The number of political appointees in the Cross River State Government will hit about 1,100 this week, causing labour and members of the public to raise eye brows.
The development comes as Governor, Ben Ayade is set to announce additional 300 new appointees, this week.Currently, there are about 800 political appointees in the state, jerked up from previous 98. The appointees include 28 commissioners and numerous special assistants and a host of others.
Governor Ayade, in a news conference last week, explained that “the expansion of government was a deliberate policy to find a way to release whatever government has to every home, so that there is food on the table for every house. If it is not directly to you, it is to your uncle or to your niece. Even when Cross River does not have, we took appointees from about 98 to almost 800 and we have a new list of about 300 people to be appointed which will be announced next week (this week).”
The state’s work force is about 22,000 earning over N4.5 billion as salary every month for both local government and the state civil service, and Ayade had in an earlier briefing disclosed that the local government wage bill is about N2.1 billion, while the state service is about N2.4 billion leaving a deficit of about N2 billion monthly.
Explaining how he is coping with these huge labour force, wage bill and large number of appointees, Ayade said: “As we have our financial challenges…our receipt at all time is below what our salary is… If you don’t understand third world politics or economy, you will never understand leadership… If you look at Keynesian economics or Donald Trump’s model, when things are doing so well, that is when you tighten up. But trust me, I will never owe salary. Any salary we owe is just this short period we are doing staff biometrics which is deliberate because I kept shifting it. You see some people’s names kept reoccurring on pay role yet the person retired many years ago.
“Salary comes first on my list. There is no infrastructure that is better than a human being. I will rather stay and spend four years paying salary, reducing hunger on my people and saying goodbye to politics and never seek rerun than to focus on rerun and projects at the expense of the people. So the expansion of government is to bring more people to the table when times are hard, when investments are low, when the private sectors are almost non-existent. So let me face trouble and create a private sector, build a garment factory, pharmaceutical company, create the rice city, build the poultry, do the gallery. As you do all these, the private sector will begin to strive and you devolve government interest and create the private sector and relief the government by having people employed in those areas.
It is a third world economic model because it operates on sluggish economic steps.”He further noted that the alternative means of employment other than government are very limited, “so government must recognise that the welfare of the people is key.
If I save money to construct a bridge and I don’t have people to go through that bridge what happens? I believe that God will always give me the means to pay and among the less educated in the mind, they could mistake that as a jamboree, no.”
Meanwhile, labour leaders in the state have frowned at the large number of political appointees in the state, saying it is the cause of the state’s huge wage bill.
The State Chairman of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JPSNC), Comrade Thomas Igbang, in a telephone interview with The Guardian said: “If you talk about 700 politicians in the pay role, I think you cannot but say it is high when people are looking at a small government. The government has not employed for a long time and there are several people, who have retired, but they keep saying the figure of civil servant remains stagnant, I doubt that very seriously. This government has brought over 700 politicians into the pay role so if that is the reason for the increment, they should say so because our pay has not been increased, and we are receiving what we were receiving before. People are leaving the service and in pension they don’t get same amount as when they were in service.”
Equally commenting on the large number of appointees, the Vice Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state, Mr. Cletus Obun, said: “Look at the madness that is going on in the name of appointments. You have the largest appointment and the smallest allocation. We generate less and have more to pay. The man who is crying for bailout is increasing his own salary in terms of emoluments, which he has not even started paying and no employment letters. Is that the way to empower people?
“Rather than creating sufficient ground for people to use their potential to build the economy, we are doing something else. Cross River State is in a sorry state; the governor is running the government deliberately at deficit, employing more than you can pay and cannot even pay yet you are increasing the wage bill. I think it is becoming childish, it is a voodoo economy. It has no basis anywhere in any theory that is known anywhere on earth.”