Civil servants in Imo State, yesterday shutdown Owerri, the state capital, following a peaceful protest over the failure of the state government to pay their arrears of salaries.
As early as 7am, the aggrieved workers, clad in black attires, had converged in front of the state secretariat with placards which read: “Stop This Greed And Pay Us Our Salaries; Our Children Are Dying Of Hunger; Stop This Impunity, Pay Local Government Medical And Health Workers.”
Other inscriptions read: “Owelle, Pay Retired Primary School Teachers Their Outstanding Gratuities From 1998 To Date” and “We Say No To Imo State House Of Assembly Passing A Bill On Privatising State Parastatals.”
The workers blocked entrance into the expansive secretariat for hours before proceeding to the House of Assembly Complex where they kicked against the passage of the obnoxious law legalising and privatising all parastatals in the state.
During the demonstration, they barricaded all the major roads as they marched along the metropolis chanting anti-government slogans and causing gridlock which paralysed vehicular and human traffic for over four hours.
When they stormed the House of Assembly, the workers chanted so noisily that activities of the Assembly were hastily brought to a halt and the lawmakers were alerted.
Addressing the demonstrators, Speaker of the House, Hon. Acho Ihim, dismissed the allegation that a bill to privatise all the parastatals was being passed into law.
After leaving the building, the workers, who continuously chanted solidarity songs, laced with unprintable invectives on the government over its perceived insensitivity to their predicament, converged at the Freedom Square and blocked passage.
Addressing the workers, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpu and his Trade Union Congress, TUC counterpart, Comrade Paul Akalazu, condemned Governor Rochas Okorocha’s alleged insensitive disposition toward their plight.
Querying how the government expects the workers to survive without salary, the labour leaders charged the workers not to accept their salaries if the present administration slashes them for any reason.
The duo also advised the workers to remain calm and not be intimidated by the antics of the Head of Service, Mr. Calistus Ekenze, who, they said, had compiled the list of workers absent from their duty posts yesterday.
In a swift reaction to the protest, Chief Press Secretary, CPS to the Governor, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, said that leaders of organised labour in the state should be patriotic and avoid being tools in the hands of some political elements.
His statement reads in part: “One had expected the leaders of the organised labour in the state to appreciate the concerted effort the state government has been making to totally deal with the issues of salary and pensions. The labour leaders are also expected to show understanding knowing full well what the general situation is at the moment across the nation.
“The fact remains that the state government has been able, even without the much expected bailout fund, paid the civil servants, teachers and local government workers up to June salaries.
“The government had also repeatedly made its position known on some of the parastatals, while steps are also being taken to handle issues of salaries in the parastatals once the panels reviewing their cases finish their jobs,” he said.

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