- Ortom under fire over broken election promise
Activities in the civil service in Benue State have been paralyzed following a seven-day warning strike commenced by workers in the state protesting non-payment of nine months’ salary and allowances by Governor Samuel Ortom.
Civil servants in Benue have over time demanded the payment of their salaries by the governor but all entreaties fell on deaf ears. While the governor has been giving excuses about shortage of funds, his security votes and other sundry expenses remained untouched, making it difficult to convince the workers.
Governor Ortom had earlier declared that the State Government will require N40 billion to pay off the nine months salaries and allowances.
Meanwhile, offices were said to be locked in compliance with the directive by the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress to stay away from offices on Tuesday.
The busy roads leading to most offices were also devoid of both vehicular and human traffic, thus, were deserted.
Security personnel were also said to be engaged in low activities behind locked gates at the State Secretariat, Makurdi.
At the Secretary to the State Government’s Office along JS Tarkaa way, only a few casual staff were sighted loitering around. The Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Agency, Benue State Water Board and the Urban Development Board were also identified to be in same situation.
Mrs. Rita Mnguzamber a civil servant, was gather4ed to have remarked 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,” she said.
A stakeholder in the state was gathered to have acknowledged that the workers’ action was in order.
“Prompt payment of salaries and pensions should not be toyed with by any government. Workers cannot be expected to serve an irresponsible government that has no regard for their welfare,” he had said.
He said that the current administration was voted in because Governor 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.
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Terhide had urged government to meet up the demands of the workers to make for effective governance.
Paul Egye, an economist, was also gathered to have observed that the non-payment of salaries had affected the Benue economy.
“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 had said.
It was said that the current strike was the first to be declared by Labour since Ortom became governor in 2015. The declaration was made in a communique jointly signed by the State NLC Chairman, Godwin Anya, and his TUC Chairman, 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 stabilization funds, Paris Club refunds, among others,” the communique said.
The unions advised the government to implement the state of emergency it declared on payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions.
Special Adviser to Ortom on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua, said that the governor had placed all the cards on the table before the labour leaders.
He contended that the strike was not the solution because it would not bring the money needed to pay the salaries and arrears being demanded.