Kogi crisis deepens as Govt fires Labour leader

Kogi crisis deepens as Govt fires Labour leader
May 26 06:52 2016

…Says he is a “ghost worker”

The industrial crises rocking Kogi state took a new dimension on Wednesday as the state government identified the chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress in the state, Onuh Edoka, as a “ghost worker”, and fired him.

Edoka was one of about 9000 people sacked following a screening exercise to weed out illegal workers from the 21 local government areas of the state.

Edoka, who serves as head of both the Medical Health Workers Union and the NLC in the state, said he was employed in 1989, and currently serves as a Disease and Surveillance Officer in the state.

He said he was baffled by the result of the screening exercise headed by Paul Okuntimo, a retired general, who became famous for his role in the incarceration of the late Ogoni activist, Ken Saro Wiwa.

Edoka laughed off the accusation by the committee that he submitted wrong bank statement, saying its decision would be challenged at every possible level.

He told journalists on Wednesday that the workers union would take to the streets to challenge the decision to sack him and 9000 workers.

“The government just got a bailout based on the current staff strength. Suddenly they want to retrench workers to divert the funds even though some of these workers have not been paid for over 23 months,” he said.

“The NLC is saying that these people are not ghost workers. They are living beings and we are ready to bring them out on the streets of Lokoja so that the world can see that they are not ghosts but real workers of Kogi state,” Mr Eboka said.

The government however insisted that the screening process was transparent and designed to identify persons who gained employment or obtained promotions fraudulently.

The governor was quoted to have reeled out the  criteria every worker needed to possess before he could  be said to be genuine.

“A genuine worker is one with a verifiable employment letter, letter of confirmation, bank account number and bank statements showing salary lodgement, BVN. There is no reason for tension. No genuine worker will be retrenched. What I sense is that those who have been benefiting from the rot do not want this exercise to work. Those who are genuine will be paid. Any genuine worker who is affected should forward their complaints to the right quarters and it will be looked into,” the governor said.

Arising from a meeting held in Lokoja on Tuesday, the leaders of NLC, TUC and PSJNC had resolved to embark on strike action if the state government fail to do the right thing.

Labour declared that the purported list of ‘cleared’ Local Government workers sent to the councils are not known to the labour and should be withdrawn within 24 hours.

The labour leaders also demanded that the chairman of them screening committee,  Okuntimo be removed with immediate effect because he lacks capacity, morality and integrity to deliver on such a sensitive assignment.

Labour queried the integrity of the Yahaya Bello-led government on the recently released bailout fund. The leaders asked why the government is yet to come up with the bailout implementation committee as stipulated by the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria.

“The state government is deceiving workers and public because of her ulterior motives.

“Labour is not unaware of the deceit of government to massively retrench the state workers, local government workers and primary school teachers and also reduce the numbers of pensioners through the so called ‘first list’.

Labour issued a 7-day ultimatum to the state government to meet stated demands and vowed to embark on strike action if government fails.