The Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abia, Chief Uchenna Obigwe, says at 26 “the state is still crawling like a baby,” in terms of development.
Obigwe spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Umuahia, on the 26th anniversary of the state and level of progress so far recorded.
“At 26, Abia is still crawling like a baby because previous administrations failed to develop the state,” he said.
Abia was created on Aug. 27, 1991, by then military President Ibrahim Babangia.
According to Obigwe, the extent of decay in infrastructure is enormous and that it will take time for any meaningful development to be achieved in the state.
On the fate of workers, the NLC chairman said that it had not been easy for civil servants in the state, owing to the delays in the payment of salaries.
“You know that this is my constituency, so I can safely say that this administration is doing well to better the lot of the civil servants in the state.
“Today, the governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, has paid workers in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) up to date.
“We only have issues with the local government workers, teachers in primary and secondary schools, some parastatal agencies and pensioners.
“If the government can take care of the salaries of this category of workers like those in the MDAs then our problem is over,” he said.
Also, the pioneer chairman of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Ogbonnaya Iheaka, shared similar opinion that at 26, Abia had not done well in the area of development.
Iheaka told NAN in a telephone interview that the state had come of age, but lagged behind in terms of development.
He expressed worry that past administrations failed to put the basic things that would propel development.
“Certain basic things that ought to be done to drive development in the state were not done.
“For instance, it was only during the last administration that workers’ secretariat was built yet it was far below the standard you find in other states,” Iheaka said.
He also said that the state had not experienced the required federal presence and that past administrations did not do much to attract federal and international development agencies to the state.
He said that the state had achieved a milestone in power sharing, particularly the governorship position, among the three senatorial districts.
Iheaka, however, said that the development of the state was seriously threatened by sectional tendencies amongst the political leaderships.
He said: “Since the return of democratic rule in 1999, political leaders have concentrated development in their own areas and paid little or no attention to other sections of the state.
“Governors always reserved strategic political and civil service appointments for people from their area.
“What this means is that place of origin has taken the position of merit,” he said, adding that the ugly trend had destroyed the state civil service.”
To further buttress his point, he said that the administration of Sen. Theodore Orji introduced an eight-year age limit for directors and permanent secretaries.
He said that the policy swept many people out even before their mandatory retirement age.
Iheaka regretted that after filling the vacancies created by the policy, the administration quickly reversed the policy and returned to status quo.
“This unwholesome sectional tendency had been the trend since 1999 to date and it is dangerous for the state,” Iheaka said.
According to him, the attitude of successive administrations is one of “the winner takes all” to the detriment of the interest of the greater majority of the people.