The Owerri branch of Nigeria Bar Association has accused the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, of unlawfully laying off 1,000 employees of the state’s local government areas. This was even as the lawyers have concluded plans to institute a legal action against the state government over its policy of allegedly compelling pensioners to forfeit 60 per cent of their pension arrears.
Speaking in Owerri, the state capital during the activities marking the beginning of the new Judiciary Year in the state, the NBA Chairman, Owerri Branch, Mr. Lawrence Nwakaeti, said that the decision of the state government to slash the pension arrears of the senior citizens by 60 per cent was an embarrassment and a gross affront on the rule of law and constitutional democracy.
He emphasised that no one could alter the accrued pension of a pensioner to his advantage. Nwakeati said, “The Bar under our leadership has challenged this action in court, hoping that justice will come to these senior members of our society who have put in the better part of their lives in the service of the state. We are doing this on pro bono basis. They deserve more than what is being given them by the government.”
The legal practitioner, who accused Okorocha’s government of one illegality or another, alleged that the state government had failed to honour the agreement signed on February 20, 2015, between it and the judiciary on the need to grant financial autonomy and the independence of the judiciary.
According to him, “I know that the normal excuse will be that there is recession. We are aware of it, but what is the essence of preaching recession as an excuse and at the same time spending huge sums of money on Christmas decorations? Such decorations can only be for the living and not for the dead.”
In his response, Okorocha, who was a special guest of honour at the occasion, said there was no fact in the chairman’s speech. A visibly enraged Okorocha said that apart from the late Sam Mbakwe, no other governor before him in the state did 20 per cent of what he had done.