By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade yesterday (Monday) directed the payment of salaries for the month of April.
This makes it a second year in a row Mr. Ayade has paid civil servants in advance to celebrate the workers day slated for May 1; a situation which drew mixed reaction from the civil and public servants.
This is even as the Governor has directed the payment of gratuities for the 2014 and donated NGN50 million for the completion of the Labor House in Calabar, the state capital which is to house the Labor Unions.
The directive comes five weeks after about 50 pensioners stormed the Government House in Calabar, demanding to see Governor Ben Ayade over the death of six of their colleagues, who they alleged died within one week.
The pensioners Led by a former staff of the Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Paul Idagu, were, however, barricaded by security personnel at the gate following the governor’s absence from office.
Having arrived the governor’s office at about 11.45AM on March 21, 2018, they insisted that the governor or his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, should come out to speak with them, but none of them came out to address the protesting retirees.
The pensioners carried placards with inscriptions such as, “We have suffered enough,” “Pay us our gratuity from 2014,” “Paris Club refunds are rare gift that must be used for the purpose meant for,” “Governor Ayade: Retirees in Cross River are entitled to longevity,” “Let us not die out of frustration,” among others.
Idagu had, while addressing journalists said, “We are here to let the governor know that we have buried about six of our fellow retirees in the last one week because government has not paid us our gratuities since 2014.
“Government must not wait until we all die before they pay us.”
He listed those who have been buried in the last one week without collecting their gratuities as Augustine Etta, Sylvia Bocco, Abang Naji; Sylvester Ibok and Vincent Eja.
In the case of Eja, he said, “We wish to inform you of one of us who just died and was buried last week, Mr. Vincent Eja, who worked for Cross River State Government for 35 years and retired as a director in government printing press in 2014.
“Eja was caught by a strange disease called auto bacteria that rendered his two hands useless.
“He was referred to National Hospital, Abuja, for treatment. He needed N500,000 only for the treatment; unfortunately, for two years, he roamed the corridors of governor’s and Accountant-General’s offices seeking help, even when his gratuity was due him. He died and was buried.”
Idagu appealed to the governor to maintain the chain and plan of payment of gratuity to 2014 and 2015 retirees and beyond.
“This appeal has become very necessary as majority of retirees in the state fall within this range and group. Many have died without this gratuity; many may still have to die without it if something is not done about it urgently. Please, Your Excellency, save our souls,” he said.
And, Ayade who was accompanied by his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, members of the state executive council as well as officers and members of the state Nigerian Labor Congree (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), the directive shortly after inspecting the NLC secretariat, which is under construction on Monday.
On payment of gratuity, he said: “We have already finalised and I have just signed today an authorisation for them to commence the implementation of 2014 gratuity.”
While applauding the leadership of labor in the state for good management of resources in the erection of the building, the governor said, “at the time we discussed with the NLC/TUC on the need to support them build a labor house, the approval I gave was so insignificant for the accomplishment of what I am seeing here today. I thought I was the only magician who knows how to turn one naira to a million dollars. Today, I have seen some management experts that are equally very good.”
Ayade who assured that the labour house will be completed before his third year anniversary in office announced that, “against that background, God has descended upon me with an inspiration,” adding that, “to ensure that you complete this project and get it ready for commissioning as in the history of Cross River, we have never had a labor house where members can come in unmolested, it is my pleasure to support you complete this edifice with additional NGN50 million. That figure will cover both furniture, telecom and small clinic in case of any emergency.”
He charged labour leaders and members to remain better organised, well structured and never relent in their roles to the society, pointing out that, the leaders must not stop insisting on what they think is the right thing for the people as it is pertinent to share the concerns of government while appreciating the challenges of workers.
“I must commend you for being very balanced in the whole process. Agreed that normally as government task, critical misunderstanding will set in, but that is part of relationship and I think that the concept of this is a harbinger of a better relationship and better understanding of each other.”
Earlier, NLC Chairman in the state, Comrade John Ushie, explained that “for over 40 years, the labor center has not had a place to call their own, but in your time, it has come to pass. We believe that before your third year in office, you will come back to commission this place.”
The governor, his deputy, members of the organised labour as well as members of the state executive council, thereafter proceeded to other projects sites embarked by the present administration in the state, including the 21 megawatt power plant, Calabar Garment Factory, Calabar Pharmaceutical Factory, Rice Seeds and Seedlings Center amongst others.
And, following Mr. Ayade’s approval to pay contract staff, the Cross River State Water Board Limited (CRSWBL) has said that it will conduct a personnel audit of all contract staff in order to generate authentic data for payment of salary arrears as well as convert those with requisite and relevant qualifications to permanent staff after the verification exercise.
A statement signed by the acting Managing Director, Dr. Stephen Odey Monday in Calabar directed “all contract staff,” to, “physically present themselves with their temporary Appointment Letters, Original/Photocopies of Academic Qualifications, Birth/Age Declaration and Passport Photographs.”
The statement which said staff should treat the release as “important,” added that the itinerary for the verification which will be lead by Odey, management staff and the union is as follows:
“1. Wednesday 2nd May,2018, Calabar and Akampka
Venue: Conference Room, Water Board Calabar
“2. Thursday 3rd May,2018, Ediba, Obubra, Itigidi and Ikom
Venue: Ikom Out Station
“3. Friday 4th May, 2018, Ogoja, Obudu and Okpoma
Venue: Ogoja Out Station
Also, Mr. Ayade is said to have met with staff of the Cross River State Geographic Information Agency (CRGIA) last week Wednesday where he assured that the backlog of salaries dating almost two years will be cleared CrossRiverWatch gathered.
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