Two thousand five hundred (2, 500) dismissed workers of the Cross River State government have given the State Government seven (7) days ultimatum to rescind its decision or face severe consequences.
It is now one year and one month since the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade reportedly removed the workers from the state civil service payroll without any communication.
It was learned that after a series of attempts to dialogue with the state government and unfulfilled promises lingering longer than expected, the workers have decided to take proceedings into their hands by calling for their reinstatement.
Addressing newsmen in Calabar, the affected workers promised a showdown with the state government after the expiration of a 7-day ultimatum if their demands are not addressed.
Some affected staff drawn from the various affected MDAs said except their demands are met; the showdown will engulf the state.
“It’s now almost one year and a month since we were forcefully and illegally removed from Cross River State payroll by the governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade, which goes against labour law and best practices anywhere in the world.
“You would recall that our delisting was effected in September 2019 without cogent reasons and prior notification by the government. Sadly, over 2,500 staff were affected. We were not paid our statutory salaries. The years under consideration have been quite challenging for us.
“As breadwinners in our families, we have not been able to carry out our responsibilities. We can no longer wallow and die in silence. To press home our points, we are demanding unconditional reinstatement and full pay of all our salaries and entitlements.
“The demand above should be met within seven working days from the day of this press release. If the aforementioned demands are not met within the time frame, we the affected staff shall take action not limited to a seven-day peaceful protest, and other measures under the precinct of the law.”
Comrade Paul Ajie Abang, the State Chairman of the Niger Delta Activists Forum (NDAF), while commenting on the development, said NDAF, a civil society organization has been at the frontline in recent times addressing issues of injustice, oppression and marginalization.
“We are in full support and will jointly pursue this course to a logical end. It’s their rights and they are doing all it takes within the ambit of the law. We are not new to situations such as this, we will work with relevant bodies to ensure that the workers get what they’re due.
“However, should consultation and consolidation fail, the group would massively mobilize for a total showdown with the state government”.
One of the affected workers, Comrade Nakanda Eyo who spoke on the matter lamented very bitterly about the attitude of the government in handling the matter right from its inception.
“We received our appointment letters and confirmation of appointments only to be told we can no longer receive salaries afterwards without any form of communication in a memo or something, this is not a banana republic for God sake.
“When we asked why they said they wanted to verify the processes of our employment. It was indeed strange. The state government even conducted a verification exercise though the final one was stopped moments into the commencement of the exercise on grounds of COVID-19, but the same government conducted employment exercise for 8000 workers and even a Local Government election, yet to do a verification exercise for 2,500 workers was stopped because of COVID-19 within the same period”.
“We made further efforts to see the Auditor General, he turned down our audience with him moments after agreeing to meet us even after being ushered into the conference room. The only person that showed concern and spoke to us has been the Head of Service who said that efforts to schedule an audience with the Governor were inconclusive at the meantime”.
Nakanda lamented that in the course of the faceoff with the government, they were still discharging their duties effectively without salaries.
“I recall when I asked my Head of Department why he was still assigning duties long after the infamous omission, he said, Nakanda, you have not been sacked, I have not received any memo of any termination of appointments, so the status quo remains”.
“We worked up to the date of the lockdown and occasionally we are called to the office to do one thing or the other within this period of the COVID-19 pandemic and still without pay. Some of us have lost their lives and others rendered homeless while a good number have divided their kids amongst family members. This is not the kind of life we planned for our children. It’s a very sad and a very inhuman condition, to say the least”.
The situation has played out today that the third part of Labour’s demands has been grossly neglected. This is a total deviation from Governor Ayade’s promises of not allowing Cross Riverians to go to bed hungry such that the only available one they had is taken away from them by the person who promised to give to them.