Bayelsa Unbelieving Governor Threatens Civil Servants With New Tax Regime

By Jeffrey Egbide

Nine months after assumption of office as governor of Bayelsa State, Hon Seriake Dickson has assumed all the trappings of unfettered power.

Governor Dickson’s maiden interactive session with civil servants was the opening salvo in what may prove to be a big battle for not only the state workforce but also for the public.

This was however, not a different Dickson I had known in the past and it was not his new position as governor that had changed him said a civil servant ho witnessed the said event.

Arriving three hours behind schedule to the interactive session, which has become characteristic of him at public engagements, the governor knew why he was there. He had the stage, he had the setting to make whatever pronouncement he wished that day.

Using the session as a smokescreen for his 2-point agenda, he proceeded to inform the workers of his government’s decision to introduce a new Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) tax regime, arguing that civil servants in the state that produces over 38 percent of the nations revenue were being grossly under-taxed.

Giving himself sweeping powers, he also said that he had ordered the immediate suspension from service of four civil servants, Mr John Appah, Surv. Kopul Ngibina, Ransome Temerigha and Akpoebi Ifidi.

According to Governor Dickson, Appah was involved in employment racketeering while serving at the State Environmental Sanitation Authority. Ngibina of the Capital City Development Authority he said, was involved in illegal allotment and allocation of lands at Ox-Bow Lake area of the state. Thus working against the Yenagoa City Masterplan. Hence the need to have him fired.

Temerigha, an accountant in the Office of Secretary to State Government was said to have engaged in making careless statements about government officials, while the hammer also fell on Ifidi, a staff of Banquet Hall, Government House for alleged damaging dissemination of rumour and propaganda about the present state government, which according to Dickson was in gross violation of the Civil Service Rules.

The public announcement of the order suspending the four persons was a blatant violation of all established rules and procedure for staff discipline in the civil service.

While the disciplinary action metted out to Appah and Ngibina may be justified in his view, Temerigha and Ifidi were unjustly sanctioned for expressing their constitutional right of freedom of expression, which may have been merely based on hearsay evidence.

The suspension of the ‘Civil Service 5’ has brought a sense of uncertainty to the civil service community. There was good reason for the disillusionment in the service - the governor was meeting them for the first time and had brought with him, a message of terror instead of hope.

Dickson’s announcement of proposals for a tax increase for the workers was more of a phantom project which sounded at that point outrageous to many workers in the state. Most of his speech was marked with laughter and greeted with loud boos, but the mention of tax increase saw the workers boo the governor endlessly.

The question and answer session at the interaction afforded the civil servants the opportunity to develop fresh discontent for the Dickson administration when the governor expressed doubt over the identity of a staff who had asked a question.

The staff who had earlier identified himself as Asuene Okolovie of the Capital City Development Authority began with reference to the Bible, quoting from  1 Kings 12:14-16, and wanted to know if  the mission of Dickson as the state governor was intended to bring succor or to increase the suffering of the people.

He gave a damning indictment of the governor’s proposed new tax regime which according to Okolovie, would apparently result in inflicting more pains on the poor worker whose take home pay at the end of every month, is hardly able to meet the needs of their families.

“My Excellency, I don’t know who you consulted. You want to add to our burden?

“I want to say desirous as the increase may be in tax, Bayelsans deserve a lighter burden”.

He concluded, saying that he would not want the governor to experience what King Rehoboam suffered when the whole of Israel stoned him to death.

A furious Governor Dickson responded, by saying that Okolovie ‘spoke like a rabble-rouser, and student union activist’ adding that he did not display acts expected of a civil servant.

Dickson further said of the questioner whom he may have previously known as a dominant opposition civil servant, “I don’t know when and how you got in here. I intend to get some reflex in that respect, particularly your copious way of referring to the Bible which was not necessary.

“When I get my briefing, I will know exactly who you are”, he said. Okolovie may now have realized at that point he had quoted a Bible passage which was ‘unquotable’ and that Governor Dickson had gone nuts over it.

For Dickson, there was absolutely nothing more the civil servants would say that could not be attributed to the opposition. A large part of this phenomenon is that the governor only wants the workers to say what his government wants to hear and this has exacerbated a wave of resentment.

The attitude of government was clearly demonstrated at that meeting and workers are terrified at the recent development as it suggested a move towards a massive spying juggernaut on the citizens.

With a combination of ruthlessness, Governor Dickson displayed like a bully acting a cheap script from a sordid film as he told the gathering, “Civil servants are to be seen, not heard”. A prescribed civil servant, limited in what he says and where he says it, and that represents Dickson’s vision of a civil servant - a new status has been down-graded for them.

The situation was becoming fluid at that moment. It was unfolding and it became evident that the session must end even though there were still a couple of obvious questions every civil servant wanted to ask: “when would government pay the arrears of the 18percent new minimum wage?” Dickson felt quite uncomfortable as the atmosphere was highly charged and things seemed on a knife edge.

For the civil servants, asking the governor probing questions ‘the wrongs’ are a taboo, the ‘rights’ like not expressing any opinion about government are part of what is to be a civil servant.

