State and Federal governments claim they have no money and so they say the workers cannot be paid their salaries. In 18 states the NLC called public sector workers on indefinite strike from Monday, 25th May, as they had not been paid their due salaries.
Now in Edo State the Governor has abolished the Youth Employment Scheme (YES) and the police attacked a peaceful demonstration and shot and injured three workers. Around 10,000 YES workers had been employed in key posts in the offices and schools across the State. Now, perhaps because of all the money spent during the elections, the government claims it has no money, so it has retrenched all the YES workers.
Earlier this year, before the elections, Edo State Government had plenty of money. Governor “Comrade” Oshiomhole appointed two additional commissioners (he sacked two and immediately appointed four). At the same time, he created two new posts of deputy chief of staff. In addition, the governor had plenty of money to travel around by helicopter. Now they claim there is no money to pay for the YES workers.
Since December, last year, the Edo State YES workers have been protesting and demanding that they be regularised. They were paid far less than civil servants and were being prevented from joining their trade union.
Edo YES members moved on Tuesday 16th December to Government House. Here, in their hundreds, they blocked the road and chanted solidarity songs. Many government functionaries including two commissioners (Agriculture and Commerce) came out to address us in the absence of the Governor and other executives.
In their words, they asserted that the Governor is “against casualisation” in any form. The Commissioner for Agriculture made it clear that, “it’s good you’re protesting peacefully… the issues are clear to anybody. Edo YES was not to casualise, but to intervene.” He then promised action to regularise the YES workers.
On Tuesday 9th June the YES workers held a peaceful protest to Government House to protest against the announcement by the Governor that the YES scheme had been abolished.
On Thursday, June 11th the YES workers held a congress and demanded to see the Governor. They waited patiently, but the governor refused to come. So the workers marched down Sapele Road to Ring Road and then along Airport Road towards Government House. They were marching peacefully but were stopped by the police near the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The police then used tear gas and bullets to disburse the crowd of 6,000 YES workers.
Victor O Idonije, President of the YES workers said, “Oshiomhole sacked the YES staffs and then used the police to stop us from doing a peaceful protest”. It is suggested that Buhari gave Oshiomhole support for the police to use any means necessary to stop the demonstration. Victor said, “the police were shooting guns on us with tear gas and even bullets. Three YES staff were shot and injured”.
As Victor demanded, “the police should allow us to go on peaceful protests”.
Other workers should take note of the lengths that the Buhari government and APC state governors will go to implement austerity. All workers should take action as long as they are not paid their full salaries. Workers in similar employment schemes in other states should take note. They need to take immediate action to unionise, protest and organise strike action to regularise their positions. They should not wait to be retrenched. They should also send solidarity messages to:
Victor O Idonije: 07054416828
President of the Edo State YES workers