The leadership of United Progressive Party (UPP) in Enugu State has urged the Federal Government to stop any further release of Paris Club refund to the state, saying that the two tranches of the refund were not committed to the payment of workers’ salaries and arrears in the state.
The state Chairman of the party, Mr. Ken Onyekaonwu, in a statement he personally signed, stated that President Muhammadu Buhari would be promoting corruption by the disbursement of another tranche of the refund to the state when the earlier ones released could not be accounted for.
The party said: “No single former councillor or Chairman in Enugu State had been paid any arrears or severance package by the present administration. The claim by the Enugu State government that workers are not being owed and that the refund was applied to other development projects is only a fat lie as Enugu State has remained one of the states where no sign of governance is seen. Already built infrastructures in the state are decaying with no new ones springing up from anywhere in the state.
“The general feeling in Enugu State is that since the two tranches of the refund were not committed to the payment of workers’ salaries and arrears, and no one could point finger to any ongoing or completed project in the state, the fund may have successfully been diverted after the people’s attention were shifted from same.
“We however use this opportunity to invite the EFCC to investigate the possible diversion of the refunds payment to Enugu State. We also implore the Federal Government to put in abeyance any further refund payment to Enugu State government until the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) is able to trace the whereabouts of the well over N5 billion of the refund already paid to the state.”
In a swift reaction, however, the state government stated that it had utilised the refunds appropriately for the development, adding that it had lived to its obligations to workers and pensioners.
In a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Chief Ogbuagu Anikwe, the government explained: “The Enugu State government doubts the authenticity of this press release. But if truly the UPP wrote the statement, we advise the party chieftain who signed it to be a bit more attentive.
“The point is that if the Federal Government advises governors to use their share of Paris and London Clubs refunds to clear outstanding arrears of salaries and pension, how will this advisory affect states like Enugu that do not have outstanding arrears of salaries and pensions to clear?
“We emphasise that Enugu State government does not owe its workers. Enugu State civil servants are the first in Nigeria to receive monthly salary, which is promptly paid on the 23rd of each month. The government of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has also been consistent in meeting pension’s obligations since it’s assumption of office. The administration is however saddled with huge arrears of pensions and gratuities accumulated by the previous administration, which are being gradually reduced.
“Fair-minded and honest people Enugu State have been praising Governor Ugwuanyi’s prudent approach to managing scarce resources. The Paris and London Clubs refunds payment are warehoused, subsequently shared between the state and Local Government Councils to be carefully applied to priority projects, including future salaries and pension’s payments, execution of capital projects, and reducing of arrears of pensions accumulated by the previous administration.
“We appreciate that at this time, we have entered the era of politicking where wild claims are made but we expect that political parties which come to the public square to fight for relevance should at the very least be armed with facts and a bit of commonsense as they approach their propaganda tasks,” he added.