Civil servants and pensioners in Ondo State on Tuesday protested against the alleged refusal of the state government to pay their salaries and allowances from the Paris Club refund.
The pensioners accused the state government of not paying four months pensions, while some of them alleged that the government had been deducting their pension illegally since 2013.
Similarly, the state workers, comprising members of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress accused the state government of withholding and planning to divert the Paris Club refund to a fixed bank account.
The protesters marched to the governor’s office in Alagbaka, Akure, singing anti-government songs and blocked the entrance gate of the governor’s office, preventing workers from going into the premises for several hours.
Speaking on behalf of the pensioners, the state Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Chief Rapheal Adetuwo, said the government owed the pensioners about N43bn from 2012 till date, adding that many members of the NUP had died of hunger.
He said “If President Buhari saw salaries and pensions as means of livelihood and if he rightly dole out Paris Club refund to state governors to enhance the immediate payment of salaries and pensions, such money should be used for the purpose.
“We have to embark on this protest to let the public know our plight. We can’t continue to keep quiet; the outstanding gratuities are getting too much, government must do something about it. “
In the same vein, the NLC Chairman in the state, Tayo Ogunleye, said the government had failed to pay the outstanding salaries and pensions of workers and pensioners as directed by the Federal Government.
Ogunleye said, “The Paris Club refund was released by the Federal Government solely for the payment of arrears of salaries and pensions. No more, no less”.
Also, the state TUC Chairman, Soladoye Ekundayo, said it was only the Ondo State Government that had refused to address its citizenry on the refund despite repeated demands by labour leaders.
He said “It is disheartening to note that while other states have disbursed their refund according to the directive of the Federal Government, Ondo State Government pretends not to have received it
“It is a bitter truth that the state government in connivance with the Office of the Accountant General has placed the Paris Club refund in a private interest-yielding account in one of the banks for the reasons best known to them.”
The workers threatened to resume at the entrance of the state secretariat office on daily basis until the government settled the accumulated salaries and pensions’ arrears.
However, the state’s Head of Service, Mr Toyin Akinkuotu, while addressing the protesting workers, said the government would not hide anything from them, promising that all workers and pensioners would soon get their pay.
He told the workers that the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu-led administration had not owed salary since inception, stressing that the workers were paid as and when due and letters of 2018 promotion exercise had been issued to worker that were due for promotion.