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How we suffer under our state governments, by workers

By Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia), Ayodele Afolabi (Ado Ekiti), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna), Murtala Adewale (Kano), Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri), Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure) and John Akubo (Lokoja)
02 May 2019   |   4:25 am
May Day celebrations across the country yesterday gave workers yet another opportunity to vent their displeasure over the ways their state governments handle their welfare.

President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Waba (left); SGF, Boss Mustapha; Vice President Yemi<br />Osinbajo; and President, Trade Union Congress,  Bobboi Kaigama, during the Workers’ Day celebration in<br />Abuja…yesterday.   PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA 

May Day celebrations across the country yesterday gave workers yet another opportunity to vent their displeasure over the ways their state governments handle their welfare.

The Imo State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Austin Chilakpu, expressed sadness over the 56 months salary arrears owed workers of Adapalm, an oil milling and palm plantation outfit owned by the state government.

The Adapalm, situated in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area, formerly known as Farm Settlement, was established in the 50s under the then Eastern regional government led by Dr. Michael Opkara. It was a huge oil revenue outfit of the state.

Chilakpu, who fielded questions from reporters on an Owerri-based radio station, Darling FM, appealed to Governor Rochas Okorocha, to ensure that the workers are paid without further delay.

Other state-owned establishments owing their workers include Imo State Action Committee on Control of AIDS (27 months); the Bureau of Due Process (10 months); and Judiciary (three months).

Currently, workers are paid about 70 per cent of their total statutory monthly emolument since 2016.

Chilapku, who lamented the untold hardship the workers have been subjected to, also urged the state government to pay retirees their gratuities and pensions. He alleged that some retirees were being owed pensions up to 58 months, while some ex-workers were yet to receive their gratuities since 1999.

Abia State NLC Chairman, Comrade Uchenna Obigwe and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Comrade Sunny Onwuka, in separate addresses, spoke on the welfare of the workers at the rally held at Ibeku High School, Umuahia.

Obigwe said workers of the State University Teaching Hospital were being owed 12 months salaries; those of the Hospital Management Board, nine months; secondary school teachers, 10 months; Abia Polytechnic, 13 months; College of Education, Arochukwu 15 months; Universal Basic Education Board, six months; local governments, two and half months; College of Health and Management Sciences, 13 months; and pensioners 19 – 25- months.

According to him, labour will henceforth ensure that salaries and pensions are paid as at when due. He said the workers were optimistic that the governor would implement the N30,000.00 minimum wage without delay.

Onwuka said most of the workers in the health institutions in the state who are owed arrears of salaries and pensions “have lost respect from their landlords hence many of them have been served quit notices even as some have had their children and wards withdrawn from schools due to inability to pay fees.”

The Kogi State Chairman of NLC, Comrade Onuh Edoka, urged the government to pay arrears of salaries and pensions.

At the celebration of the May Day yesterday in Lokoja, he said that workers were being owed salaries of between seven and 30 months depending on the category they fall into. He described the condition of the local government workers and teachers as worse as many of them have been collecting their salaries in percentages.

Edoka urged the government to set up a committee for the implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage. He advised the governor to put pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to release the N30.8 billion bailout earlier approved for the state to enable it to offset arrears of salaries owed workers.

In Ekiti State, the NLC chairman, Olatunde Kolapo, canvassed increment in the monthly subvention to Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti to enable it to boost research, teaching and learning, saying “the university needs to cope with her growth in leaps and bounds.”

“The university is in dire need of better funding to be able to meet her needs as the internally generated revenue can no longer be sufficient to cope with increase in wages,” Kolapo stated.

He said that the state workers were being owed five months, while the local government workers were being owed six months. “Payment of gratuity has assumed a worrisome dimension, some workers that retired since 2013, till date, are yet to receive their gratuity and pension.

“Some of these senior citizens are dying while some are of blessed memory, yet their entitlements are yet to be paid. Also, the implementation of the 2015, 2016, 2017 letters of promotion should be considered. The attention of the government is drawn to the inadequate manpower in the education sector and the civil service. Something urgent should be done to fill the vacancies .”

To the Enugu State NLC chairman, Mr. Virginus Nwobodo, and his TUC counterpart, Chukwuma Igbokwe, the workers deserve the new minimum wage having worked for the development of the state.

In their separate addresses, they called on the governor to increase the monthly subvention for the payment of pensioners from N100million to N300 million to enable the retirees to get something meaningful.

Igbokwe specifically called for “payment of pensions to retirees of the state-owned parastatals; implementation of centralised salary payment for parastatal workers; payment of the balance of arrears of salaries owed to absorbed staff of ENADEP, Sports Council and ESBS; recall of the disengaged workers of Enugu State Housing Corporation; payment of the deductions from workers salaries by the state government as National Housing Fund contributions between 2000 and 2004 but not remitted to the Federal Mortgage Bank.”

Nwobodo requested the “full implementation of CONHES to the health workers in the state; changing of ENTRACO to full fledged public corporation instead of leaving it as a limited liability company; offsetting the backlog of pension and gratuity in the parastatals; and payment of 2018 13th month to local government workers and primary school teachers.”

Kaduna State NLC Chairman, Comrade Ayuba Magaji Suleiman, appealed to Kaduna State Governor, Nasir Ahmed El-rufai to revisit the cases of the disengaged civil servants in the state.

In Kaduna, the NLC lamented the security challenges, especially along the Kaduna – Abuja road, Birnin Gwari and Kajuru that pose serious threat to the safety of the workers and businesses.

The Borno State chapter of the NLC demanded the immediate payment of gratuities and pension of the retired workers, lamenting that many of them, including retired permanent secretaries and judicial staff have suffered for seven years.

Comrade Bulama Abiso, the state NLC chairman made the demands while addressing workers during the May Day celebration at Ramat Square, Maiduguri.

He said the state government was yet to offset a backlog of N20 billion gratuities of retirees. “Government, as a matter of urgency must pay outstanding 142 percent pension arrears and gratuity to all retired pensioners,” he said.

According to him, government should also resume the payment of monthly gratuity to the retirees by allocating N150 million a month.