Despite the backlog of salary arrears yet to be cleared by the Bayelsa State government, its Assembly has approved a request by Governor Seriake Dickson to spend N3 billion for the procurement of cars for the State legislators, political appointees and the State security outfit called“door akpor”.
It was gathered that the approval was unanimously granted on the floor of the House behind closed doors.
Speaker of the House, Kombowei Benson, admitted to the development saying that “there was no need for media presence (during the house session) because it lasted for only thirty minutes.”
The Speaker acknowledged that the controversial approval would draw criticism from several quarters but insisted that it was absolutely necessary for government functionaries to have official vehicles.
He said: “I know there will be reactions but the main issues are that even Duo Akpo security vans are needed.
“For the Assembly, it is our right to have official cars and we are now in our second year without cars.
Benson said the Assembly members had taken into consideration the economic harshness the country was undergoing, hence “We are going for highlander not expensive Prado or land cruiser in other to cut cost.”
Workers at the State House of Assembly, who spoke with leadership on condition of anonymity, expressed anger over the development, saying that it goes against what Governor Dickson has made them to believe that there was no money in the state.
One of the workers who pleaded anonymity reminded journalists that the Governor had declared a Civil Service reform saying that the N4 billion wage bill of the State’s civil servants is no longer visible.
“Are they saying instead of paying workers their full salary, they prefer to buy N3 billion luxury cars?” he asked.
“We, the workers of the State, have always borne the brunt for the politicians to enjoy.
“Have you been to the State Secretariat? It is a mess. Instead of spending money to put the engine room (state secretariat) right and make the milk cow comfortable, they are busy insulting our intelligence,” he fumed.
However, Morris Alagoa, former Secretary of the Bayelsa State chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, disagrees.
Alagoa described the development as normal, adding that it is been the tradition since the return of democracy in 1999 and that Governor Dickson had even left it too late.
He said: “There is actually nothing wrong in buying cars for State legislators and political appointees; as this has been the tradition as we observe since the return of civil rule in 1999”
“Past administrations in the state did same thing; even local government Chairmen; instead of speedboats for those in mainly riverine areas, we have heard how Chairman bought cars for Legislators at that level.
“In fact, I guess this gesture is even coming relatively late in Dickson’s administration because I am aware that most political appointees during his first tenure were not provided with official cars.”
Alago however noted that since the State government was now buoyant enough to buy luxury cars for its officials, civil servants in the state should also benefit from the bounty.
“With this positive gesture, it goes to say that the days of 50 percent salary for civil servants and complain of over bloated wage bill are over,” the Labour leader said.
There have been series of strikes by different labour unions in Bayelsa State over non-payment of Salaries and Governor Dickson had explained that the state was broke and could only afford 50% of workers’ salaries.