‘Workers are dying in Kogi…’
ORGANISED Labour in Kogi State has ordered its members to stay at home as a protest against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government for refusing to release the bailout funds of N50.8 billion meant for clearing all the salary arrears of workers in the state.
The leaders of the unions, which included the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), condemned the non-release of the fund at a press conference in NULGE House in Lokoja.
The state President of NULGE, Thomas Abutu, said the idea of the bailout was meant to save the lives of the local council workers.
“Many council workers have died due to non-payment of their salary. Some are owed 18 months, 15 months and 12 months, as the case may be.”
He pleaded with whoever was involved in the delay to hands off to allow the bail out to ameliorate workers’ plight.
According to him, all the necessary steps had been followed by the state and workers at the local council had been computed, adding that even those who were ready to die had changed their minds because of the hope that they would soon be paid.
Abutu said the idea of bailout emanated from the local council, insisting that the records were taken from the local councils, which already knew what belonged to them.
He said local council workers were the major beneficiaries, adding that out of N45 billion, local council would have N26 billion.
The NLC Chairman, Onu Edoka, alleged that a lot of negative assertions had been heaped on organised labour. One is that that it has been bribed to carry out the protests in the state.
According to him, the protest for which the workers were directed to carry out was to draw the attention of the Federal Government and the CBN that the bailout funds had not been paid.
“Organized Labour in Kogi State cannot be bribed to fight for their rights and nobody can tell us that CBN has not approved N50.8 billion for Kogi State,” he said.
He indicated that about two months ago, the CBN had granted an approval of N50.8 billion as bailout funds for Kogi State Government but the money had not reached the government.
“We held a press conference where we appealed to the CBN to release the funds to Kogi State. We had made several appeals to all known persons concerned but up till this moment, nothing has happened.”
He said the allocation for Kogi State this month was only N25 billion and salaries take as much as N3.1 billion, hence, he said, it was going to be difficult for the workers to be paid.
“We are dying in Kogi State and we are asking Buhari to, once again, direct the CBN to release the bailout funds.”
He advised the state government to clear the air on the issue to the entire world, whether it had taken the money or was yet to get the bailout fund.
“We want Buhari to genuinely impress it upon CBN to pay the money immediately.”
The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) spokesperson, Suleiman Abdullahi, said their agitation had been for full implementation of minimum wage, which had been an age-long struggle.
He said their agitation had led to closure of schools and a sit-at-home order, adding that they visited the traditional leaders in the state over their demand for full minimum wage like their counterparts at the state level.
However, he said there was a ray of hope with the bailout funds, which government applied for, as published in the media where Kogi had the lion share of N50.8 billion followed by Osun that had N34 billion.
Abdullahi said the hope that their salaries, leave grants and other allowances would be paid was dashed.
“We are only appealing to President Buhari to release that which is due to Kogi. We are suffering,” he pleaded.