By Ushang Ewa
Disengaged staff of the Cross River State Water Board limited say they are been owed over NGN20 million in accumulated stipends.
The leader of the group, Mr. Gabriel Onah told CrossRiverWatch in an interview on Monday that the staff numbering 98 has exhausted all avenues to seek the board to pay them their wages as agreed in the contract they signed.
Mr. Onah who said he was engaged in March 2017, disclosed that some people were engaged in December 2016 while others in different months in 2017 with varying degrees of salaries.
On the salaries, he said that: “Some received 25 (thousand), the graduates received 40, some 30 as they case may be. Now, the record I have now because I have the list with me, I have 98 persons that have not been paid and by my calculations it is over NGN20 million which I have done the calculation. I have the details of how many months they owe each person and the amount involved.”
Explaining further, he averred that: “We worked with Water Board, we were given one year contract; some worked for eleven months, some worked for four months as the case may be. Early last year around June, some set of persons were disengaged without pay and those set of persons, they owed them four months’ salary so they disengaged them and they did not pay them off,” Mr. Onah said, adding that; “Towards that period, some were recalled and they worked till November. Again, on first November, they disengaged another set of people without pay.”
The group protested on Monday to the Governor’s office in Calabar and when asked when the agitations began, he averred that: “We have been on this agitation for a very long time. We joined the other group, we agitated together on the 25th of April (and) the Governor had a meeting with us and in his executive chambers and he promised that he is releasing NGN253 million for the payment of our salaries. We were all carried away with eulogy, we thanked the governor, appreciated him, we rolled on the ground and appreciated the governor; all of us.
“When the time for payment came, all of us went and the MD told us that he is only attending to people he came and met and not the disengaged staff. According to labor law, if you are engaged and they want to disengage you, they pay you off
Now, the group was engaged by the administration of Mr. Godwin Igile as managing director (MD) and disengaged by him also. But, following allegations of fraud, Mr. Igile was replaced by Dr. Stephen Odey.
And, Mr. Onah said meetings with him as well as other industrial actions have been to no avail.
“We have exhausted all avenues; we have gone to lock water board gate; we have gone to meet Dr. Steve peacefully, we knelt down to apologise that we are sorry, that it is not good to use conflict to resolve this. But, after all these, nothing has been done. So, we are crying and requesting that government should come to our aide because we don’t have anywhere to run to other than coming to governor’s office to let the governor know about what is happening to us.”
The protest at the governor’s office is said to have led to the arrest of five members of the group Mr. Onah claimed.
“Some men on mufti came with policemen and they said they need five persons that can come with them to the police station to give statement; to give explanation,” Onah said, adding that the police later claimed that they did not give approval for any protest and invited him which he declined.
“I came to see the governor and police cannot solve my problem… We gave out letters on Friday, received and stamped; we sent one to the governor’s office, we gave one to the police, they received it and stamped it and they said they did not give approval for the protest,” Onah said.
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