By DAVIES IHEAMNACHOR
PORT HARCOURT – SECURITY guards and labourers in the Rivers State Modern Primary Schools, spread across the 23 local government areas of the state, have warned that they would put the schools under lock and key even after resumption tomorrow (Wednesday) until their backlog of salaries is paid.
The guards and labourers, who launched a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, Thursday, last week, complained that the state government owed them salaries ranging from six months, eight months to 13 months. They vowed not to allow academic activities commence in the modern primary schools after resumption on Wednesday (Tomorrow) until their backlog of salaries was cleared by the state government.
Don’t bother your children resuming school
Spokesman of the labourers, Mr. Godswill Nwuke, warned parents and guardians not to bother bringing their children and wards to schools when schools resume tomorrow, accusing the government and contractor in charge of the jobs of treating them disdainfully.
“We are being owed for six months now by the state government. The bible says a labourer is worthy of his wage, but we have been begging the state government to pay us and they have refused to do something.
“This time, we are going to lock all the modern primary schools. We are telling parents to please not bother to bring their wards to schools as schools resume. Until we receive our money, we will not open the schools for any academic purpose. “We will not allow anybody to come into the school compound until we receive our six months’ salary,” he asserted.
Going to work with empty stomach
Nwuke added: “Some months ago, we met with the state government and they promised to pay us within three days, but since then till now, we have not received anything and they have not called us for any other negotiation. Now we are not ready for any negotiation again.”
He said: “Rivers State Government is not helping matters at all, the same government that we voted into power, which promised to pay workers’ salaries, how do they want us to cope? Do they want us to be going to work with empty stomach?”
One of the protesting workers, Sir Kingsley Owhondah, who works at Isiokpo Primary Schools Board in Ikwerre local government area, cautioned: “We want to advise those head masters that took laws into their hands last time we tried to lock the schools that this time it is not going to be easy for them.
“We are also begging the security agencies to stay clear, although we know that the Department of State Service, DSS boss the last time we were owed eight months, pressurized the state government to go and pay. I know that this time he will stand on his feet to beg us, but we will not accept any appeal until our salaries are paid,” he said.
Another worker, Chioma Albert, asked: “Must they owe us six months before they pay us? The truth is that they must pay us complete before we will allow schools to commence. We do not want to accept part payment again. They should pay us our full payment this time.”
Another colleague of his Mr. O. Worlu, said: “This is 13 mouths now that Alakahia Primary School has not received salary. I am standing here calling on head masters, teachers, elders and community leaders to stay away from school. Before, if we lock school, they will come and beg us but this time, no way.”
Govt owing workers- Contractor
Contacted, the contractor handling the security arrangement, Mr. Chijioke Tasie, confirmed that the state government was not fulfilling its promises to the workers, adding: “The workers are right that they are being owed. The promises have not been fulfilled. I am sure they are aware I am not part of the problem.”
“While I have refused to talk to them and made them promise, the promise can never be tangible except it is backed with money, which is why I have not had the courage to address them. People who are giving us promises are not fulfilling. “There is no week we do not reach the authorities two or three times. I even reached them last Wednesday, but nothing is coming forth,” he said.
Tasie, however, said he was not in support of the labourers going physical, but urged the guards to be peaceful in the agitation for their rights.