Makurdi, Sept. 5, 2017 (TNE) : Benue State workers on Tuesday embarked on a seven-day warning strike over non-payment of salaries and allowances, as some offices were alread locked on Monday in compliance with the directive of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress asking workers to stay away from offices.
Also, usually busy routes leading to most government offices were quiet.
At the State Secretariat in High-level area, only security personnel were behind the locked gates.
At the Secretary to the State Government’s Office on JS Tarkaa Way, only a few casual members of staff were sighted loitering around.
Other offices visited included the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Agency, Benue State Water Board and the Urban Development Board .
Mrs. Rita Mnguzamber a civil servant, said that the strike was long overdue.
“We have been very patient with this government. The governor was voted in because he promised to make workers’ welfare his priority.
“He promised to settle arrears of salaries and pensions, but since he assumed office, it has been one excuse after another. We are just tired,” he said.
A political analyst, Mr Johnson Terhide, said that the workers’ action is in order.
“Prompt payment of salaries and pensions should not be toyed with by any government. Workers cannot be expected to serve a government that has no regard for their welfare,” he said.
He said that the current administration was voted in because Gov. Samuel Ortom accused his predecessor of not being worthy to serve because they were not paying salaries, allowances and pensions.
“Unfortunately, his government is even worse. The workers have resolved that no one will take them for granted and I feel this is in order,” he said.
Terhide urged government to meet up the demands of the workers to make for effective governance.
Mr Paul Egye, an economist, said that the non-payment of salaries has affected the economy of the state.
“Benue is an agrarian state; lots of farm produce are wasting away due to lack of money to buy them.
“People cannot pay school fees. Many cannot pay rent. A lot of things are at a standstill. We cannot continue like that,” he said.
The strike, the first to be declared by labour since Ortom became governor in 2015, followed a communique jointly signed by the NLC Chairman, Mr Godwin Anya and his TUC counterpart, Mr Ordue Tartenger.
The duo had rejected Ortom’s appeal to shelve the action and wait for better days when the economy would improve.
“His appeal is predicated on the prevailing economic situation, but the state has not stopped receiving statutory allocations from the federation account. This is besides Internally Generated Revenue and other revenue receipts from the federal government.
“He (Ortom) appealed for understanding without any offer; he is mute about supplementary support from the Federal Government such as bailout and stabilisation funds, Paris Club refunds, among others,” the communique said.
The unions advised government to implement the state of emergency it declared on payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions.
Reacting, the Special Adviser to Ortom on Media and ICT, Mr Tahav Agerzua, said that the governor had placed all the cards on the table before the labour leaders.
He explained that the strike is not the solution because it will not bring the money needed to pay the salaries and arrears being demanded.
Benue workers are being owed nine months in salary arrears, with Ortom saying that N40 billion is required for the payment. (TNE)