Dickson requires civil servants to remain in the shadows, denied a real life, despite having given him their sovereignty at the last governorship election in the state. This amounts to making them live and work in circumstances under duress and they are beginning to hold the governor in low esteem. The workers are wondering how helpful government really is and would be in addressing their plight.

The silence of labour over the governor’s indication of tax increase and his bullying attitude was not because of his logical argument but because of self -interest. The issues have received no labour attention and the governor’s action that day, seem to be under tacit approval from the labour leadership.

The civil servants who during the five-year tenure of Chief Sylva were complacent about the level of bad governance appear to be terrified at the development as they are now in clear and present danger that the governor is determined to crush any element of opposition within or outside the service, who might cross his path. Pressure is building in that direction.

There are also indications that the same things and types of actions which ex-governor Sylva took are gradually being institutionalised by Governor Dickson and the people of the state are beginning to see a tendency where there will be more disregard for the rule of law in the months ahead.

The Dickson-led administration has failed to take confidence-building measures which the people are likely to reciprocate, and the shadows of the immediate past PDP-led administration now seems set to become the framework of the present government in the state.

One civil servant who does not want his name published for fear of victimization said: “Dickson’s utterance is an attempt to gag civil servants. What transpired that day was indeed a running gag.

“It simply amounts to an act of terror”, he added.

Another civil servant said: “Dickson has commenced a campaign of terror, intimidation and victimization. If he is not ready to listen, he cannot address the needs of the people”.

Dickson’s next action gave the civil servants a second shock of the week. The executive sanctions imposed on them at the interactive session and thereafter are certainly aimed at relieving them of their appointment as civil servants - they are intended to do so, as Kpolovie has also since been issued with a letter of indefinite suspension from work.

The deadly clampdown on Kpolovie, a civil service hardliner was not a good start. Dickson probably did that for fear of Kpolovie’s action likely to set his government popularity rating on its downward spiral of resentment.

Many civil servants feel that any stake they had in the present administration’s restoration agenda has being snatched away by Dickson’s threatening remarks and suspension of the five persons.

Governor Dickson has set precedence with his coercive nature and extremist Bayelsa elements may be set to dig their heels in even further into the activities of the present administration.

The governor will have to come up with some form of u-turn to some imaginative policies, or it may well signal the day when like Governor Sylva,Bayelsans will resort to pelting him this time around, probably not with water satchets but with stones. Only then would Kpolovie’s advice to Dickson have made some sense. Dickson surely would not like being stoned to ‘death’.

Bayelsans are absolutely irrepressible, that they can only be silent for a while but react at the right time. The likes of ex-governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Timipre Sylva were kicked out when they became arrogant and stopped listening to Bayelsans.

Dickson has started imposing just as much as people would soon be unable to bear, and without a sure sense of when and how to stop. Bayelsa is a state which has formulated its own unique way of political protest against autocratic rulers. Precedence has been set.
   

Like every governor or administrator who has ruled the state, change will catch up with Dickson, suddenly in a day, changing every Bayelsa political equation, and throwing all the cards up into the air to land where they may.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters
 
 

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@Deri thank u! Its true that

@Deri thank u! Its true that the governor is gradually turning himself into a SUPER god in Bayels state. He often breaks his promises to the masses as if there will be no next time in his life. That is our concern. He has not been able to achieve anything since he was hand picked by Jonathan and made the governor. How can a governor talk to civil servants that way, as if they are his house boys? He must learn to show respect to the workers who are doing all within their power to settle down in the state. There is nothing in that state for us to be proud of. Yet the money keeps vanishing. Go to Akwa Ibom and see development projects there-that state was built through the help of the indigenous population and not hired thugs from other parts of the state as we see Dickson often do. This article will move him to change his method of approach to issues concerning civil servants in Bayelsa state.

Africa 4 africans-SS 4 tompolo and asare dokubo kalas!

@Tundemess, I will rather have my kids serve Asare Dokubo and Tompolo than Buhari and the gangsters in his Fulani led Boko haram. At least Tompolo will not slit the throat of my kids or throw bombs into their places of worship. The first to call for the creation of states in 9ja, are the Ijaws through Chief Dappa Biriye in 1954 and Boro in d 60s. But yr ppl said no to us in the creeks. And it seems u dont know the citizens of Alaska an oil producing state in the USA, don't pay tax-education is free up to university level. Not in any of the oil bearing communities do we have such an arrangement-my anger with Dickson lies with the way he related with the civil servants-and his tax contractors-they remind me of d Buhari era. Gej will never descend to that local level of doing things-his problem is about wanting to satisfy every Tom, Dick and harry from the dry oil-less zone like yours-ours is to get rid of parasites like u b4 2015

@Deri: Is Jonathan not of those govs that refused to develop Bay

@Deri

U claimed "The problem with most of the governors in the South South, especially Bayelsa ati Rivers state is that, they hardly ever apply the Okilo and Spiff mythologies in handling developmental issues. Once elections are won and they are sworn-in, they forget the promises they made to the masses. If Bayelsa state thinks they can attract investors into the creeks then they will continue to depend on the regional contractors residing among them to run the economy of the state. "

As far as I can remember, your clown Jonathan was one of the past governors of Bayelsa state.

