By Nick Chibunna
Organised labour unions in Imo States took to the streets last Tuesday in protest against the non-payment of their salaries.
Clad in black attires, depicting frustrations and mourning, the workers sang solidarity songs and displayed placards with various inscriptions. Some of the placards read: “Buhari call Rochas to order,” “EFCC kindly visit Imo State,” “Rochas has killed workers”, “We are dying,” and many others.
The presence of eagle-eyed security operatives did not deter the workers and pensioners from carrying out their protest as they embarked on marathon prayers calling for divine intervention and punishment against their oppressors and enemies.
Addressing the workers the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comr. Austine Chilakpu frowned at what he described as the lackadaisical attitude of members of the Imo State House of Assembly towards the plight and sufferings of Imo workers and pensioners.
He said that the organized labour in Imo State decided to embark on protest in order to forestall the enactment of any law privatizing key government parastatals as that would make their members lose their jobs, and also to demand for immediate payment of arrears of salaries and pensions.
According to Comr. Chilakpu, the insensitivity of the Imo state government and members of the State House of Assembly toward their suffering compelled them to take to the streets, than to predict their next line of action.
The arrival of the Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Acho Ihim, did not change the situation as he was refused entry into the Assembly premises to address the protesters, since the main gate was firmly locked with iron chains by the angry workers.
He later addressed the crowd outside the gate and pleaded with them to exercise restraint.
On the privatization of key government parastatals, the speaker said: “This House of Assembly is not aware of any privatization bill or law, if it was muted, it has not come to the House here”. “There is no such thing as we speak”.
He said that what government is doing is to engage investors in what he described as private, public partnership (PPP) that would create jobs for the teeming Imo citizens.
On payment of salaries and pensions, Hon. Ihim said that government is not unmindful of the suffering of Imo workers and pensioners, adding that something would be done in a week’s time to alleviate their predicament.
Labour leaders who spoke to journalists expressed shock that a government that calls itself a rescue one can sit down and watch its workers and senior citizens die as a result of non-payment of salaries and pensions.