By Ushang Ewa
The Garnishee order nisi issued by a High Court of Cross River State sitting in Calabar in favor of Lilleker bros limited, a construction firm alongside the inability of the Governor Ben Ayade’s administration to access local government funding is said to have caused the delay in the payment of salaries CrossRiverWatch findings reveal.
Justice Ukpai Ibitham had granted the prayers of the firm which said it is been owed N653 million by the State Government for jobs done in northern Cross River including the installation of street lights which were later destroyed by the administration for the construction of the northern superhighway.
Our judiciary correspondent reports that this had put the Governor into panic mode and this informed his directive to the Solicitor General of the State, Mr. Peter Bassey, the Director General of the Department of Due Process and Price Intelligence, Mr. Alphonsus Ogar and the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Asuquo Ekpenyong to work towards vacating the order.
The trio are said to have appeared in court two days ago (Wednesday) and Justice Ibitham is said to have granted them permission to settle out of court with Lilleker on how the government can pay the debt instalmentally.
Meanwhile, the State has been unable to pay salaries with the delay said to be due to the lack of funds.
CrossRiverWatch had reported that following the directives of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Local Government allocations were paid directly into the council accounts and cannot be accessed by the Governor and the Heads of Local Government Administrations which forced Mr. Ayade to call for a meeting.
This, sources say led to the decision to update nominal rolls by the State which in a statement circulated by Mr. Ayade’s spokesman and allegedly signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Dr. Aye Henshaw, the State claimed it had “become necessary for the nominal rolls” of teachers under the State Universal Basic Education Board and Staff under the State Primary Health Care Development Agency to be updated.
It will be recalled that the Stephen Odey led SUBEB had embarked on a rigorous staff verification exercise two years ago which lasted weeks with reports of fake certificates and overaged staff as well as sieved ghost workers widely reported.
Also, following an investigation by CrossRiverWatch which revealed that the CRSPHCDA had over four thousand ghost workers in its payroll, the Governor approved a verification exercise which was funded by the World Health Organization and no fewer than 3,000 staff underwent the process which saw dozens demoted.
And, the State in its statement said: “Two years ago the nominal rolls of Teachers and PHC staff in the various 18 councils were consolidated under the Board and Agency during an extensive staff verification exercise which plugged leakages.
“Both the Board and the Agency are currently working with the various Local Government Administrations to reconcile the nominal rolls of their staff assigned to the respective councils to ensure that the nominal rolls are domiciled with the LGA for salary payment in line with the NFIU new policy,” the State said.
“The reconciliation exercise will continue over the next couple of working days and salaries will be paid immediately on completion. The current administration has always demonstrated its commitment to its policy that wages are settled in full and when due and it will not deviate from this policy,” the statement added.
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