•There’s no cause for alarm, govt says
From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
In Ebonyi, there seems to be a cold war between the state government and workers, especially those in the civil and public service.
This suspected frosty relationship, Daily Sun gathered, might not be unconnected to the demand for an enhanced salary and welfare package reportedly being canvassed by some concerned workers of the state.
Recently, the state governor, Mr. David Nweze Umahi, had, at a meeting with the leadership of the organised labour held at the Council Chambers, Government House, Abakaliki, alleged that some “recalcitrant civil servants” were inciting the workers against his government.
He lamented that one of such unruly civil servants used a very high-tech electronic machine to send him a message, containing unprintable words. According to the governor, the “dubious characters” among the workers were hell-bent on rubbishing his decent achievements in office out of bad blood and jealousy.
He said: “The attitude we have in the state is very, very discouraging. Somebody sent me a text. I am sure it was a civil servant. There was no manner of insult the person didn’t pour on me. And the topic was that ‘Ebonyi workers are suffering.’ He or she threw the projects we are doing to the dustbin. He used a very high-tech device to send those things.
“Any worker that wants to be a politician should go ahead and be a politician, but if I get a worker that is a politician, I’ll sack the person. When I finish and his person comes in, he can reinstate him. I’ll decode the person. Not only that, I will sack him for inciting the state. I’ll also send him to prison.
“There is nothing wrong in constructive criticism. But I won’t fold my hands and watch you incite workers against the government. If you say something is sweet, you have to say how sweet it is.”
A few days later, the state government issued a circular warning the civil/public servants to desist from rubbishing the government using various social media platforms.
The circular, entitled ‘Frivolous Posting of Obnoxious Comments in the Social Media against Ebonyi State Government by some Unscrupulous Civil/Public Servants in the State was signed by the Head of Service, Dr. Chamberlain Nwele, and was copied to all the relevant authorities in government. It has ‘EB/HOS/S.8/187’ as reference number.’
It reads thus: “The Ebonyi State Government has observed with dismay the activities of some unscrupulous civil/public servants in the state that have embarked on posting obnoxious comments in the social media castigating the state government.
“This attitude of some bad eggs among civil/servants in the state is tantamount to biting the finger that feeds them and needs to be nipped in the bud as it is against the Public Service Rules (PSR) No. 030301.
“Indeed, civil/public servants are the engine room that propels the activities of the government for efficient implementation of government’s programmes and policies for better dividends of democracy to the citizenry. They are expected to advance good ideas; abide by the civil/public servants’ code of conduct and shun any negative act that will tarnish the image of the government they are serving.
“As civil servants in Ebonyi State, their actions in the state must be in consonance with the state government’s transformation programmes and policies geared towards putting Ebonyi State at the frontline in all facets of economic development.
“Therefore, the purpose of this circular is to advise those who have involved themselves in this ugly act to know that the eyes of the state government are on them and that any person(s) caught hereafter will be seriously punished in accordance with the rules of law, as no reasonable Government will allow any of her workers to be a cog in the wheel of progress. Please, to be forewarned is to be forearmed” it concluded.
As expected, the circular went viral in the social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and others. Popular online media platforms all published the story.
Their articles summarily stated that the Government of Ebonyi State had banned the usage of social media by the state’s workforce. This earned the government of Chief Umahi a barrage of condemnations and attacks. Some of them accused the governor of trying to gag the media.
Displeased by the volume of attack on his administration, Gov. Umahi dismissed the allegation that he was determined to suppress the media. He said that he was a media friendly governor and understands its importance to societal growth.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Uzor, the governor clarified that he only cautioned his workers on their activities in the social media capable of tarnishing the image of the state.
The statement partly reads: “The attention of Ebonyi State Government has been drawn to injurious comments circulating in the social media alleging that the Governor, Engr. Dr. David Nweze Umahi, had banned all civil and public servants from engaging in social media activities.
“While this announcement does not want to magnify the purveyors of this baseless allegations all aimed at blackmailing the hard-working governor of our dear state with a response, it has become expedient to tell the good people of Ebonyi State, especially workers, that the state government has not banned anybody from engaging in social media activities.
“The circular which was signed by the Head of Service, Dr. Chamberlin Nwele was completely turned upside down by those operating under various guises in the social media just to paint the state government in a bad light. There is no single line in the circular thereof that suggested any clampdown on the workers engaging in social media activities. Rather, the circular served as a notice to all workers to do their businesses on the social media bearing in mind the rules of engagement, as nobody pulls down his own house.
“It is on record that since the opposition has woefully failed to accuse the present administration under Dr. David Nweze Umahi of not keeping to its campaign promises, they have resorted to cheap blackmail like this one in circulation now in the social media. They have also failed to comprehend the magic behind massive infrastructural development in the state under Governor Umahi and that has been the propelling ink that fuels their hatred and jealousy.
“However, the state government still maintains that all workers operating social media platforms under whatever guise should do that with self-censorship and enjoy all the good things thereof without necessarily using it as platforms to blackmail and paint the image of the state government which they swore to protect in the bad light.
“Consequently, the general public, especially workers of Ebonyi State are by this announcement urged to disregard the rumours making the rounds in the social media, especially Facebook, alleging clampdown on workers for using social media platforms, as such information was concocted by the enemies of the people who have lost touch with the masses.
“Governior Umahi is committed to workers’ welfare and has put everything in place to enhance their well being, and is calling on the workers to queue into the state government’s agricultural programme to attain food sufficiency and contribute to the economy of the state government,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, some civil servants approached to speak on the matter declined comments. Some of them expressed worry that the reporter might be a state government agent detailed to smoke out disloyal workers.