By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—Imo workers, yesterday, shut down the state to protest non-payment of arrears of their salaries and allowances by the state government.
Following this development, socio-economic and government activities were paralyzed throughout the day.
The angry workers, who spotted black attires, wept, sang and pronounced unprintable curses on the administration as they processed peacefully on the major streets of Owerri.
Some of the placards carried by the protesting workers read: ‘What have we done to Okorocha to deserve his punishment?’ ‘Governor Nebuchadenazar, pay us our salaries,’ ‘Our children are suffering,’ ‘Rochas, the Idi Amin of our time,’ and ‘We have never had it this bad.’
They were of the view that Governor Rochas Okorocha deliberately hoisted the predicament on them, even as they prayed God to take absolute control of the situation.
Some of the workers, who spoke to Vanguard as they processed, lamented that some of their colleagues in the judiciary have sadly died out of frustration and penury.
“The judiciary staff are now owed for nine months and the end of their travails appears not yet in sight. We are really in for hard times in this state and the governor is not worried about our plight,” one of the workers said.
Vanguard recalls that some of the parastatals that were owed heavily, include the Water Board, 12 months; Library Board, eight months; Due Process, nine months; Imo Marketing Board, 10 months; Imo Specialist Hospital, 13 months; Hospital Management Board, nine months, and Imo ADP, 10 months.
When contacted, the State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr. Austin Chilakpu, explained that they were constrained to call the workers out, following the unwillingness of the state government to comply with all agreements reached at an earlier meeting.
“The leadership of the NLC had, November 13, promised workers that the state government would pay their salaries on November 17, based on the agreement it entered into with labour but failed.
“This failure on the part of government made the workers to doubt the inability of the organized labour to fight for their rights,” Chilakpu said.