By Onitsha Shedrack, ——–
The organized Labour in Delta State on the auspices of Joint Action Committee (JAC) have berated Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, over the poor economic situation of workers in the state and called on the state government to urgently intervene in the interest of industrial harmony.
The labour leaders decried what they described as the poor attitude of Governor Okowa’s led government to workers welfare since assuming office as the governor of the state, particularly the irregular monthly payment of pensioners, non-payment of outstanding monthly salaries of staff of local government councils and primary school teachers in the state.
They also frown at the government non-remittance of union dues, co-operative deductions among others to their statutory bodies and stagnation of workers on a particular salary grade-level without conversion which has become the case of many university graduate teachers in the state primary school system.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the session at Asaba which was signed by Comrade Jonathan Jemirieyiegbe for the Delta State Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lucky Edewor, TUC/JNC Secretary and Comrade Innocent Ofuonyeadi, NLC Secretary, respectively, the organized labour in the state took a critical look at issues affecting workers in the state with a call on the government to do the needful.
The labour leaders also carpets the government on its policy of promoting workers in the state without payment of accruable arrears, late payment of June, 2016 salaries to workers on grade level 13 and above, and government withdrawal of the augmentation of primary school teacher salary which has negatively impacted on the monthly allocation of local government councils.
Former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan , had introduced the augmentation of the payment of primary schools teachers salary with N500 million following the difficulties experienced by local government councils in the state in the payment of their staff salaries.
Meanwhile, in what has be termed as insensitive by some stakeholders in Delta state, Dr. Okowa placed embargo on the salaries of local government chairmen political appointees, and also stop the over N500 million used by his predecessor to augment salaries of teachers in the state.
Following the stoppage, teachers in the state are been owned four months’ salary and have threatened not to resume for the 2016/2017 academic session unless their outstanding salaries are paid.
It is also alleged that Dr Okowa withhold N2.3billion for projects out of the N3.3b July federal allocation for the 25 local government in the state, and allegedly released N1billion for the payment of one month salary, when the staffs of the local government are currently owned 8 months salaries arrears, an action described as very insensitive.
Debunking the allegation, a media aide to the governor who spoke to us but asked not to be mentioned because he was not authorized to speak stated in an SMS that; allegation is totally false and misleading.
According to him; “the allegation is totally false and misleading. First the State Government does not keep or withhold any funds belonging to the local governments.
“It is true that the allocation that came was N3.3bn but bearing in mind that Council wage bill is N1.5bn while primary teachers wage bill is N1.8bn. The Delta State Government couldn’t have withheld allocations belonging to the councils especially when the council’s workers are owned 8 months’ salary arrears.
“Furthermore, the State Government contributes a percent of her monthly Internally Generated Revenue to the Councils to augment the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries. I therefore call on Deltans to discountenance the allegation as it is unfounded and untrue,” he added.
A local government Chairman who is a loyalist of a former governor of the state, who spoke to us but pleaded anonymity, decried the situation of local government workers across the state as pathetic and very sad.
He noted that in some communities, landlord no longer give their house out to local government workers because many of them can no longer pay their rent, feed their family or even send their children to school, because many of them collected cooperative loans that they are servicing.
He added that when there was oil boom and the allocations to the local government were huge the state government was holding back some of the LG funds, particularly during the tenure of the last caretaker committee chairmen, “today we expected the state government to go back and draw from these fund to support the LGAs now that allocation is dwindling.
“To be candid, the governor is not been fair to the local government and the chairmen, from all indications, I think he is out to finish us politically, probably as a pay back to some of us for initially supporting Mr. Tony Obuh, who the former governor supported in the last PDP primary.
“Government is continuum, sadly our present governor does not see it so, that is why he refused to pay the outstanding local government workers salaries arrears claiming that he is not owning workers in the state, because he inherited seven month unpaid LG salaries arrears from governor Uduaghan.
“Even when he collected bailout from the federal government, what he did was to pay from when he assumed office and have consistently done that since by deliberately not talking or taking any action to upset the backlog of salaries.
“How does the government wants staff in the local government, particularly those working in the community health centers and teachers at the primary school who are rendering services to have to do with lives be committed to their jobs with an empty stomach?” He asked.