Against the backdrop of an online newspaper report (not The New Diplomat), that 30 workers of the Isoko North Local Government Council were recently fired, the chairman of the Council, Hon. Christian Iteire, has denied the report, describing it as a figment of the imagination of the writer.
The online newspaper had reported that the Local Government Council boss had dismissed 30 workers and replaced them with friends and relations, adding that the exercise was carried out in March, 2021, three weeks after he was sworn in as the executive chairman of the Council.
The newspaper report had quoted one of the alleged sacked staff as saying that they were relieved of their jobs immediately the chairman assumed office and replaced them with some of his family members and friends.
It went further to state that the chairnan gave, as reason for his action, paucity of fund to pay their salaries just as it queried how the chairman would pay the salaries of the alleged newly-recruited workers. They described the chairman as a very wicked man.
“But immediately the current chairman came into office, he sacked so many of us and replaced us with some of his family members, kinsmen, cronies and political associates.
“The chairman told us there was no money to pay us and the question is: where is he going to get the money to pay those he replaced us with? Over twenty environmental health workers, over ten security personnel as well as other regular workers working in the Council for the past ten years were affected”, the report stated, adding that “the chairman is a heartless and wicked human being.”
The report also accused the chairman of meeting “with some prominent traditional rulers and political leaders within the local government council to bring names of people he can use to replace some of the sacked council workers”, adding that “this shows that our sacking by the local government chairman, Christian Othuke Iteire, had a political undertone.”
However, reacting to the report on phone with The New Diplomat, the Council chairman, Iteire expressed shock at the allegations, saying that nothing like that happened in the Council.
He described the report as fallacious and a figment of the imagination of the reporter, adding that he had no problem with anyone three weeks after he assumed office as alleged by the report.
Iteire however recalled that there was an incident of vandalism in the Legislative Arm department of the Council and that on enquiry, it was discovered that the security men in charge of that section of the Council abandoned their duty, adding that the incident took place in May.
He said: “I was shocked when I saw it (report) because I knew nothing like that happened. Going through it I saw where it said I sacked the workers three weeks after I was sworn in. I was like asking, did I have quarell with anybody? Why would I come and sack people?
“The issue we had was that a section of our security department that was supposed to watch over our legislative department, was not on ground. The place was vandalized. Copper wires were stolen and when we called the men in charge here, we found that they were not coming to job. So, we just relieved them of their jobs. If I had gone ahead to arrest them, they would have said I’m wicked. And this thing happened not the first month, not the second month but in May here.
“So, all those things written in the report were mere fabrication, figment of the writer imagination. I can see that it was a sponsored write-up. I’m not so heartless a man. I’ll never do such a thing and I did not do it.”
The chairman called on the people of Isoko North Local Government Area to “disregard such fallacy”, adding that “they should not believe all they read.” He accused the reporter of not doing a balanced report as, according to him, he failed to come to the Council to investigate the allegations before reporting.
Also reacting, the brainch chairman of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees of the Council, NULGE, Comrade Michael Ofou, doubted the authenticity of the allegation, adding that the chaiman of the Council has neither power to hire nor fire any of the Staff. According to him, it is the the Local Government Service Commission that is vested with the power to recruit and also sack a staff whenever the need arises.
“Somehow, some persons mentioned it. But I know that it is unfounded and so I did not even take it seriously because nothing like that happened. First, the Council does not even have the power to employ. And if you don’t have the power to employ, how can you have the power to terminate? Both employment and termination of staff rest with the Local Government Service Commission. Except they are saying such thing happened at that level, if not I’m not even aware as the Union chairman”, he said.
Corroborating the submission of the NULGE chairman, the Head of Personnel Management of the Council, Mr. Henry Obukowho, said that the power to hire and fire at the Council lies with the Local Government Service Commission, adding that he had just heard for the first time and was not aware there anybody was sacked.
“I’m just hearing for the first time now and I’m not aware that any staff of this Local Government Council has been sacked. In any case, the power to hire and sack lies in the Local Government Service Commission. And I’m not aware that the Commission has done anything like that. At the Council end here, we don’t have the power to hire and to sack. To my knowledge no staff has been sacked in this Local Government Council. And as it were, I should know when anybody is sacked”, the HPM said.
In his own reaction, the head of operation of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, a federal-government owned paramilitary security outfit, which is in charge of the Security of the Isoko North Local Government Council, Mr. Ozorofere Oma Patrick, disclosed that some of the staff who were working in the Council before the Council chairman resumed duty, have been abandoning their duties, adding that the outfit decided to replace them the truants among them.
He confirmed that the recrutiment and removal of the NSCDC staff of the Council was not within the authority of the Council chairman, but that of the federal government, adding that they were not even up to 30 in number in the Council.
He said: “That information may be coming from political opponents because we don’t have up to 30 NSCDC staff in the Division right now. The number which the Local Government chairman inherited from the past chairman, are not even up to 21. Before the chairman came in, we were having some persons that have abandoned their duties before. What we did recently was the restructuring of security because we need to cover some areas where we think we were having some lapses and we tried to employ some persons from outside to cover those areas.
“Actually, we were short of manpower and nobody whom the chairman relieved of his or her job in NSCDC.”
One of the staff of the NSCDC, Miss Ossai Evelyn, who spoke to our correspondent, also averred that there was nothing like sack of the staff of the security outfit, pointing out that she was transferred from Warri South Local Government Area, four months ago.
“I was transferred from Warri South Local Government Council four months ago and I have been working in this Council, Isoko North Local Government Area. There was nothing like sack in the Council. None of our staff have been sacked”, he said.