSU should call off the strike without further delay because it is by all standards not justifiable and not advisable.”
“We shall continue to keep faith with the workers welfare. If the workers in the state did not go on strike over two months’ salary owed to them, we would have continued to go out of our way to pay them full. But they went on strike over two months salary and we then agreed with labour that they should take seventy per cent of the total income of the state to pay salaries and pensions, while the government takes only thirty per cent for capital expenditure. And now they have seen the truth of what we have been telling them about the finances of the state.”
Continuing the Governor lamented “as the allocation dropped further for the month of February, the labour body in the state may only be able to pay the workers fifty per cent of their salary. The whole thing has been able to let Imolites and the world to understand what the state has been able to do all these while. It is on record that Imo government has kept faith in the past in payment of salaries and allowances until recently when the economic situation in the country has become challenging following the outrageous looting of the resources of the country in the past.”
He advised workers in the state to imbibe the spirit of sacrifice because of the prevailing economic situation at the moment, adding that they should show concern.
“Imo people should also show understanding. The state has the highest number of ghost workers. The government has set aside N3.5billion for the Job, Job and Factory, Factory campaign of the state government which must be agro based.”
To the new SGI, Okorocha explained that his appointment was to bridge a gap, remarking that in the state, Ngor Okpuala, where the new scribe comes from, Ohaji/Egbema and Onuimo are the most marginalized local Governments in the state or that have not been treated fairly. He told Eche to unite his people, Owerri zone and by extension the state.
The governor expressed optimism that Eche would leave up to expectation and also stated that his successor, Ejiogu was never sacked out of dishonor.