Edo local councils reject directive on workers’ salary



IN the last one month in Edo State, it has been a blame game between organised labour under the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Chairmen of councils through the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and the state government over salaries of council workers.

The governor, Adams Oshiomhole had ordered that council chairmen should forfeit their security votes, stop all allowances to elected and appointed councilors, suspend the payment of contractors but ensure that staff salaries are paid. 

The governor gave the directives shortly after he met with the council chairmen and labour leaders in the state. The directive came shortly after the chairman of the NLC, Emmanuel Ademokun, called on the governor to sack all the chairmen who had failed to pay worker’s salaries as he alleged that they preferred to pay contractors where they get “kickbacks” and security allowance leaving out the issue of staff salaries.
Ademokun had stated, “We have also advised those councils who preferred to pay contractors and paying themselves security allowances to stop and gather the monies and pay workers. Based on that we are going on a sympathy strike if by two week they have not paid the workers.
But in a swift reaction, ALGON chairman, Mrs Itohan Osahon-Ogbeide, described the statement as an “uninformed and baseless allegation” insisting that the drop in allocation from the Federation Account was responsible for the non-payment of some categories of workers. 

Debunking the allegation that they prefer to pay contractors for “kick backs” and their personal emoluments, Osahon-Ogbeide said that councils have been up and doing in payment of teachers’ salaries.
“I will say that I am rather disappointed about the statement credited to the NLC Chairman in Edo State because all the news media have been carrying the activities of the government as regards the low income coming from the Federation Account. It is not only Edo that is affected but all the local governments in the country because about 21 states have not been able to pay salaries.” 

Checks across the councils by The Guardian showed a slightly different position from what is in the public domain. For instance, investigations revealed that all the council chairmen in the urban areas like Benin City receive N1,250,000 as security votes while those the non-urban councils get N1,750,000 so the question is that even if the council bosses stopped as directed by the governor, how many workers can that pay in a month?

“So the impression about security votes is overblown from the realities. In some councils, the said security vote cannot pay up to three persons in the Primary Health sector. I think the major issue is the dwindling in allocation from the Federal Government which some of these union leaders know”, a senior Civil Servant in one of the councils in Edo Central told The Guardian yesterday. 

Beyond the dwindling fortunes it is not clear how some statutory revenue generation for councils like the tenement rate, outdoor advertising, 10 per cent of state government Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) are being handled.

The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Lucky James could not be reached as he was said not to be around when The Guardian visited his office. 

However, in the face of this, when allocations come, it was gathered that statutory deductions which included primary school teachers’ salaries, five per cent on gross income for the traditional institutions, pensions and others are deducted at source and in most cases, the councils are left with virtually nothing to pay.

It was gathered that there are some that would have to get three months allocation without doing any other thing to be able to pay a one-month salary.        

However, council workers (NULGE) from the18 local government areas across the state had protested alleged owing of their members “unpaid differential salary arrears of two and eight months.”

The protesters who wore black attires with several placards bearing inscriptions such as “our children are out of schools”. ‘’He that climbs and removes the ladder will definitely crash land one day”. “Working without salary is man’s inhumanity to man.”
   State President of the union, Comrade Edward-Young Ilemikhena and the former state chairman of the NLC, Comrade Kaduna Eboigbodin led the protesters who chanted dirges across major streets in Benin.

Addressing journalists at the NUJ secretariat, Ilemekhena accused the state government of colluding with the leadership of the indebted 16 councils to strangulate the workers. 

He listed the indebted councils to include Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Egor, Ovia south West, Ovia North east, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode, Igueben, Esan West, Etsako West, Akoko-Edo Owan West and the Local Government Service Commission.

He said they chose the protest option after negotiation between the leaders of NULGE and the council authorities as well as the state government failed weeks ago. 
He said every Tuesday and Thursday have been slated for state and Senatorial protests/mass rally, pending when their demands are met.

“We have decided to take our own destiny in our hands. We are a disciplined and responsible union and we know what to do. Some of our workers have died since this struggle began. We have been dialoguing, negotiating, pleading and seeking intervention from different quarters, but they all seem to be in vain. 

“We went on three days warning strike; we were being reprimanded and called trouble makers because we demanded for our salaries. We want to make it clear that allocation come every month, but the councils will be asked to wait. From the council allocations, the State Universal basic Education (SUBEB) staff are paid but council workers will be asked to wait.” 

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