@Deri: You rchildren will end up serving Tompolo's children !

@Deri

Moron, I am surprised you did not blame Buhari, Awo, Gani, and Obama for non appliance of your stupid "Okilo and Spiff mythologies in handling developmental issues" usual.
You idiot was here castigating Silva and supporting this new rogue a few months ago, when your moron Jonathan was using the federal might to push aside Silva and install the new Bayelsa governor.

2015 is around the corner and certainly you and your generation unborn would be condemned to eternal poverty having used the present opportunity to support Tompolo, Asari, Oruebe, Oronto and Jonathan to steal state money meant for development. Your children would end up serving their children ! dey laugh O !

Was your mentor Buhari not

Was your mentor Buhari not with Abacha when Ken Saro Wiwa was hanged? Show us where he pleaded with his late boss Abacha to spare the life of Ken among other Ogonis that he hanged? Did 9jas including the press which Buhari tried to destroy, not call for his release from jail? Who else is to be blamed among the clowns you mentioned apart from great minds like Awo and Gani? Rather than have yr likes heap all the blame on Jonah, ask Buhari to tell us what he did what our oil money while in PTF? Can a sane man erect mansions all over abuja, aware we do not have water, roads, electricity and schools-not to talk of health institutions? Yet u built a federal capital territory-while millions of 9jas are starving? Instead of using the resources of the ppl of the SS, to transform the zone as directed by the Brits, u want to lie yr way to 2015-Dickson mis-informers are from the 3 old regions-not even from bayelsa

The problem with most of the

The problem with most of the governors in the South South, especially Bayelsa ati Rivers state is that, they hardly ever apply the Okilo and Spiff mythologies in handling developmental issues. Once elections are won and they are sworn-in, they forget the promises they made to the masses. If Bayelsa state thinks they can attract investors into the creeks then they will continue to depend on the regional contractors residing among them to run the economy of the state. The state is today no mans land. Government house has been turned into a worship centre for the regional leaders tormenting the people of the SS. Spiff and Okilo did not need the help of outsiders to erect the infrastructure that they built in Port-Harcourt. Nothing stops the governor from building a shopping malls-& Housing estates. Awo erected Western House and gave it out almost free to up and coming legal minds and business men from d SW-they did not use Ijaws to transform their regions>

As usual lunatic Deri would blame Buhari, Gani, Awo and Obama fo

As usual lunatic Deri would blame Buhari, Gani, Awo and Obama for this. I have helped with his copy-and-paste here too....

" Obama is operating from an environment which took his ppl almost 100yrs 4 him 2 become president. Until 50 yrs ago, no black man or woman was ever allowed to vote or be voted for in an election in d USA! No fiscal federalism or resource control as obtainable in the USA 4 us-is Jonah to blame for that also? Again Garvey went on to remind us that (God and Nature first made us what we are in d creeks, and then deposited the oil wells there for us) But 9ja said No to our quest for resource control! so whose fault is it-after spending N55 trillion oil revenue from the SS-we dont have water, light, roads and health-52 yr after-Yet built a new FCT."

Most Bayelsans thought

Most Bayelsans thought Dickson will be able to measure up to the expectations of his people. But he has turned out to be like every other politicians in the Niger Delta! The man is very arrogant and has no feelings for the suffering masses in the state. They will budget billions every year but end with nothing on ground. Very uncaring with no human feelings. Instead of creating Jobs for the people he is taxing them as if there is no tomorrow. Yes the payment of tax is necessary but what will become of the money? It would go the same way federal government allocation have been going in the country since Nigeria gained her freedom.

when will our leaders learn

when will our leaders learn from history? no man is greater than his 'chi' time indeed will tell

New year gift to Bayelsans.

Gov. Dickson is planning for his people a policy dat wil affect their lives serious. May God not allow it to d FG workers bcos I know dat Mr. President is in picture of dat bad policy. In UK and US they are doing no complain bcos there is good roads, electricity, water and other social amenities. At d end such deduction wil go 2 somebody's pocket. May God save us (AMEN)

where is that boko haram Deri

Where is that Boko Haram Deri? He will soon be here to blame SR and not their lazy governors in the south south-most of whom are as corrupt as their boss in aso rock. The man is really clueless!

SR thank u for exposing the latest clown in Bayelsa state

It seems Governor Dickson may need the help of (mammy water) to move the state forward-Because the man is clueless. The governor is now operating like the military police officer that he was b4 he was imposed on the people of Baylesa state. The man has no respect 4 d constitution of the FRN. He is forcing civil servants to pay tax when he cannot account for the monthly allocations that goes into his pocket-the roads are the same-No hospitals-Housing projects nil-the Boro town housing schemes is dead-is that state cursed or what? The state is the same as Alameiseigha and Sylva left it-Pensioners are yet to be paid their benefits-after promising to settle them hours after he was sworn-in. Bayelsa state in now under the control of external elements. Soon they will start hunting the people whose names were published in the story instead of making amends.