Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
There was a mild drama at the Government House, Lokoja on Wednesday afternoon when the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Onuh Edoka told Governor Yahaya Bello to his face that he was practically not doing anything to reduce the sufferings of workers in the state whom he said were dying in dozens due to the non-payment of salaries.
The labour leader expressed sadness that the governor had surrounded himself with aides who could not tell him any iota of truth about the plights of the workers but would rather continue to hero worship him and call on the governor to come out of his cocoon to do discreet personal findings on the level of poverty in the state occasioned by non-payment of salaries.
The NLC chairman said he was surprised when the governor openly lied in a national television that he was not owing workers a dime and stressed that there were categories of workers that were currently being owed for 39 months, while some were owed between 7- 23 months.
But in his response, the governor who suddenly changed his countenance while the labour leader was delivering his address, said the choice of words of the labour leader was too harsh, indicting and uncomplimentary, insisting that Kogi State was by far better than some states that were not paying salaries.
He and added that his administration was doing its level best to provide good welfare to the workers and told the labour leaders to eschew confrontations as his administration inherited some backlog of salaries from the previous governments.
It was learnt that the governor had called for the meeting to douse the anger of the workers in the state owing to a report that the organised labour was planning to mobilise some women to do a nude protest in the state.
Earlier, the NLC chairman told the governor that they were not on a courtesy call as stated by the protocol during introduction, saying that he could not have come to pay courtesy call on the governor when his members were dying of hunger.
Edoko decried the statement credited to Governor Bello that he was not owing workers salaries and if at all he was owing, it was the backlog left for him by the administration of Captain Idris Wada.
He said he could not believe his ears and eyes when he saw the governor live on television denying that he was not owing Kogi workers a dime.
He added that he thought what the aides were saying about salaries were just a joke, stressing that for the governor who knew he was owing huge salaries to make such a denial meant that he was not to be trusted.
In his words, “let me put the records straight. The former governor, Captain Idris Ichalla Wada spent 48 months in office and he paid 45 months salaries leaving the allocation of December 2015 and January 2016 for the your administration to access.
“Nothing is farther from the truth than this. The truth is that your administration is hugely indebted to Kogi workers and you should find a means to defray it rather than lying to the public,” he advised.
He further advised the governor to set up a committee to go round some establishment to find out the true situation of poverty across the state, hinting that pupils and students could no longer go to school; patients could not access drugs even as petty businesses had closed due to lack of patronage.
But the governor later told the organised labour that his government had done much with the lean resources to develop the state, adding that in less than three years he built Kogi Board of Internal Revenue Service office complex and completed Ankpa township roads.
He called on the leadership of the organised labour to support his administration for the dividend of democracy.
It was later alleged that tapes and recorders belonging to some journalists who covered the meeting were confiscated.