Wednesday, 6 March 2013

TIMARIV Boss Dismisses Petition Against The Agency, Calls For Help With Payment Of Staff Salaries

Nelson Jaja
By Dan Metong-Joseph

An appeal has gone to the Rivers State Government to take over the payment of salaries of staff of the State Transport Management Authority (TIMARIV), to cushion the effort of the agency in beefing up traffic control measures in the state.
State Comptroller General of TIMARIV, Mr. Nelson Jaja, who made the entreaty, said the agency would not go back on its frontal traffic control mechanisms to get rid of traffic bottlenecks in the state, stressing that the agency which is the enforcement unit of the Ministry of Transport, was discussing with the state government to take over the payment of salaries of its staff to reduce the financial burden of the agency in order to enable it function effectively.
Mr. Jaja said the idea to handover salaries of staff of the TIMARIV to its mother Ministry of Transport, is intended to ensure better welfare for staff as well as repositioning the agency for higher productivity. According to him, available fund for the agency would be able to attend to the multifarious needs of the agency, including motivating workers to drastically check the flagrant abuse of traffic laws in the state.
“I am concerned about staff salaries in order to avoid incidents of corruption because, if the people don’t have money, incidents of corruption may rise. Traffic offenders who are meant to pay fines to government will end up in the staff’s pocket, just to feed himself since he is not being paid his salary regularly.
I am begging the state authorities to take over the monthly salaries, like other civil servants, so that every month their salaries would be settled also. I’ve begged the Commissioner for Transport, we made representation to the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning and Finance respectively, they are looking into it. Click on read more below to continue reading
At least this salary thing should be taken over from us. If we can get it off our hands, it will really help the operations of TIMARIV better. Money we have can be put into road signs, paint the roads or open more annexes or put more people to chase Keke or Okada and all that. It would also reduce all these incidents of corruption and obstruction that people are talking about. We will be able to make money available for enforcement, we’ll be able to appear at more places to check incidents of traffic abuse, we’ll be able to buy one or two more cars to may be, send people to Eleme, Akpajo, Mile One or Ada George and other places we were not able to cover.

