The Imo State Government has declared that workers in the state’s civil service will now work for only three days in a week while Thursdays and Fridays should be spent on their farms.
This is the thrust of a new policy by the state government termed “Back to Land for Agriculture”, aimed at promoting agricultural practices among the civil servants in order to boost their means of livelihood in the face of harsh economic realities.
Governor Rochas Okorocha announced the measures when traditional rulers from the state, under the aegis of Royal fathers in Agriculture, visited him at the Government House Owerri on Monday.
He said that the new policy has the approval of the State Executive Council.
Sam Onwuemeodo, Chief Press secretary to the governor, released a statement assuring Imo citizens that the new policy will not affect the salaries of workers.
The statement reads, “Against the backdrop of the “Back to Land for Agriculture” Programme, the governor directed that public servants in the state would now work from Mondays to Wednesdays, and use Thursdays and Fridays for agriculture (farming) while Saturdays can be used for ceremonies. And the directive takes effect from Monday August 1, 2016.
“However, the governor exempted public servants on essential duties like the teachers, nurses, doctors and people involved in Internally Generated Revenue drive. Political appointees are also exempted from the three-days working periods.
“We shall try this programme for the period of one year, starting from 1st of August 2016 and hopefully this will help. Let me make this emphasis before it is misconstrued or misrepresented, that this does not in any way affect the salaries of the workers.
“Workers will get their full salaries as been the practice. So the policy does not mean that there will be a cut in salary rather let us now find a way for our workers to supplement their salaries”.
He continued, “For this reason the issue of annual leave and casual leave is hereby cancelled. Resumption time for work has changed from 8am to 7.30am in the morning and ends by 4pm. Any worker that is not found on his or her seat between7.30am and 4pm on the days concerned will be summarily dismissed.
“Everybody must go back to agriculture. Every political appointee must own a farm. The youths would also be encouraged to take to agriculture. Schools including Universities, Polytechnics and Secondary schools in the state must own farms. The Community Government Council (CGC) must be strengthened for the sake of this agricultural programme.
“Two billion naira (N2b) has been set aside at the micro-finance bank for the purpose of this Back To Land For Agriculture policy so that those willing can access it. And time is gone again when politicians and some Imolites will come to government in the pretence of farming and collect loans and use it to buy cars and marry new wives.
“Again, the June and July Salaries would be paid this week. We are making sure that our workers are comfortable and our pensioners are happy because this is one area the whole nation is having a serious challenge.
“Our problem is not being unable to pay salaries but paying over-bloated salaries. We are also making effort to pay our pensioners once the harmonization is over.
“I also want to announce that government has appealed to families and those who organize burials on Mondays to Wednesdays to please change and have their burials on Saturdays so that we can concentrate on the government’s work and on the agricultural programme.
“Everything that has to do with agriculture no matter what shape it comes, government will support it. So many countries are going through economic crisis because of the fall in oil.
“Our nation is also going through very difficult moment. We have taken responsibility as leaders and we are not blaming anyone. Wise nations and leaders save for the rainy days.
“There were periods the oil price was in our favour. But those in charge then blew the money. They made no savings. Today the oil price globally has crashed and here we are. And we must fall back to agriculture as the panacea.”
The governor had hinted on the new policy last Friday while also disclosing that his administration intends to review downwards the salaries of workers in the state.
“We are considering reducing the working days from five to three in Imo, so that workers will use the rest of the days to work and support their families,” Okorocha had said.
Adding that “Directors in these other South-eastern states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu) receive something a little above N90, 000 while in Imo they receive more than N100, 000.
“We intend to clear salary arrears up to July by next week. After that, we will consider downward review of salary to workers to be at par with other states of South-east.’’