Angry workers lock up council hqts over salary arrears
By Steve Oko
The headquarters of Umuahia North Local Government Area, Abia State, was Monday locked up by irate council workers protesting months of unpaid salary.
As early as 8:00 am, the visibly aggrieved workers had thronged out in their numbers and put the gate leading to the secretariat under lock and key.
Both the Chairman Mr. Kelechi Eze and his Deputy were prevented by the angry workers from entering the council headquarters although some said they were chased away from their offices by the protesting workers.
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The workers who chanted war songs and brandished placards with various inscriptions such as “Pay us our salary “,We are dying of hunger “, among others, said they were owed for four and half months.
They also alleged that they were being owed several years of leave allowances.
As at 4:00 pm the protesting workers were still seen blocking the entrance to the council headquarters defiling the occasional showers and preventing access to the premises.
They used heavy padlocks to lock the gates to the council while roping the major entrance with native fresh palm leaves.
The council workers called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to investigate the mystery behind unpaid wages even after LGAs have started receiving their allocations directly from the federal government.
Speaking to Journalists on the reason for the protest, the Umuahia North chairman of National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Comrade Dick Nwosu said the hardship occasioned by months of unpaid salaies was becoming unbearable.
He said some of the workers had been plunged into heavy debts.
” There is no way we can manage our families in this condition and that is why we are crying out to the State government to save us”, he said.
Nwosu also expressed worry that despite the release of Paris Club money to Abia State and the introduction of new financial autonomy granted the council, the workers were still in penury as many of them could no longer take care of their homes.
The NULGE boss therefore appealed to the Abia State government to allow the Council Chairman to pay the workers.
According to him council workers in the remaining 16 LGAs in the state are passing through the same condition.
On the efforts made so far by NULGE, Comrade Nwosu lamented that various committees had been set up by the Abia State government to look into their travails but regretted that such committees had not yielded any fruits, a development, he lamented has aggravated the sorrows of the workers.
Meanwhile efforts to speak with the council boss did not yield any fruit as his line read “busy”.
The protest was however peaceful as four hilux vans of armed police personnel from the neighbouring Central Police Station were on ground, apparently to contain any unexpected.