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Itodo Daniel Sule, Lokoja

There ap­pears to be no end in sight in the on­go­ing trade dis­putes be­tween or­gan­ised labour and the Kogi State gov­ern­ment over back­logs of un­paid salaries to work­ers and other sundry is­sues. The or­gan­ised labour, com­pris­ing the Nige­ria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Pub­lic Sec­tor Joint Ne­go­ti­a­tion Coun­cil (PSJNC), had com­menced an in­def­i­nite strike ac­tion on Septem­ber 22, which had since taken hard tolls on both eco­nomic and gov­ern­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the state.

State Sec­re­taries of the Nige­ria Labour Congress (NLC), Com­rade Olakunle Faniyi; Trade Union Congress (TUC), Com­rade Ko­la­wole James and their Joint Pub­lic Ser­vices Ne­go­ti­at­ing Coun­cil (JPSNC) coun­ter­part, Com­rade Isah Abubakar, said their griev­ances bor­dered on is­sues of un­paid salaries/pen­sions, in­tro­duc­tion of con­trib­u­tory pen­sions as well as clock-in-clock-out pol­icy of the gov­ern­ment.

“We are res­o­lute on say­ing no to the ca­su­al­iza­tion of the Kogi State work­force through the clock-in-clock-out pol­icy, we re­ject com­pletely the at­tempt by gov­ern­ment to use a hoarse con­trib­u­tory pen­sion scheme to fur­ther im­pov­er­ish work­ers, and we in­sist that gov­ern­ment pay the salaries/pen­sion of work­ers/ pen­sion­ers who have been de­nied salaries/pen­sion for the past 21 months and other cat­e­gories of ar­rears rang­ing from 2 to 13 months. “As it stands to­day in Kogi State, over thirty per­cent of the work­force are be­ing owed 21 months salaries; 21 per­cent have un­paid salaries be­tween 11 and 18 months while about 45 per­cent took their salaries up till July this year. Th­ese are the cat­e­gories of work­ers Kogi State gov­ern­ment is forc­ing to em­brace the ‘clock-in clock­out’ pol­icy of the gov­ern­ment,” the labour lead­ers said.

But more than four weeks into the in­dus­trial ac­tion, there seemed to be no way out of the stand­off soon as the state gov­ern­ment by its body lan­guage and ac­tions ap­pear not ready to call the labour lead­ers for ne­go­ti­a­tions. It has in­stead been a war of words be­tween the state gov­ern­ment and or­gan­ised labour.

While the state gover­nor, Al­haji Yahaya Bello ad­mit­ted that he was ow­ing work­ers only two months salaries, or­gan­ised labour has ac­cused him of be­ing eco­nom­i­cal with the truth, in­sist­ing that work­ers were still be­ing owed cu­mu­la­tive of un­paid salaries run­ning into 21 months.

Bello, who said so af­ter his meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari at the Pres­i­den­tial Villa, Abuja re­cently, de­scribed those ac­cus­ing him of ow­ing sev­eral months of un­paid salaries as “po­lit­i­cal civil ser­vants”.

Brief­ing State House Cor­re­spon­dents af­ter the meet­ing, Bello said, “Those work­ers that are on strike are po­lit­i­cal civil ser­vants. Real civil ser­vants are com­ing to work. We are try­ing our best to keep up with the pay­ment of salaries.

In a state­ment jointly signed by the sec­re­taries of the Kogi State chap­ter of NLC, TUC and Joint Ne­go­ti­a­tion Coun­cil, they de­scribed the claims of the gover­nor as “very un­for­tu­nate and un­godly”.

“Gover­nor Bello is fully aware that there are work­ers and pen­sion­ers be­ing owed their en­ti­tle­ment up to 21 months. To de­scribe this set of peo­ple who are daily dy­ing of star­va­tion and treat­able ail­ments as po­lit­i­cal civil ser­vants is the great­est in­hu­man­ity to man.

“It is an irony of life for Gover­nor Bello to de­scribe the work­ers, who contributed im­mensely to his suc­cess at the polls, as po­lit­i­cal civil ser­vants, when their en­ti­tle­ments are not be­ing paid for over 20 months,” the work­ers said.

The im­passe be­tween labour and the state gov­ern­ment took another twist fol­low­ing the re­cent death of a direc­tor in the state Civil Ser­vice, Mr Ed­ward Soje, who com­mit­ted sui­cide over al­leged un­paid salaries of about 11 months.

This tragic in­ci­dent prompted the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to set up an in­ves­tiga­tive panel into the salary crises in the state.

The House also man­dated the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN) to, within one week, re­port and ex­plain the util­i­sa­tion of Salary Bailout Fund given to states.

The di­rec­tives fol­lowed a unan­i­mous adop­tion of a Mo­tion of Ur­gent Na­tional Im­por­tance moved by Rep. Sun­day Karimi (Kogi-PDP) at the ple­nary presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dog­ara.

Mov­ing the mo­tion, Karim said in spite of the fed­eral statu­tory al­lo­ca­tion, salary bailout funds and Paris Club re­fund re­ceived by Kogi gov­ern­ment, non-pay­ment of state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment work­ers salaries lin­gered.

He said Mr Ed­ward Soje, a direc­tor in the Kogi Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion com­mit­ted sui­cide for not be­ing able to meet his obli­ga­tions as a fa­ther and hus­band.

Ac­cord­ing to Karimi, if noth­ing was done im­me­di­ately about the sit­u­a­tion in Kogi, more civil ser­vants who are frus­trated will com­mit sui­cide.

The Kogi gov­ern­ment has de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for the death of the late civil ser­vant, say­ing the late Soje took his salaries up till De­cem­ber 2016 when it was stopped due to al­leged fal­si­fi­ca­tion of age and ef­forts were on to pay his ar­rears af­ter he was granted par­don prior to the in­ci­dent.

On the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives di­rec­tive on bailout funds, Paris Club Re­fund and salary pay­ment up­dates, the Direc­tor Gen­eral on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity to the Kogi State Gover­nor, Kings­ley Fanwo, said the state has acted trans­par­ently by pub­lish­ing all its re­ceipts and ex­pen­di­tures in the na­tional dailies.

“As a gov­ern­ment, we have high re­gards for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as an in­sti­tu­tion but the House should be con­scious of peo­ple who take po­lit­i­cal bat­tles to the floor of the Green Cham­bers. The re­spected in­sti­tu­tion should not be dragged into the po­lit­i­cal vendetta of self-serv­ing politicians,” Fanwo said.

Gover­nor Yahaya Bello

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