By Emma Una
CALABAR- FORTY days after the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Chairman in Cross River State, Comrade Ben Okpebi was abducted by hoodlums to an unknown destination, it was gloomy atmosphere as workers in the state gathered in a rally on May 1 to demand for his release.
The workers who shunned the Eugene Esuene Stadium, usual venue for the event thronged the Freedom Park along Mary Slessor Avenue with placard bearing various inscriptions while chanting solidarity songs to call on the state government and security agencies to secure the release of the labour leader.
READ ALSOOur federal cabinet doesn’t understands Flutterwave, Paystack, but borrowing – Osita Chidoka
Addressing the workers, State acting Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Lawrence Achuta said the state workers are plagued by a plethora of unfavourable factors and therefore not in a mood to celebrate May Day.
“The International Workers Day is a day of fanfare , joy, laughter and celebration for workers and working people across the world but Cross River workers are not in a mood to celebrate because of the situation we find ourselves
” We are gloomy, sad,helpless, hopeless, desperate and flummoxed the way things have turned against the Cross River workers”.
He said the NLC Chairman, a man who put the interest and welfare of others ahead of his own was abducted on the 21st of March and has spent over forty days in the den of his abductors who are demanding for 150 million naira ransom.
“While we commend the achievement of Operation Akpakwu in stemming the rate of kidnapping and other criminal acts in Calabar metropolis, we call for the extension of their operation to Akpabuyo, Bakassi and environs as these criminal elements have made those places their haven”
Comrade Achuta also appealed to the Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade to facilitate the payment of gratuity to retired workers in the state which has been outstanding since 2014.
“As if the nonpayment of gratuity is not enough, the government has also suspended the automatic transition from salary payment to pension payroll from October 2020 which was a seamless system that endured retirees are not exposed to the vagaries of instant poverty
” This action is like putting the final nail on the coffin of retirees. We call for return to the practice which has been in place for many years”