By Eyo Eyo
Irked by dribbling runs of disappointments amidst economic hardship, over 756 political office holders including chairmen, vice chairmen, councilors, supervisors, special advisers, press secretaries, protocol officers, special assistants and personal assistants, Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP card carrying members who served in the local government councils between 2010 – 2013 have now resolved to head to court as a last resort following inability of the Cross River State Government to pay them their severance benefits.
Narrating their ordeal, Mr. K. C. Nsan Agbo Chairman for the Councillors group said, “We are utterly appalled and have drifted in agony since 2013 when we left office.
“This is in spite of the release of bailout funds to States by the federal government to cushion the effect of economic hardship and defray indebtedness owed political office holders and civil servants and the huge revenue accruing to the Cross River State Government through the joint local government service account.
“Severance is the terminal benefit like gratuity, approved by law paid to political office holders at the federal, state and local government councils.”
He claimed that vouchers to pay were raised but unfortunately, “when we left office, it was turned down at the point of payment and we have been kicked about like football ever then revealing that many of the office holders have died of stroke and hypertension while others are still lying critical in hospitals.
According to Mr. Nsan Agbo, the move to pay came up again when the federal government announced bailout funds to states. We were asked to go for clearance in our respective local government councils which we did” but the sincerity of the government cannot be in one bottom trusted”, even as the 2019 general elections approaches.
“We have adopted all constitutional means including dialogue, round-table discussions and letter writing to no avail”, he said.
“When the matter came up initially for hearing in court, the government pleaded we should withdraw the matter. But we have been pushed rather too far”.
He said owing to the fact that we are all PDP, the matter was reported to the State Chairman of the PDP, Ntufam Inok Edim who expressed sympathy over our plight but was informed by the commissioner for local government affairs, Mr. John Ulafor that the indebtedness was not that of the present government.
Mr. Nsan said the committee set up by the Cross River State Government to look into the matter had since submitted its report with the recommendation to pay the office holders maintaining effort to pay have been “evasive”.
The court is our last hope. We are forging ahead. Let the government publish how it spent the bailout funds from the federal government.
Among the political office holders are the displaced indigenous people of Bakassi, who were forcefully ejected from their ancestral homeland in the peninsula.
Mr. Kingsley Efa was personal assistant displaced from the Bakassi Peninsula said not only did we miss so much to Cameroon arising from the ICJ judgment but we have been made to suffer again by the government.
He said severance allowance is entitlement of political office holders and wonder why the State Government would not pay them their entitlement despite the posture of the government to protect human rights.
“The court is the last hope of the common man”, he said we are not going back.