…Staff forced to clean offices, toilets
From: Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The oxygen at the Federal Ministry of Education headquarters, in Abuja, has become poisonous due to the odour that oozes out the toilets and untidy environment in the ministry.
This was because the cleaners who were contracted to tidy up the offices and the environment in ministry, on Thursday, begun indefinite strike to protest the allege unwillingness of the ministry of pay them over seven months’ salary arrears.
They said their action was the last option for them after series of effort and appeal to the Ministry of pay them their due wages fell on deaf ears. They vowed to continue their stay off work till their entitlements are paid.
Their action, as expected, made the entire Ministry of Education, located at the Federal Secretariat Complex, in Abuja, inhabitable. Offensive odours have rent the air, exposing the workers to possible outbreak of epidemic.
One of their leaders, who preferred anonymity, said that the ministry officials had told them three weeks ago that their salaries had been paid to their contractor for onward disbursement.
According to the leader, “But up till now, none of us has received alert of payment three weeks after we were told that the money was paid to bank.
“We kept hearing that the money has been paid to our contractor. The contractor, on their side, kept telling us that poor network was responsible for the delay. For three weeks? That is unacceptable. They should look for another excuse because this one is not acceptable.
“However, we have had enough of the excuses, hence our decision to cut our services until we receive our seven months pay.
“Put yourself in our shoe. Our colleagues lives in the same society with bad economy. They go the same market, pay bills. And we have been starved of fund for seven months. We have children to take care of, pay their school fees and other upkeep. So it is pure wickedness to deny us our wages which is not even enough in this economic situation to meet our needs.
Meanwhile, ministry workers, who could not bear the offensive odour, were left with the only option of cleaning their offices themselves, making it temporarily habitable for the day’s official engagements.
Spokesperson for the ministry, Mrs. Priscilla Ihuoma, confirmed that the Federal ministry owed the workers seven months’ salary. She however confirmed that the payment has been approved some three weeks ago.
She said: “I was at a meeting three weeks ago when the approval for the payment of their salary arrears was given. As usual, it was sent to the contractor who was expected to disburse the money to the staff accordingly.
“We were surprised to hear that they have downed tools because we have done the needful from our end. However, we will enquire to get to the root of their grievances.”