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NITEL workers petition Jonathan, Mark over 25 months unpaid salary


IT was a pathetic sight on Tuesday in Abuja as the workers of Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) stormed the National Assembly to seek the intervention of the lawmakers over their 25-month unpaid salaries, but were locked out of the main entrance.
The protesting workers, who came to the lawmaking chambers under the aegis of National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE), said their members were dying instalmentally occasioned by perpetual hunger, homelessness and their inability to finance the education of their children among many other social challenges.
Leading the protest, the National President of the union, Mr. Sunday Alhassan and General Secretary, Edherue Benedict, stormed the National Assembly at about 11a.m. but were refused entry as the lawmakers were said to
be engrossed in a crucial meeting.
In separate letters to the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President, David Mark, the workers said the march to the National Assembly was a last resort to bring their plight to the attention of the authorities.
Specifically, they asked the Acting President to intervene in the seemingly unending drama that has continued to trail the sale of NITEL, which has impacted negatively on the welfare of the workers.
The letter read in part: “Through diverse contrivances, these workers – who are also Nigerian citizens – have been denied their legitimate income for 25 months in contravention of the law and principles of fair industrial relations by the government. The working families trapped in this very pathetic situation have starved, died from easily preventable diseases, their children education disrupted as well as their family cohesion and peace undermined by the deplorable economic situation they have found themselves.”
Alhassan stated that the workers cannot be blamed for the woes that betide NITEL/MTEL but have been the sole beneficiaries of the negative impacts of confusions that have become the fate of NITEL since its sale was mooted.
“We make bold to assert that the criminal handover of NITEL to Pentascope was not the handiwork of NITEL workers. When the first attempt to sell NITEL to International Investors London Limited (IILL) was made,
NITEL had over 10,000 employees, 553,471 functional lines and generated income of N53.41billion. In 2003 before Pentascope (a flight-by-night company with no known record as a telecoms service provider/manager) took over, NITEL generated and collected N51.43 billion as revenue in one year. After 23 months of Pentascope’s rape, the connected lines dropped to 440,000 and a debt profile of over N40 billion was incurred which eventually forced to the revocation of the deal with Pentascope,” Alhassan said.
He also went on to described the calamities that befell NITEL under the ownership of Trans-National Corporation (Transcorp), which saw a reduction of NITEL’s 400,000 lines to 100,000 and MTEL’s 1.3 million lines disappeared.
The NUPTE boss also revealed that the 250,000 CDMA lines that were about 90 per cent completion before Transcorp took over had long been abandoned, adding that there are only 249 out of original 284 active exchanges in the NITEL’s network nationwide out of which only about 60 of them are working as at today.
He further noted that for onward of three years, Transcorp has neglected to keep its promise to inject $500 million to turn around the company.
Alhassan therefore appealed to Acting President and the Senate President to move swiftly and save the workers from acute suffering that they and their families have been subjected in the last 25 months.
Receiving the protesters in her office, the Minister of Communication and Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili and her Minister of State, Mr. Labaran Maku, Akunyili promised that she will deliver the letter to the Acting President.
The minister also said the processes aimed at resolving the crisis of the non-payment of the workers will begin next week after a consultation with the Acting President over the modalities to adopt.

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