The protest by the suspended Delta State Civil Servants by the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, was taken to different level when the affected Deltans, mostly youths, stormed Delta State Government House once again, this time to felicitate with the Delta State Governor on his 56th birthday.
They had in their possession, a well prepared birthday cake and a finely designed birthday card with inspirational and congratulatory messages to wish Governor Okowa a happy 56th Birthday celebration and at the same time, stress their demand for an immediate recall to their respective duty posts from where they were unceremoniously suspended immediately Governor Okowa resumed office.
The courageous young men and women, who had besieged the Government House gate a few days earlier, gained entrance this time, into the government house drive way after an intervention and entreaties by the Senior Special Adviser to Governor Okowa, Comrade Temple fell on deaf ears, as the protesters claimed that they were on a celebratory mission to congratulate the Governor and should not be denied their rights to see him on his birthday as they did not intend to breach the peace or cause any unnecessary trouble.
In the course of their procession and singing, however, they were met by the former Delta Assembly Speaker and now Special Adviser to Governor Okowa on Land Resources and Legislative Matters, Rt. Hon. Martins Okonta, who received their congratulatory messages on-behalf of the Governor, but pleaded with them that Governor Okowa had summarily jetted out of the state on a summons from Abuja and so it would be impossible for them to see him.
Chairman of the Congress of Newly Employed Civil Servants in Delta State, CONECS, Comrade Regha Obukokwho, who used the opportunity to express their displeasure over Governor Okowa’s reason that their employments were terminated on grounds of irregularity in the recruitment process and the huge wage bill of the Delta personnel costs, stated categorically that those reasons did not hold water with them.
He told Hon. Okonta that it was unfair and unjust for the Okowa administration to make them victims of a crime they did not commit even as the same administration has gone ahead to appoint Commissioners, Special Advisers and Special Assistants, all of whom will collect salaries, even in-spite of the loud complaints of empty treasury and huge inherited debt profile by the administration.
Comrade Regha, who used very strong words to describe the insensitivity and hardship which the Okowa administration had imposed on the families of those whose employment had been suddenly terminated, noted that their protests had been peaceful so far in appreciation of Governor Okowa’s pan Delta mandate, but their patience is wearing thin and they may be compelled question the prosperity for all Deltans mantra of the Okowa administration if they were not restated as a matter of urgency.
Responding to their agitations, Hon. Martin Okonta assured them that their protests and demands had already reached the ears of Governor Okowa and the Delta State administration was doing everything possible to ensure that the matter is speedily resolved to the satisfaction of all, adding that some positive result would be achieved with one week in the resolution of the situation.
The protesters then entreated Hon. Okonta to join them to cut the birthday cake and handed over the birthday card to the Special Adviser for onward passage to the Governor, when he returns, even as they emphasized that they would be waiting expectantly for nothing short of a recall to their former places of employment, as the only befitting birthday gift Governor Okowa will give them to mark his birthday.
Deltans will recall that the protesters, under the aegis of Congress of Newly Employed Civil Servants In Delta State, CONECS, had thronged out in their hundreds on Monday, July 6, 2015, displaying placards with various inscriptions and singing solidarity songs to demand their recall to the civil service, claiming amongst things that theyn had been unjustly treated and they never paid for their employment.
Chairman and spokesperson of the group, Comrade Regha Obukowho, who hitherto had been a staff of the office of Establishment and Pensions, had expressed dismay over the action of the state government and appealed for their immediate recall.
Speaking exclusively to FLAHPOINT NEWS ONLINE, Comrade Obukowho, had given a succinct narrative of the chain of events that had led to their present sorry and unacceptable state of unemployment.
According to him: “The governor of Delta state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had suspended our employment immediately he resumed as Governor, claiming that the recruitment process that had brought us in was fraudulent. The Delta state Civil Service Commission had advertised for employment in December 2013 and we had all applied, had made the shortlist for interview and had been subsequently confirmed and issued appointment letters to resume work in our various ministries and agencies, having passed through the all the rigorous processes of the recruitment.
“But without warning or prior information and notification, we had on arrival at our various offices on June 1, 2015, met stern faced officials who told us that the newly sworn in Governor of Delta state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had ordered that we should stop work and go home and that we are under suspension. But nobody told us why.”
Obukokwho, who decried the fact that the result and findings of the committee set up to investigate the irregularities adduced by the state government as reason for the suspension, was yet to be made known, before the hammer of suspension fell on them, expressed fears that the state government had deviated from the original purpose of the suspension by now claiming that it was as a result of the high debt profile and huge wage bill of the state.
According to him, “the state government is presently deviating from the purpose of the suspension, claiming that the suspension was as a result of the high debt profile and huge wage bill of the state and that is not our cause. Before he became the governor of Delta state, the state government has been paying workers salaries promptly.”
Speaking further Obukokwho, supported by his Secretary, Comrade Egba Okeme said, “Our agitation is that those of us who are Deltans should be recalled to our various offices and places of work, while the investigation continues and the findings of the investigating panel should be made public.”
They further described the move by the state government as contrary to Article 4 in the appointment letters issued by the Civil Service Commission which stipulates that employees would be pre-informed of any new development in the course of their appointment as none of the employees were considered on that note.
According to Article 4: “Your appointment will take effect from the day on which you assumed duty and you will be subject to a term and condition laid down for civil service of Delta state of Nigeria and to the civil service rule and other regulations in force for the time being. The appointment may be terminated by a month notice or payment of a month salary in lieu of notice,” they averred.
Preliminary efforts to resolve the impasse had been made first with the intervention of Comrade Temple who met the protesters at Government House and later arranged a meeting between them and the Delta State Secretary to the Delta State Government SSG, Hon. Festus Ovie Agas, who met with the leadership of the protesters in his office, commended the suspended employees for their peaceful conduct while the protest lasted and assured them that the state government had set a machinery in motion to address their predicament.
Hon. Agas had equally told them that the Delta State Government was determined to look into the issue dispassionately and while appealing to them to remain calm to remain calm, reiterated that the issue has been given top priority in the calculations of the state government and appropriate measures would be put in place to achieve a workable arrangement as soon as possible.