Judex Okoro, Calabar
About 2,500 civil servants have taken to the streets of Calabar, the Cross River State capital, to protest their sack about a year ago, demanding their immediate re-instatement.
The protesters, who were delisted from the payroll of the Cross River State Government in November 2018, declared that they would occupy the state secretariat until they are paid their entitlements and re-absorbed into service.
The protesters have barricaded the state secretariat at Muritala Mohammed Highway since Monday, disrupting government activities and singing solidarity songs.
The protesters, who were delisted by the Ben Ayade administration 13 months ago, carried placards with various inscriptions, including “Ayade Pay us our salaries;” “No Trade Union in Cross River ” “We will protest until we are reinstated” and John Odey should be sacked”.
Governor Aayde had delisted their names from the State’s payroll, alleging irregularities in their employment and since then all efforts by organised labour to reach a truce with the governemnt has failed.
Speaking with journalists at the New State Secretariat in Calabar, the leader of the protesting ex civil servants, Frank Agbor, said their situation is unfortunate and disheartening as many of them have not received salaries since 2018.
Agbor said: ‘We were duly employed in 2015 and due process was followed as many of us wrote different examinations and were given employment letters by the Cross River State Government. But surprisingly, for no reason, many names were dropped from the payroll in 2018 and another large number in August 2019,’he explained.
‘The government said that many of us entered through the back door. We have undergone various audits, yet our names have not been reinstated till date. What crimes have we committed?
‘We are appealing to the governemnt to take a cursory look into our plight because many of us are now homeless and our children are already out of school, coupled with the impact of COVID-19,’ he stated.
He lamented that labour has abandoned them, as both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) ‘have left us to suffer the injustice.’
Reacting, the State Chairman the TUC, Monday Ogbodum, said they met with the Head of Service on the matter and that there will be a screening exercise this week to resolve the anormally .
‘We have been discussing with the governnent through the office of the Head of Service to resolve the matter all in a bid to reinstate those workers who were genuinely employed in 2015,’ he stated.
‘We are not keeping quiet about thier plight, we are doing our best to resolve the matter. There are plans to carry out screening to know those genuine persons whose names were removed from the payroll this week.’
Also speaking on the matter, the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Governor Ayade, Mr Christian Ita, said the protest was uneccessary as labour and governnent have already concluded plans to carry out a screening exercise to ascertain the civil servants who were erroneously removed from the payroll.