May 15, 2021

Minimum wage: More protests in Plateau despite government crackdown

Local Government workers protest nine years of half salary payment

Officials in Plateau State say they will not tolerate any further “disturbances” by Local Government workers over minimum wage.

The workers have been protesting the non-payment of the N30,000 minimum wage for two months now.

Despite paying State civil servants the new minimum wage, government, the workers say still pays them half of the old N18,000 minimum wage, the same received for nine years now.

On Monday, the workers blocked the entrance of the State Secretariat, the civil service headquarters of the State, preventing workers from resuming work after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Troops of the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven, along with other Security Forces stormed the venue with teargas and firearms, and violently dispersed the protesters.

Some were brutalized and about 80, bundled to court and charged with Criminal Conspiracy, Abandonment of Duty and Disturbance of Public Peace.

The protests however continued through the week, except Friday, after government warned that henceforth, no disruption of public peace or Government activities will be tolerated.

In a press release by the State Information Commissioner, Mr. Dan Manjang, the government said it has nothing to do with LG workers’ salaries.

The release says, “The administration of Governor Simon Bako Lalong recognises that there are three tiers of Government in Nigeria, in this case, Local, State and Federal.

“The Governor is irrevocably committed to ensuring the that these tiers of Government particularly the Local Government enjoy their financial independence and other provisions of the autonomy.

“As far as the employment, discipline, promotion and payment of salaries and emoluments of Local Governments is concerned, the onus rests squarely on the shoulders of Chairmen and Management Committee Chairmen of the various Local Governments while the Governor has the responsibility of ensuring that State Civil Servants are paid as and when due.”

The statement lashes the workers’ protests as “mischievous”, “treacherous” and political.

But Mr. Joshua Bala, the Chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers, said, the State operated a joint account with Local Governments until Thursday this week.

In his words, Bala said, “It was just yesterday (Thursday) that we heard they held one meeting and signed some financial autonomy. But all along were they not holding Joint Allocation Account meeting?

“Negotiations for this minimum wage ended since January-February last year and implementation was to commence by March. A salary structure was designed but due to financial difficulties caused by covid-19, they pleaded with us to be patient.

“In October, they paid the State workers and we asked where is our own? They said they wanted to start fresh negotiations and we thought that shouldn’t be. Are we supposed to have two different negotiations? Why not implement what had already been agreed upon during the last negotiations?

“While still on that, they forced the old salaries into our accounts and we felt that was insulting.

“We are simply asking for our rights. Is going to seek intervention from the Governor, as a caring father, a wrong thing?”

The union leader said the protests will continue next week despite threats by government, “until our demands are met.”

However, the protests, he said, will hold at local government Secretariats.