Staffers of FADAMA, Community and Social Development Agency, CSDA, and Medium and Small Scale Enterprises, MSME, in Ebonyi State have cried out following the non-payment of their 15 months salaries by the State Government. These Staffers, who are saddled with the responsibility of executing the World Bank project, designed for the elevation of vulnerable households, farmers and Micro businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, are undergoing hardship due to their present economic situation. They accused the State Government of being insensitive to their plights and diversion of World Bank funds, designed for the improvement of the well-being of Ebonyi people. These Staffers are presently facing the burden of heavy indebtedness, inability of their children to go back to School, ejection from their rented apartments and deteriorating health conditions, which has led to a death case as some are still on death row in the hospital. The World Bank assisted project, which is being implemented by the three disbursement platforms in the State, made N900 million available to Ebonyi State Government in Match, 2022 for the commencement of the Programme.
According to the aggrieved Staff who did not want their names in print: “The salary arrangement was that the contract Staff will be on Monthly salaries while the seconded Staff (Staff from the State Civil Service) will be on Monthly productive allowance. “The Governor’s decision to pay the Staff peanuts against the better working condition arranged by the World Bank and obtainable in other States in the country is now generating tension among the three platforms’ Staff. There’s high suspicion that the N900 million has either been tampered with or completely disappeared through the Commissioner for Finance who is the lead signatory to the Consolidated Fund Account which it was paid into .
The World Bank has been engaging the Governor to release the fund for the commencement of the program but to no avail.” They urged the “World Bank to consider the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country and think of the way of coming to the rescue of the Staff of the three platforms (FADAMA, MSME, and EB-CSDA).
“World Bank should demand for the refund of the N900m NG-CARES program fund from the State or step up efforts to recover the money at source from FAAC and directly pay the Staff and suspend the implementation of the program in the State till the exit of the present Government.” Reacting to the development, the Chairman of the program Steering Committee and Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Orlando Nweze denied being a signatory to any Government Account, including the World Bank assisted project. “First thing first, I am not a signatory to any Government account, NG Cares inclusive. It is patently false that any World Bank fund has been tampered with or is missing in Ebonyi State. Anybody claiming such should provide evidence and be ready to defend such an accusation in a court of law. The fund as approved and appropriated in the 2022 budget is intact and when spent will be in line with such.” On the non-payment of the Staff salaries, the Commissioner for Finance noted that “The recruitment process was amended by Ebonyi State Government and payment processes have commenced. The program implementation commenced with prior results in FY2021, which was the first phase when the Ebonyi State Government empowered a total of 1001 farmers with agricultural inputs under FADAMA. This was implemented with funds from the Ebonyi State Government.
“The second phase was implemented in September 2022. This was done under the MSME platform. A total of 3480 small business owners benefited from this phase. This was also implemented with funds from the Ebonyi State Government. The third phase will be implemented in October 2022.” The aggrieved Staff further alleged that contrary to the World Bank arrangement, “the Governor has directed that the NG-CARES be shared to the APC candidates, Divine Mandate members, religious groups, market women groups, unregistered farmers as against the World Bank guideline, which stipulated the process of selection of beneficiaries and it is always based on demand-driven and verifying processes. It is surprising that after owing the Staff for 15 Months from July 2021, the State Government now made a U-turn and came up that it was going to pay Zero Productivity Allowance to seconded Staff and 30% salary range to contract Staff, instead of the World Bank documented salary range of 60% already agreed on the inception of the program.”