By Odimmegwa Johnpeter/Abuja
A delegation of the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, led by the Congress President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, was in Makurdi, the Benue recently in a solidarity with the workers in the state at the end of their one week warning strike against nonpayment of salaries, pensions and gratuities.
At the end of the exhaustive interaction with the SEC (State Executive Council), Congress President described the Benue State situation (with a record of seven months of nonpayment of salaries in ministries and parastatals; eleven months in local governments and teaching institutions, and thirteen months of pension arrears) as the worst case scenario in the country.
He condemned in strong terms the refusal of the Benue State Government to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities after collecting bail-out funds and Paris Club refunds. He expressed shock and dismay that whereas most other states, relatively speaking, had met salary and pension obligations to workers and pensioners, the Benue State Government had been indifferent and insincere to workers and pensioners.
The willful act of the government, he said, was illegal (as it violates all known rules of employment), callous, morally reprehensible and a betrayal of the trust of workers and pensioners who had voted the government into office.
Comrade Wabba said in light of the pains and indescribable suffering brought upon the workers, pensioners and their families, Congress had no hesitation in giving full support to any lawful action including a full strike action, in pursuit of their salaries, pensions and gratuities. He urged the workers and pensioners to remain united and not allow government or anyone else to distract them from their set objectives.
Citing examples, Comrade Wabba told the Benue workers that experience had shown that state governments were not ready to pay salaries and pensions without a fight, adding that it was up to them to do the needful to secure the regular payment of their salaries and pensions.
As a long term strategy, he urged the workers and their families to ensure that they obtain voters registration cards and to equally vote in mass at elections as part of the process of using their numbers. He said most governors cling to the notion that workers do not vote, and that this substantially explains the shabby treatment meted out to them. He said their destiny is in their hands if they register and vote wisely.
Comrade Wabba further said Congress could no longer fold its arms while workers in the state are grossly mistreated. It was resolved that the SEC would urgently take required steps to fully mobilise all the workers of the state for effective action to defend their interests. In this regard the national headquarters assured of its readiness to offer full support.