Government business and academic activities in public schools were paralysed yesterday as civil servants and teachers in Ekiti State began an indefinite strike to protest the non-payment of five-month arrears of salaries and deductions.
This followed the expiration of a 48-hour ultimatum issued by the state councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Negotiation Council (JNC).
State chairmen – Ade Adesanmi (NLC); Odunayo Adesoye (TUC) and Oladele Blessing (JNC)- noted that they had no option than to strike “having displayed uncommon understanding over the financial position of the state” and endured with the government.
The state secretariat housing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), new Governor’s Office, old Governor’s Office, the High Court complex, House of Assembly complex and all public schools were deserted.
The labour unions in a May 23 letter to Governor Ayo Fayose said the non-payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities and deductions have inflicted hardship on workers and retirees.
The workers accused Fayose of lack of accountability and insincerity on the state’s actual wage bill.
They also accused the governor of not being transparent on the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
They said: “Government made Labour believed that over N500 million will be saved monthly from the screening exercise of April 2015.
“But for over a year, the report of the screening exercise has not been made public.
“The monthly wage bill of N2.6 billion as put up by the government is not acceptable to us.
“The amount declared as IGR is not transparent enough; the highest of N280 million is too low in view of the aggressive IGR embarked upon by the administration since its inception.”
But Fayose in his response declared that strike is not the solution to the problems faced by the workers.
He said the latest allocation of N751 million for April is not enough to pay salaries.
This was against the N1.3 billion the state received for March.
The governor said he cannot offer himself or his family to pay salaries.
Fayose, who spoke in a statewide broadcast yesterday, said he was helpless as workers’ had always been his priority
He said: “I know workers have not been coming to work, but I don’t have the moral (right) to stop them.
“But I can only disburse what I receive from the Federation Account.
“If workers want to go on strike, I sympathise with them but we will be here waiting till when they come back.
“I can’t sell myself to pay workers. Even the Government House where I live does not have diesel to power generator at times.
“I want the workers and the public to show understanding. This is not about Ekiti, it is an issue that affects all of us.”