We will be more responsive to staff welfare that people are complaining about, heath care, pension and all that. The complaints will not be there anymore, and we will be better committed to the work that we are required to do, including traffic control, arrest and punish offenders, and cause improvement on the traffic situation, furnish and infrastructure; liaise with other government agencies to improve traffic matters. We will put some people at school areas to help children cross the road and try to get one or two ambulances so that we can actually be at the scene of accidents to give First Aid to victim; that is also our mandate,” Mr. Jaja stated.
Reacting to the allegations of corrupt practices leveled against the management of the agency, the TIMARIV boss said the grants from the state government had never been sufficient enough to address the many financial challenges of the agency, adding that a lot of other related financial needs of the agency have always suffered serious setbacks, when only payment of staff salaries have been taking all available funds in the coffers f the agency. He said the situation has always put management in extreme difficulty to address the financial needs of the establishment.
According to him, funds were allocated to priority areas to keep operations running in the agency. He disclosed that TIMARIV had only succeeded in securing funds from special grant issued to it by the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
“Sources of fund for TIMARIV are any amount of money that may be voted by the Assembly and any grant from the Governor and any other money that the management is able to raise from the public.  I go to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Shell and Total. That’s what I do.
What we have from the governor is just to keep us running by paying staff salaries ad run some other operations which we try to do. Under this condition, I am determined as long as I’m in TIMARIV to be innovative in management of the affairs of TIMARIV.
Our sense of management of the available funds is the reason people say we didn’t pay tax. We delayed because when staffs are paid their salaries, you can put them on operations to work. But if you used the money to pay taxes and pension without staff salaries, how do you perform your primary functions?,” he asked.
Mr Jaja dismissed the petions linking them to financial recklessness in the agency (if you missed it 'Click here' to read it), saying that they were written by ghosts with false, malicious and unfounded claims meant to mislead members of the public, adding that the allegations were fabricated by those who are not comfortable with the enforcement of traffic rules by TIMARIV in the state.
He said, “The allegations brought before the State House of Assembly are false and unfounded. The person who wrote that petition, if he is existing, he’s either mischievous or totally uninformed.
First, there is no one on the TIMARIV staff list as Peterside Beke Chinda. That name is unknown to us; he has never been a staff of TIMARIV. If he is, he should come forward with his identity on when he was enlisted in the TIMARIV and all that.”
According to him, “the public complain about people who operate in the TIMARIV enforcement unit, because some people are not happy when their vehicle are impounded and they are asked to pay fines according to law. I’m not surprised about the petition because it is part of the hazards trailing the job I do to serve the state in this capacity. The petition is part of the threats from members of the public, who are doing everything to harm me because of my job of ensuring free flow of traffic in the state, which some people are not happy about.
When you are working in an organization, which duty it is to enforce some kind of law and order, you do not expect to be very popular or to be loved by people, especially those in Port Harcourt, some in high places, and government officials who think they are big men and their cars cannot be impounded and that they can drive against traffic.
“Already my phone is laden with threats every day, how they are going to kidnap me or kill me, how they are going to kidnap my wife. Some of them will send me my wife’s car number that my boys have seized their cars. How they will deal with me and make sure I am sacked. Some people will say they are amnesty boys, therefore we are not supposed to impound their vehicles, even when they disobey traffic rules.”
Continuing, he said, “I didn’t make the law. The law was made by Rivers people through their representatives in the House of Assembly, and everything we do is according to that law. The fines we hold people for are according to the law. We don’t do anything arbitrary. We need to keep that organization running.”
One Mr. Peterside Beke Chinda, who claimed to be a staff of TIMARIV, had petitioned the Rivers State House of Assembly, questioning the integrity of the financial accountability of the authorities of TIMARIV and alleging acts of favouritism on award of contracts.
Reacting to this, the TIMARIV boss said the agency does not even have money that is exposed to anybody to divert for his personal use and still have operations of the agency running effectively. He explained that with staff strength of about 757, where payment of salaries alone takes all that is in the coffers of the agency, leaving the management to strain itself trying to provide for other important activities to keep the agency functioning, the purse is already empty for anybody who may think of his personal aggrandizement.
“I would like to buy tow trucks, but we don’t have the money to buy them. If it is sometimes difficult to pay salaries, how do we buy tow trucks? I have always used all management skills that I know to keep the organization running many a times. Sometimes, it is difficult for us to pay salaries. Last year, between July and December, we had difficult times paying salaries of staff. We don’t have enough funds for us to do our basic functions under the law. Most time, we strain ourselves and manage to do something.
As a management, we use our resources in a way as to keep the very essence of the establishment. When we have funds paucity of funds, we always suffer and we make sure that we just so what we can do to keep the operation going, that is to keep the marshals on the road to manage and control traffic and making sure motorists move on the road a little more comfortable that it used to be when our marshals were not there,” he stated.
According to him, “ Because of our situation, we now decided to contract our towing to a third party, and we don’t even have enough tow contractors to do the towing because our conditions are too tight; most of our tow contractors don’t last with us. When they work with us two to three months, they run away, they don’t cover their expenses, because, if you don’t tow any car, we don’t pay you. So any person who has the capacity to tow cars and who us ready to abide by the rules and regulations and our contract terms for towing should come with his tow capacity, we will give him tow capacity.”
Explaining reasons for ‘special operations’ in TIMARIV, he said it is as a result of incessant attacks on the road marshals at some critical areas in Port Harcourt, where ‘area boys’, traders and motorists were being used against the agency to obstruct traffic. “I set up some internal special task force who wear yellow T-Shirt. I do taskforce operations when our staff suffers so much attack.
Sometimes, the government itself now decided to set up a joint Operation, including the TIMARIV, Environmental Sanitation Authority and Ministry of Environment Task force, which is funded by the office of the S.S.G (Secretary to the State Government), but it is just an ad hoc operation that the government does.
Besides, my own special operation is different from that of the state government. My own internal operation is an internal matter for the TIMARIV and I get my own operation staff to do it; and it works because at a point, all our marshals were afraid. They were not able to stand on the roads because to incessant attacks on them. That’s why we hired all those boys in T-shirts and the Police, because we needed to beef up support. And it was a huge success. A lot of people began to behave themselves, and attack on our people was reduced to the barest minimum,” Jaja finished.


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