- Delta council workers are planning massive protest to disrupt Governor Okowa's town hall meetings scheduled to commence on Monday
- They are angry over the non-payment of their salaries running into 13 months across the 25 local council areas
- But Governor Okowa said his government is not owing local government workers as he is not responsible for their welfare
There are indications that the statewide town hall meetings scheduled to be held in local governments by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state may suffer serious setback as members of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) have planned massive protest to register their grievances over the non-payment of their salaries for up to 13 months.
Governor Okowa has scheduled specific days between May 8 to June 3, 2017 to hold town hall meetings in different parts of the state to feel the pulse of the people and respond to questions which are germane to the development needs of the people.
The town hall meetings are expected to kick off on Monday May 8 in Ozoro, headquarters of Isoko North local government area of the state.
But NULGE executive, the umbrella union of all council workers, say their members are hungry having not received salary for between 8 to 13 months, hence they have given the state government a 21-day-ultimatum, counting from Friday May 5 to pay up all their salaries or the 25 councils would be grounded across the state.
NAIJ.com gathered that a similar issue occurred in 2015 when the local government councils were shut down for over six months following the non-payment of salaries of council workers.
The councils were grounded until the state government paid an infinitesimal part of the salaries of the workers through the bailout funds it received from the federal government.
The development is causing tension in the state as it is coming in the days the governor has scheduled town hall meetings running from Monday May 8 to June 3, 2017.
NULGE state secretary, Peter Ene, said the union could no longer endure the excruciating pains and agonies being experienced by its members which have caused them untimely death due to hunger, frustration and inability to pay medical bills.
The union said it may embark on strike over the non-payment of salaries of local government workers in the range of 8-13 months.
The union rejected the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries at the expense of the local government workers, a situation that had caused a face-off between the state teachers union, the NUT and NULGE, culminating in teachers two weeks strike last month.
According to the NULGE scribe, the state executive council has therefore resolved on a two-point demand from the state government after a careful and exhaustive deliberation of the issues under review.
One, the state government should revert to the old order of uniform payment of both local government employees and primary schools teachers with the resources available.
Secondly, they are asking the state government to reinstate the N600 million augmentation fund for payment of primary school teachers’ salaries introduced by two previous administrations as local government council could no longer alone bear the burden.
But in a swift response, Amaechi Udemba, media aide to Governor Okowa, said the N600million used by previous administrations of James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan to augment the local government salaries monthly was because there was money then and the Nigerian economy was buoyant.
He said: “Whatever the government is giving them is on compassionate ground. It is like helping a brother. If for instance the federal government was giving state government money and now it says it can no longer do so, will the state government force the federal government to do that?
“The N600million was help given to them because they are our brothers. Why must they demand for it at gunpoint, is it their money? They are trying to make it a do or die affair.
“They are trying to give impression that Okowa is not paying salaries. Federal government workers cannot be owed salaries and begin to blame state government for not paying them.
“The previous administrations did it because there was money for them. Today, there is no money. Is Okowa printing money in his house?
“Let them raise the issue. There is no money, Governor Okowa does not print money. There is no amount of blackmail that will make the man to begin printing money. It is not possible.
“The two previous administrations did it because the economy then was buoyant enough for them to do that but not so now. You can only give your neighbor money when you have money. It is their problem, they cannot blackmail this government to do otherwise.”
Following the development, the executive of NULGE had said it will embark on an industrial action which will ground the system should the governor fail to pay their salaries along with their arrears within the stipulated time.
But Governor Okowa has said that the state government does not owe neither does it have any financial obligations to council workers in the state.
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