Since his assumption of office over two years ago, the Okowa administration has been criticized for a range of issues. Despite the modest achievements in the area of road infrastructure around the state capital and skill acquisition as well as the payment of salaries, it has failed in a number of areas such as the obligations to the senior citizens by way of pensions and gratuities.
The Okowa administration has also been accused of withholding local government Council funds thus leading to several months arrears of salary owed to Local Government employees.
Another area where the Okowa administration has been adjudged to have neglected is the integrated development of the major cities in the state. The complaint has been that apart from the state capital and the Owa township where the Governor hails from, other towns and cities in the state have been largely neglected with no visible dividend of democracy in terms of critical infrastructures.
Furthermore, the embargo on employment in the Delta State Civil Service has also been a regular source of concern by Deltans with civil service aspirations.
Whenever the above concerns are raised, the response of the Okowa media machine is the refrain of EGO ARIA, a word loosely translated from the Governor’s native (Ika language) meaning ‘No money’.
According to the EGO ARIA refrain which the Okowa administration has become associated with, the state cannot meet up with certain demands in the face of the dwindling financial fortune of the state. When this refrain was initiated, Deltans believed and sympathised with the state government and had to adjust the demands in the face of the realities of the times. It was the hope of everyone that with time, the fortunes of the state would improve and there would be no excuses anymore.
The EGO ARIA philosophy has been vigorously pursued by the handlers and surrogates of the Okowa administration despite the monthly allocations to Delta State of N7 billion plus N5 billion Local government Council allocations, the monthly Budget Support Funds of N2 Billion, commercial Banks loans approved by the House of Assembly, over N10 Billion bail out funds from the Federal Government, monthly IGR of over N7 billion and most recently, the Paris Club Debt Refund in the total sum of over N24.5 Billion recently paid in two tranches. With these revenue receipts accruing to the state government, it is only surprising that the Okowa administration has elevated the EGO ARIA philosophy.
With the recent N24.5bn Paris Club debt refund, the Delta State Government must give attention to the areas it has neglected since the inception of the administration. This is the time to pay the deserved pensions and gratuities to the senior citizens who have spent their productive years in the service of the state.
It is on record that civil servants who retired between late 2013 and 2016 have been deprived of their gratuity leading several of them to their early graves. Governor Okowa must not use the EGO ARIA mantra to perpetuate this abomination.
Also the several months arrears of salary owed to Local Government employees should be a major component that the Paris Club funds should be applied towards.
The House of Assembly, the media, political parties, Civil Society Groups and Deltans must monitor the disbursement and application of this fund to ensure that it is applied for the benefit of Deltans who have been worst hit by the EGO ARIA policy of the state government.
The admonition by the Federal Ministry of Finance to State governments, is to prioritize the payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions with the Paris Club funds, is a welcome development but Deltans must be alert and ensure that the Okowa administration does not defeat this admonition with its EGO ARIA mantra.