THE DAIRY OF A SELFLESS LABOUR LEADER: ANESTINA IWEH
….by Roseline Etukudo
Comrade Anestina Jeremiah Iweh, the President of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, has made history as one of the NULGE Presidents in the State that has facilitated and negotiated the payment of more than six years backlog of Leave grants without leading the staff of the Local Government Service on strike or work-to-rule.
Occasioned by the redeployment of the erstwhile President of NULGE, Comrade Martins Effiong, to the State Civil Service in October 2016 and the ensuing cold war that rocked the Union leadership from November 2016 to December 2017. Anestina Iweh, as the Deputy President, took her first shot at the coveted NULGE President position in 2018 after her position was ratified and confirmed by the State Executive Council (SEC), though as Acting President.
On assumption of office as the Acting President of NULGE, Akwa Ibom State Chapter in January 2018, Iweh did not only come face to face with a Herculean task of resolving A- 2-year-old work-to-rule industrial action embarked on by the staff of the Unified Local Government Service. Her leadership was also burdened with a backlog of 4 years of Leave grants (2014 to 2017), non-implementation of staff promotions from 2017 to 2018, and 2014 Salary Arrears of 9 Local Government Councils.
Buoyed by the support of both the SAC and the SEC of the Union, Anestina Iweh’s administration swung into action by meeting with the relevant authorities and, after an assessment and due consideration, called off the obsolete and inefficacious work-to-rule that had crippled the smooth running of Local Government Administration in the State.
Selfless commitment to workers’ entitlements and accrued benefits
As the Acting President, Iweh, with her team of selfless leaders, went to a peaceful negotiation table with the major stakeholders in Local Government System in the State. From the Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to the Accountant General of the State, the Head of Civil Service, the Secretary to the State Government, and the ALGON Chairman were all engaged.
Her administration peacefully brokered the payment of the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 backlog of leave grants and the implementation of all arrears of promotions in the service. In addition, her administration continued to break new grounds. One of such was the successful organisation of the record-breaking NULGE / Local Government Workers Week in May 2018, the first in the anal of the history of NULGE in both the State and nationally.
Getting the prestigious NULGE House, Abak road, ready for commissioning by his Excellency, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, Comrade Iweh completed the last floor of two bedrooms each. Landscaped the outside and furnished the 500-capacity hall and offices with superb pieces of furniture.
In 2018, when Anestina resumed duties as the Acting President of NULGE, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, available records at the Union Secretariat showed that NULGE as a Union had stopped the remittance of 10% of her monthly dues to the state NLC for years. A challenge she braced headlong and remitted 12 months arrears of 2017 to the leadership. To date, the NULGE Akwa Ibom State chapter has not missed the remittance of her monthly 10% Dues to the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) and also to the National Leadership of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees(NULGE).
She Consistently Exudes Exemplary Leadership Qualities
On completion of the tenure of her former boss in 2020 and a fresh election year came, Comrade Anestina Iweh, emboldened by her experiences and exploits during her days as Acting President, tossed her hat into the ring, announcing her intention to contest the office of the State President of NULGE. Accordingly, she was screened and cleared by the National Electoral Umpire of the Union alongside three other contestants to run for the office of President. The elections took place on September 24, 2020, in Ibom Hall, with accredited delegates across the 31 Local Government Councils who voted in a fair, free, credible, and conclusive election. An exercise that saw Comrade Anestina Jeremiah Iweh emerge as the winner with 234 votes and was subsequently sworn into office alongside others on December 17, 2020.
Upon her swearing-in, Anestina Iweh broke the jinx of becoming the first Female to occupy the exalted office of the State President of NULGE, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, and she also made history as the third State Chapter Female President of NULGE in the Country.
By 2021, the leave grant arrears monster has increased its tally by 4 ( 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021), and as years go by, the count keeps rising in rapid succession. Guided by her knowledge of the enormous challenges and the tasks ahead of her, Comrade Iweh settled in and immediately continued the negotiation from where she had stopped. Between 2021 and 2023, she negotiated the payment for 2019, 2022, and 2023 arrears of leave grant; the last two years being consolidated into staff salary to checkmate the accumulation of more arrears, leaving only 2020 and 2021 arrears unpaid.
It was through her constant plea bargain and that of the sister union, Medical and Health Workers Association, with the backing of the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Akwa Ibom State Chapter, that the State Government reconsidered its decision on the sacked 723 staff of the Unified Local Government Service and reabsorbed more than 400 Health Staff into the Service.
Since her inception as the State President, she has liaised with the leadership of the Local Government Service Commission to make sure that staff promotions are conducted yearly by the commission and the promotions are immediately implemented after they are issued.
An Empathetic Leader That Cries When Her Workers Cries
Not comfortable with the continuous unfair treatment meted on the Local Government Service retirees where gratuities were owed from 2012, Anestina Iweh’s led state chapter left no stone unturned, using all the available peaceful Union apparatus to negotiate with the government of the day. The effort has paid off as retirees have started receiving their gratuities.
Anestina Iweh-led administration for two consecutive NULGE Branch elections circle has conducted a free, fair, and credible election. It is no longer news within Local Government Councils corridors that she has conducted the “freest” Branch NULGE elections ever.
Concerned by the infrastructural decay and the unsafe work environment in the Local Government Councils. In 2022, Iweh led members of the State Administrative Council (SAC) of the Union on a fact-finding tour of the 31 Local Government Councils. The tour birthed the first Council award category during the 2022 Local Government Workers Week Celebration, which saw Udung Uko Council backed as the overall best Local Government Council in the State.
NULGE Multipurpose Cooperative and Other Projects
On February 15, 2023, history was made as the one-year-old NULGE Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society(NMPCS), a brainchild of Iweh’s leadership, declared a Net Surplus of Three Million Eighty-Six Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty Naira Seventy-Three Kobo(N3,086,660.73) with Two Naira Fifty Kobo (N2.50k) as dividends per share capital.
As one of her campaign promises, Comrade Anestina Iweh has made her words her bond by purchasing a 2004 square meter of land along Ring Road in the State Capital for the building of the NULGE Events Center and Club House. Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, did the foundation laying ceremony, and work is ongoing at the site.
Comrade Anestina Iweh, as a human-centric and passionate Servant leader through the monthly NULGE Dues, has sponsored more than ten members of the Union to undergo various degrees of medical operation in the hospital and has also supported thousand of members during their functions. Her administration is also passionate about training Union leadership. Under her watch, her administration has organized pieces of training for members of SAC and SEC and other stakeholders in and outside the State.
A refined union leader with a GRACE mantle, Comrade Iweh has demonstrated competence, finesse, doggedness, and sheer expertise in navigating the uncharted waters of unionism. Her achievement so far has endeared her to both members of the Union, political class, lovers, and even her enemies. It has gained her names like Anestina “Achievement” Iweh, “Esther of our time,” and NULGE Amazon. Many have agreed that Comrade Anestina Jeremiah Iweh has a Midas touch and is an asset to any group she belongs to. Pundits believe that Comrade Anestina Jeremiah Iweh is armoured and singled out for the liberation of our generation, not only in NULGE but on a bigger stage soon.
Comrade Anestina Iweh’s finesse as a union leader did not happen overnight. From her first shot at Union politics as Branch Auditor, InI Local Government, the Branch Treasurer, the Branch Vice Chairman, the Branch Chairman to her crescendo to the State Welfare Officer, State Vice President, State Acting President, and now the State President. She is also the Secretary of the NLC Women Committee, for which she was unanimously elected unopposed.