By Amos Igbebe
With barely three days to hand over power to a new administration in Delta State, only four local government areas in the state are bubbling with administrative activities as 21 have remained grounded following an industrial action embarked upon by members of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in the state.
The strike which commenced on Monday, May 11, has paralyzed all administrative activities in the 21 council areas as all persons who have business transactions with the councils have no option but to wait until the strike is called off. But with the situation in the councils, the future remains bleak as there is no move to end the crisis.
The strike became necessary as the final blow to press home the demand of the council workers who have been owed salaries for the past five months by Chairmen of the local government councils.
The Chairmen, who were sworn into office on October 27, 2014, vowed to work in favour of workers and ensure that their needs were met as at when due, including paying their salaries before the end of every month.
But seven months into the promise, five months salaries are being owed the council workers across the state. Only four local councils in the coastal zones of the state are currently functioning. These are the councils which have paid their workers up to date. The four council areas are Burutu, Bomadi, Warri North and Warri South West.
One of the council chairmen who was contacted on the situation said he wouldn’t want to be quoted but said the workers were on strike with no positive comment on the way forward. He also said he wouldn’t want to comment on the strike action by the workers.
The gates to the councils are currently under lock and key with grasses and rodents taken over the premises as no human feet have stepped in within the past three weeks.
Delta State President of NULGE, David Ofoeyeno, who also doubles as State factional Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the council gates would remain closed until the chairmen pay all salaries owed the workers.
But Williams Akporeha, who is also a factional chairman of the NLC, faulted the decision of Ofoeyeno, saying he failed to follow due process in calling for the industrial action among the council workers.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who will be leaving office for Governor-elect, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, on Friday, said he had consistently augmented the council’s salaries with N600m monthly, hence, he had no part to play in resolving the crisis in the councils.
However, some of the council chairmen have accused the Governor of allegedly diverting council funds to his own pockets, preventing council workers from executing projects that would benefit the people in the grassroots.
They said since inception, the Governor has not released in full their monthly salaries and that all efforts to make him see reasons yielded no meaningful result. One of the disturbed and aggrieved chairmen, who would not want his name in print, disclosed that the Governor has always had the habit of cutting their monthly allocations without any remorse.
“Since we were elected till date we have not received full allocation in any month. We have always confronted him but all he can tell us is that when Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is sworn in as governor he may decide to give us in full our allocations but for now we should allow the sleeping dog to lie,” the Chairman said.
“With our investigations so far, as soon the allocations get to the state, the Governor will slash the allocations and release only half of the allocations to the councils and will blame everything on the dwindling revenue. As usual, he will try to deny and exonerate himself but the facts are still there,” he said