Sweepers employed by the Edo State Waste Management Board to sweep major streets in Benin, Thursday, staged another protest to demand for their eight months salary arrears.
The protesters, who marched through the busy Kings Square to Edo State Government House, said they are being owed eight months.
Recall that the sweepers had on 3 November, 2017, took to the streets to protest the non-payment of their salary, which stood at seven months then.
The State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who received the protesters on behalf of Governor Godwin Obaseki, had assured them that all issues leading to the delay in the payment of their salaries were currently being resolved.
He explained that the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, was at the meeting with all the contractors under the waste management agency to resolve the issues.
Accoeding to the Deputy Governor, the government was planning a better public private partnership to keep the state clean, adding that the partnership would impact positively on their welfare.
Spokesperson of the sweepers, Jerry Aigbe, who spoke with journalists, appealed to the state government to pay them their eight months salary. He alleged that they have been stopped from work and that the job has been given to SEEFOR.
“On November 3, 2017, we protested against the non-payment of our salaries to the state government and they promised us that within a week they will pay us. The Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who spoke to us during the protest promised us that we will be paid second week of the month of November. We all joyfully and happily went home.
“Since then, we have been going to government house and waiting for the money. We where at the government house again and we were told to wait till November ending. Now November has come and gone. No payment but on December 1st we went to our office and didn’t see our manager.
“When we called him on phone, he asked us to wait that the money is coming and that the salary vouchers have been signed and that the money has not gotten to them. Since then we have been waiting for the money. But few days later, the manager told us to stop work till when the money is available to pay us. He promised us Tuesday, this week for the payment but now Tuesday has passed no payment and today is Thursday.
“They told us that the work has been taken from them, and it has been given to SEEFOR,” he said.
This is even as he lamented that some of the female workers who put to birth are still in the hospital because they were not able to pay hospital bills, while landlords have threatened to evict some of them for not able to pay house rents.
While urging the government to be sensitive to the plights of workers in the state, he noted that government was supposed to be for the welfare of the people and not for its personal aggrandizement.
According to him, “this is not good at all. It is not encouraging to us as a government. A governor is supposed to be for the people and not for his pocket. Now we don’t know where we are going to.
“The governor should answer us. As a governor he had never come out to address us as workers he employed to know their needs and challenges which is very bad. We want to know where we are and at the same time we need our eight months salaries.
“We are on the streets again to protest to the state governor to tell him that we are not slaves or prisoners, that we are all human beings like him. He should pay us our money because every one of us have problems to solve with money, that is why we applied for the work”, he added.
Also speaking, Helen Jamiu and Christian Okhoroye, said government was not paying them the correct monthly salary, pointing out that in the employment letters they were offered N25,000 monthly but instead they were being paid N7,500 monthly.
Okhoroye said her husband was on Wednesday arrested by the landlord over non-payment of house rent.
Efforts to reach the spokesman of the Governor, Crusoe Osagie, proved abortive, as calls made to his phone did not go through.