Abiodun In Stormy Weather As Ogun Workers Begin Warning Strike - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Abiodun In Stormy Weather As Ogun Workers Begin Warning Strike

                                • Abiodun

- The Daily Crucible

Organised labour unions in Ogun State have made good their threat. 

Having deemed it as unacceptable, the excuses put forward to them by Governor Dapo Abiodun - led Government as reasons for non - implementation of the agreed minimum wage, they subsequently called on the workers to stay away from their duty posts for a week. 

 The one-week warning strike commenced early this morning.

Dapo Abiodun - led government had failed to implement the N30,000 minimum wage after signing an agreement with the labour unions months back.

The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Emmanuel Bankole said the hours long meeting  between the leadership of the labour unions  and government officials on Tuesday  was a deadluck. 

The workers had on September 2, gave the state government a 14-day ultimatum to commence the payment of new minimum wage or risks full industrial action from them.

The ultimatum expires today hence the commencement of the warning strike just as paucity of funds continued to stymie government's efforts at meeting the Workers' demands.

Since the administration came on board 16 months ago, the finances of the state have not improved significantly as evidenced in unaddressed pressing needs.
The situation is not helped by the fact that the Governor also had no good fortune of having a cooperative predecessor and had to run at a time to his friends in the private sector, including banks, who mobilised N7bn  with whiich he paid the workers when he found himself in a stormy financial weather in the early life of the administration.

Even the dreadful Coronavirus pandemic also crept into Ogun in February this year to make matters more serious and eating voraciously into its Federal Allocations and Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) as the state battles to contain the spread of the virus and provide palliatives to the poor, needy and vulnerable households.

Recently, the Committee for Review of Contracts/Projects came out with mind boggling report that Abiodun - led Government of the Gateway State would require N218, 380,996,134.47K to complete abandoned projects/contracts  awarded by the administrations of Gbenga Daniel and Senator Ibikunle Amosun from 2009 to May 2019.

The Chairman of that Committee, Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu, had while submitting the report to Abiodun revealed that the total amount for unpaid Certificates of Valuation(CV) for work done stands at N20,741,675,388.76K.

Also, in July this year, the state 2020 budget was slashed from  the initial N450bn to N280bn, resulting in 38% cut by the Governor following shortfalls in expected revenue amid coronavirus pandemic, and all suggesting that the state may face herculean task meeting some of its obligations within the fiscal year if it does not priotise.

All of these coupled with the raging workers demands, portend  ominous signs for a state grappling with dire financial strait in challenging times. It is left to be seen how the Governor will confront these nightmares and wriggle out of them.

The NLC Chairman, Bankole, listed the workers' demands to include unpaid minimum wage, 134 months unremitted pension deductions, Zero remittance of National Housing Fund deductions to the Federal Mortgage Bank, non - restoration of payment of gross salary, non - payment of gratuity to retirees of the state since 2013 and the Local Government which was stopped in 2011, unpaid allowance of all employees both state Qand LGAs and non promotion of staff since 2018 among others.

Although Government is a continuum and the workers' grievances were largely inherited from the past administration but the labour leader lamented that Abiodun had taken the workers for granted for too long,  accusing him of being insensitive to their plights.

Bankole said: "Unfortunately the negotiation is dead luck. And so the one week warning strike commences on Wednesday (today)

"With the facts before us, Ogun state is not the poorest in Southwest. If Lagos is paying and has continued to pay even with, Ondo state is paying and continue to pay, Oyo State is paying even with, there is no reason for Ogun State not to pay.

"And so we are saying no, all their excuses are unacceptable to us. 
"The position of the government is unacceptable to us. What they said was that minimum wage will have to be delayed so that they can do certain things and we said no, enough is enough having waited for so long. 

 "We are talking about gratuities that have not been paid for years, we are talking about leave allowance that has not been paid for years, we are talking about retirees that were shortchanged and not been paid.

" Since 2018 promotion has not been done in Ogun State. These are the issues that we brought to the table and all attempts to get them to reason failed and so we are embarking on the warning strike."

The Daily Crucible recalls that last May 1, the Governor admitted that the most pressing issue confronting him was how to commence the payment of the minimum wage as agreed between his administration and the organised labour in the state.

He said he was not unaware that the organised labour were expecting him to make certain pronouncements regarding their welfare, but pointed out  that the administration was  also weighing options amid the impact of the COVID - 19 pandemic on the state resources.

He however, assured that the administration has set up a joint committee with labour to assess the impact of COVID-19 on staff welfare and identify all the outstanding issues and how they could be addressed in the wake of the pandemic.

 Abiodun said: "By far the most pressing however, is the commencement of the payment of the new minimum wage as agreed between Government and Labour, and some others related matters. 

"As part of our Administration’s sincere commitment to fulfil our part of the agreement on the payment, we have set up a joint committee with labour to assess the impact of COVID-19 on staff welfare and identify all the outstanding issues and how these could be addressed in the wake of COVID-19."

And reacting to warning strike, the Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Affairs, Remmy Hazzan said he was taken aback, adding it was not a reflection what happened at yesterday meeting.

Hazzan noted  that the organised labour has legitimate demands, but stressed that the financial health of the state had continued to make implementation of the minimum wage a problem.

He, however, said the government would continue to engage the workers in order to resolve the issue to avoid plunging the state into industrial disharmony.

Also reacting earlier,  the Finance Commissioner, Dapo Okubadejo, said despite the devastating effects of the  pandemic, the state government would  not abandon the agreement reached with the Organised Labour Unions on the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Okubadejo said the state government would have commenced the payment, but the resultant effects of the pandemic on  the State’s economy had made Abiodun to restrategize on raising finances to accommodate the new minimum wage.

Also, the Governor's  Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, admitted that the state faces unusual times  with resources being impacted but have chosen to remain committed to his promises.

Somorin  disclosed measures being undertaken by the government to course through the financial strait such as  banning nonessential travels by all civil servants and political appointees,  creatively shoring up internally generated revenue, eliminating leakages and aggressive cost reduction among others.

He said: " As a result of the recent global economic challenges resulting from COVID-19 pandemic and the crash in the prices of crude oil, the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun is taking the following measures to mitigate the imminent reduction in monthly FAAC allocations from the federation account:

"Budget review in line with current realities, restructuring and refinancing of existing loan obligations and processing of new credit facilities to improve the State’s cash flow and take advantage of the more favourable interest rate regime in the country. 

"The Government has also banned nonessential travels by all civil servants and political appointees. 

"Other initiatives include creatively shoring up internally generated revenue, eliminating leakages and aggressive cost reduction, especially recurrent cost. 

"Also, we are enhancing accountability and transparency and strengthening the Government Delivery Unit to ensure efficient and effective delivery of projects and policies.

"Furthermore, government would prioritise capital spending on critical sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure, and other projects that will enhance the living standards of the citizenry. 

"Having anticipated the enormity of the economic challenges the prevailing circumstances portend, the government is confident that these measures will sufficiently address them.

 "Indeed, there is no compromise on Dapo Abiodun Administration’s commitment to deliver on its electoral promises as encapsulated in the Building Our Future Together Agenda, regardless of the prevailing economic circumstances."

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