By Kunle Sanni
Workers of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Abuja on Monday staged a protest against the non-payment of their allowances and alleged unfair welfare management in the ministry.
The protest was a peaceful one as the union workers closed offices in the ministry with locks. The workers said the minister, Okechukwu Enelamah, had been mismanaging the affairs of the ministry since he assumed office in 2015.
A staff, who declined disclosing his identity for fear of victimisation, told PREMIUM TIMES that workers at the ministry had not received their arrears since 2014.
“We were employed 2014/2015. I worked for two years without salaries. We got our first salary in April 2017,” he said.
“Since we have been asking for our arrears to be paid, there have always been one excuse or another. In 2017, President Buhari made an order for all arrears of civil servants to be paid. We don’t know what happened to the money because we were not paid anything.
“But we heard in the news that billions have been released. Even the office of the accountant general confirmed but nothing yet. There are married men with families among us and they are owing us two years arrears,” he said.
Another staff who also requested for anonymity said that the ministry had been giving false hope to the workers, with assurances that the matter has already been laid on the table of the former minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun.
“All we hear is that our claims are on the tables of the former minister of finance. Nothing till now. Lots of people are frustrated.
“The state of the offices are in a mess. No single renovation, no furniture available for staff, the renovation is always in the budget but nothing happens.’
“We are entitled to 28 days allowance to enable us settle (down) where they posted us. We haven’t seen any ministry always bring one excuse or the other why there is no money but the minister travels steadily with his aides while the staff are suffering,” she added.
The chairman of the Senior Staff Association of the ministry in Abuja, Onwuyai Okonkwo, told PREMIUM TIMES that the minister was “a bad welfare manager.”
“We are calling for President Buhari’s attention because the ministry has not done well since Okechukwu Enelamah became the minister,” he said.
“Since he emerged, he has come to establish a private enterprise, which is not among the civil service agenda. What we are trying to say in essence is that this is a minister that has come to interfere with the civil service structure with the ministry,” he added.
He also explained that the minister warmed his way to establish an office called National office of Trade Negotiation (NOTN), in Maitama, Abuja, through the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) only to appoint his own personal aide to head the institution.
The spokesperson of the minister, Bisi Daniels, told PREMIUM TIMES that the ministry would consider dialogue with the union just to resolve the issues amicably.
“Differences with unions in the ministry of industry, trade and investment on some issues, this morning, led to picketing at the ministry. Efforts are ongoing to resolve the issues amicably,” Mr Daniels said.
“On the reported allegations against the minister, we consider dialogue with the unions as the best approach since it has to do with reforms in the ministry.
“On staff entitlements and welfare, the minister never had any problems with that.
“Nonetheless, these issues are being handled by (the) management even in the absence of the minister, who is currently in the United States as a member of President Buhari’s team to the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.