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The leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has given a clear indication of warming up to mobilize workers across the nation to occupy Kogi State very soon.
This was revealed in an interview with the Secretary General of the NLC, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson.
He said issues bordering on owing workers’ salaries are becoming unbearable and the union will not keep quiet and allow our workers who have put in their lives to just be going down one after the other.
He revealed that “The president of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba had asked the leadership to formally declare the Kogi state workers as if they are living in internally displaced person’s camp. And it was after that declaration that you now start to see some national assembly members starting to say that they were sending bags of rice and all that.
“A governor who sits and takes his own full salary every month, a governor who sits and eats and wine and dine on state resources because that is what they do and a governor who sits and takes the sole called security vote because has the resources to do all those then see his workers in abject poverty or being owed 18 months, 20 months and people are committing suicide because they cannot make ends meet. It is the most insensitive thing that you could do and we think that it is unfortunate that the state is faced with this type of situation.
Business Hilights recalls that recently, a director with the state Ministry committed suicide due to 11 months unpaid salaries at a time his wife delivered of triplets in Abuja.
Ozo-Eson averred that “There were other states like Benue that were affected but we have through the discussions with the state government, start to hear good news of paying down the backlog”.
According to him, “The Kogi state government has not really opened up itself for engagement. Instead of public statement that tend to deny the obvious, because they will claim today that they are not owing, tomorrow they will tell you that they are owing only a few months, then the next day they will spend millions of naira publishing salary payments for last year in newspapers.
“I think there is total mismanagement of governmental affairs in Kogi state and the backlog of salary owed workers cannot be continued. We have written recently to the state government informing them that this was unacceptable and that if they do not take steps to quickly start to correct this, we will mobilize workers, not just from Kogi state, but from across the country, to come and actually occupy Kogi state until this things are done better.
The NLC chief scribe rejected the purported fractional payment of salaries by the Kogi State government, saying “It is unacceptable under the Nigerian labour laws. There is nothing like fractional payment of salary. The labour law, the Act, clearly states that a worker, after working 30 days, that is a month, his or her salary is due”.
“It is a violation of the act because employment is a contractual relationship, because you contract me to put in a particular service and I do that for a month and at the end of that, you are obligated to pay me my entitlement. And when you do not, it is a violation. So the issues of saying fractional salary or some people are paid this month and others are not paid, all these are just violations of the law and are actually indices of poor governance and poor management skills of the state government.
On what is NLC trying to do to salvage the situation in Kogi state, Ozo-Eson revealed that “We were at a situation which after we wrote a letter to put the government on notice that we would move to Kogi state. We then got a reply in which the state government said that they were setting up a committee to dialogue and negotiate directly the issues with the workers and that committee was set up, chaired by the deputy governor on the government side and Labour also put up a nine-person team, and I think they actually met and started the process of trying to discuss how all of this matters can be resolved, when suddenly a Labour official was then gunned down, and that is what that have prevented the negotiation from then continuing.
“And from my own view at the national secretariat, we were ready and we offered to send an observer, a technical team from here to go and join that negotiation so that we will be on top of the issue and we know how the matters can be resolved, because it is not just about saying that you are owing so many months of salary, we want to see an evidence, what have you used the resources that you had for before you arrived at this situation.
“They have been special intervention; they have been intervention by the federal government in terms of giving reliefs to the state specifically targeted at the payment of salary. They have been two tranches of the Paris Club refunds which although they are actually refunds of state money the state owns the money refunded to them, but part of the agreement and timing of the refund was based on the undertake made by the governors that they would use at least 50% of what they get to pay salaries.
“In the case of Kogi, there is no evidence that any of this have been done, because if it has been utilized effectively, we will not be talking about the number of months that we are talking of today. So the capacity issue that we want to be able to engage and let them open their books if they have nothing to hide and we will be able to demonstrate and let them show how they have utilized the money that have been given to them.
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