Echoes Of May Day In Akwa Ibom

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By UbongAbasi Ise

“some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away” – Ismail Haniyeh

 

No matter how economical you can be in letting out the truth, it would defy all measures, and extrude with raging force. No matter the amount of heavy make-ups you can apply to beautify the truth – the cosmetic would not last, it would fade away, and the real face of truth would stand out fierce and menacing.

On May 1st, 2016 during May Day occasion held at Uyo Township Stadium, The Head of Akwa Ibom State Civil Service, Mrs Ekerebong Akpan was booed; the immediate past Chairperson of Akwa Ibom State Council of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Special Adviser to the governor on Labour Matters, Comrade Unyime Usoro was mercilessly taunted; the Secretary to the State Government, Sir Etekamba Umoren was jeered at; even the present NLC Chairperson, Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Etim Ukpong equally received a backlash from the teeming workers. Their rhetoric woefully failed to bury the truth, and their palms were not equally big enough to cover the whole sky.

I wonder if it did not cross the mind of the Head of Civil Service when she delivered her goodwill message that average workers came to the venue of the occasion with pent-up frustration over unpaid salaries, backlog of promotion arrears, unpaid leave grants and gratuities coupled with high cost of living, fuel scarcity and hunger. Mrs Ekereobong Akpan said, and I quote: “please, permit me to use this forum to, on behalf of the workers, appreciate our dear Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, and his team for his genuine concern for the welfare of workers especially, for the regular payment of salaries even in this period of biting economic realities, where some state are paying half salaries or none to their workers”. Who asked her to say that? Were those lines of words dictated to her so that she could deliver them by rote? When she acknowledged the Governor’s ‘genuine concern for the welfare of the workers’ did she remember that there were mounting arrears of unpaid leave grants, gratuities, salaries, and promotion entitlements? Besides the core civil servants, did Madam take into cognizance that for about three years now, members of Civil Service Commission have not been promoted? What about the unpaid salaries of genuine workers who have undergone the necessary Bank Verification Number (BVN) and verification directives, but have been systematically, under the pretext of technical fault, omitted in the payment of salaries since last year as well as those that received salaries on irregular monthly basis? You can obfuscate the truth, but you cannot annihilate it.

Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Matters, Comrade Unyime Usoro said that Akwa Ibom is so fortunate to be blessed with a governor who has shown exceptional high interest and concern for the welfare and wellbeing of his workers. Was he sincere or just exaggerating? I think the rumpus that followed his misleading claim had showed that his speech was a mere insipid rhetoric. Where is the Governor’s ‘exceptional high interest and concern in the plight of local government workers who have been owed arrears of salaries for months now? Where is this phenomenal interest of governor in those set of teachers, the indigenes of Akwa Ibom, brought in through State Secondary Education Board who have been working without salaries or any other entitlements since January 2013? All these untold hardships suffered by workers are occurring under the very watch of a Governor who have just completed the building of his deluxe massive mansion at his home town less than a year after his assumption of office. He achieved this with no excuse to economic twist.

 

In a torrent of boos that followed his remarks, the SSG, Sir Etekamba Umoren retorted that it is on record that workers are not owed salaries. I was amused. Again, the booing fits continued when the labour chairperson, Comrade Etim Ukpong commended Governor Udom’s administration’s commitment to payment of salaries to workers promptly and regularly. Thus, the uproar that greeted this remark indicated that he was not reading out the pulse of his fellow comrades.

A civil servant who confided in our correspondent revealed that why majority of workers turned out en masse in the first place to attend the May Day occasion was to hear the Governor’s response to the issues bordering on promotion arrears, leave grants, gratuities, 7.5% contributory pension scheme and so on. But upon all the issues raised, the Governor being an artful dodger, dribbled along like Maradona only to lend emphasis on Contributory Pension Scheme because it involves saving money in the bank. Unlike the immediate past Governor, Sen. Godswill Akpabio who would have addressed those salient issues raised one after the other in an ingenious and well-articulated manner, Gov. Udom simply carried on with his preconceived speech without due attention to the submissions by the workers. Akwa Ibom workers wanted to hear cheering news similar to Adam Oshomhole’s announcement on the increment of minimum wage from N18, 000 minimum wage to N25, 000.

Now, if those absorbed by the state government could appear so aggrieved and bitter, what about hundreds of thousands of unemployed Akwa Ibom youths who did not come out to register their discontent on May Day? I can rest my case here.

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