Over 800 employees of Obi Local Government Area of Benue State on Monday and Tuesday protested the non-payment of salaries which they said had grossed up to 14 months.
Led by Mr. Ebah Dominin, the workers embarked on the peaceful demonstration within and outside Obarike-Ito, headquarters of the local government, and displayed placards carrying inscriptions such as, “We are not ghost workers”, “We were employed in 2010” and “Pay us our bailout and arrears of salaries.”
Dominic also said Ortom had directed that those employed in 2012 should be regarded asghostworkers because there was an embargo on employment. However, he said that they were employed before 2012.During the procession which attracted members of the community, including market women, Dominic toldThe PUNCHthat they were employed in 2010 and that Governor Samuel Ortom paid them May and June, 2015 salaries but failed to pay them the five-month bailout, as well as salaries from July 2015 to March 2016.
According to him, no work will be done in the local government until the state government clears the issue of salaries, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari must be told the truth about the Benue story.
He said they had been screened but instead of paying them, they were asked to go for another round of screening in Makurdi, which he said was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Chairman of the local government, Mr. Paul Ikwe, told The PUNCH that the over 800 employees were being owed 14 months’ salaries. He said that they were employed before the governor assumed office last year.
Ikwe said the employees were paid salaries until the verification and e-payment of salaries were introduced.
He however denied the allegation of replacing the affected employees, saying that political stakeholders in the area had been interfacing with them with a view to resolving the matter.
The Permanent Secretary in the Bureau for Local Government. Mr. Emmanuel Ikpe, said the Bailout Payment Verification Committee had visited Obi, but said the employees refused to be screened. He said they were also told to appear for biometric screening in Makurdi, but they turned down the offer.
Ikpe said the authorities were thereafter briefed on the situation.
Meanwhile, the government has commenced a comprehensive investigation into fraudulent recruitments at the local government level.
Ikpe said Obi LGA had over 700 employees before the allegation of fraudulent recruitment was discovered. It was observed that Obi claimed to have over 1,500 staff on its payroll when Otukpo Native Authority which gave birth to the other eight local governments in the Benue South Senatorial District did not have up to that number.
He said the report of the investigation committee had yet to be submitted before the protest came up.