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Workers protest alleged lay-off plan

Yenagoa— Commercial activities were temporarily paralyzed around the Onopa suburb of Yenagoa, near Government House, yesterday when what started as a peaceful protest by over 500 aggrieved workers of the State Environmental Sanitation Authority turned violent.

The staff were protesting alleged plan by the authority to sack them.

Several persons caught in the confusion that engulfed the area were injured while trying to escape from the trouble spot, as business premises in the neighbourhood were forced to close shop to prevent looting.

Vehicles plying the route were also forced to make a detour, thereby causing gridlock, as bottles and other dangerous weapons were freely used, but some youths opposed to the protest tried to disperse the demonstrators.

The quick intervention of security operatives, however, prevented the situation from degenerating into blood-letting between the protesters and loyalists of the sanitation authority boss.

It was learnt that trouble started in the early hours of the day when the protesters were in a procession to the premises of the state sanitation authority to ascertain from the management alleged plot to sack them from work.

The protesters, witnesses told Vanguard, had earlier positioned themselves at the gate of the Due Process and E-governance Bureau premises to seek audience with the management, with a view to ascertaining the alleged plan to sack them from work.

The Director General, Due Process and E-governance, Dimeari Von Kemedi, was denied access into the premises, causing him to come out of his car and plead with the protesters to pick twenty representatives from their rank to meet with him to discuss the issue.

It was further learnt that he even accompanied the protesters to the sanitation authority, only to return to his office and was expecting the representatives of the aggrieved staff for the supposed meeting when all hell was let loose.

The protesters were reportedly attacked by loyalists of the sanitation authority boss, Chief Reginald Dede, a claim he described as unfounded and baseless.

No fewer than thirty of the protesters were arrested by the police which succeeded in restoring normalcy.

Spokesman of the protesters, Henry Abayama, said they were peaceful in their conduct until they were attacked by persons suspected to be loyalists of the sanitation authority boss.

He said their intention was to get the management to clarify the alleged plan to sack them from work based on the recently concluded biometric exercise and not to foment trouble.

But chairman of the state sanitation authority, Reginald Dede, was taken aback by the action of the protesters, saying there was no such plan to drop any sanitation worker and wondered where they got their information of an impending sack.

However, the Director General, Due Process Director General, Dimeari  Von Kemedi, assured that government would look into the grievances of the protesters, saying “those with genuine complaints are at liberty to come forward with their credentials to help desk office recently opened.”

Meanwhile, armed policemen have been reinforced around the premises of the State Sanitation Authority.


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