Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Imo State Government has described the threat of industrial action by the Imo State chapter of the National Union of Local government Employees (NULGE) as a panic measure by the union to divert attention from their pending exposure as the alleged mastermind behind the scandalous payroll fraud in the Local government system in the State.
A statement yesterday by the state commissioner for information and strategy, Declan Emelumba, said NULGE’s threat came when the government has commenced payment of Local government salaries after a diligent e-payment verification of the over-bloated payrolls.
Emelumba further noted that the union’s threat was also intended to create the erroneous impression that the government bowed to their pressure.
The commissioner claimed that the union is aware that their members prepared the payrolls and fraudulently padded it with double salary and wage head entries, multiple BVN entries for the same names and even multiple nominal roll entries.
Some of those entries he pointed out were deliberately inserted in the payroll to mislead the government into actions that could amount to a diversion of local government funds.
Emelumba, however, explained that the state government took time to verify the bloated payroll submitted by the different councils and discovered that 50% of the entries were fraudulent adding that payment of salaries to local governments commenced on Wednesday.
He wondered why NULGE which had complained that the COVID-19 shutdown was affecting their members adversely turned around to threaten further shut down of the system.
He alleged that their aim was to divert attention from the outcome of the verification of their alleged fraudulent payrolls because they discovered that their members would be indicted.
“When they got wind that the government had concluded the e-payment verification of the payrolls and that their members were indicted in the fraud they panicked.
“Initially, they had hinged their opposition to the verification on the lockdown, claiming that their members won’t be able to come for the exercise, unknown to them that the verification was not physical but about BVN, account number and other e-payment requirements
“They were consequently surprised when they learnt that the verification had been concluded and that their fraud had been exposed. So even when they knew that the government was going to pay the outstanding salaries they quickly issued a notice of industrial action to create an alibi for their indictment and also to curry the admiration of some of their members who will think it was their threat that made the government to pay them” the commissioner said.
The statement argued that if NULGE had been patriotic and had the interest of the Local government system at heart, it would have been commending the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, for having the courage to rid the local government system of endemic fraud that threatened the very existence of the councils which he added has helped to save over N300 million monthly for development projects, instead of embarking on questionable industrial action.