Workers in Ondo State have accused the state government of spending millions of naira to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the creation of the state when workers are not paid for three months.
The week-long events, held between the February 22 and 28 amid pomp and pageantry, were to also mark the seven-year anniversary of Governor Olusegun Mimiko in office.
Workers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on the condition of anonymity accused government of insensitivity to workers’ plight, saying the situation had placed them and their families in difficult situation.
“I have five children and it is not easy to feed not to talk about doing other necessary things in the home,” a civil servant who preferred anonymity, for fear he might be victimised, said.
“It is saddening that government squandered millions of naira on parties, while it owes backlog of workers’ salaries.
“It has become so hard that paying school fees for the children is now a matter of indebtedness, some of the schools are allowing us to pay in bits whenever any of the salaries come.”
The civil servant said he applied to get a loan from his cooperative society, and until that materialises, he would have to continue to live on charity.
Another worker, who simply identified himself as Gabriel, said his situation deteriorated after exhausting avenues for loan acquisition.
“I borrowed from the bank, and because salaries are no longer coming as usual, I do not know what to do,” he said.
“I learnt of a finance house they call Sharp, Sharp. Some people are going there. I don’t know whether that will be an opportunity to get money, but paying back has always been the problem.”
The workers said it was only recently that the government paid November 2015 salary, saying they were yet to collect December 2015, January and February 2016 salaries.
The civil servants also accused labour union in the state of insensitivity, alleging that it failed to task the state government on meeting its obligation to workers.
But in a swift reaction, the chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress in the state, Bosede Daramola, denied any compromise, stating the NLC was doing everything within its powers to ensure workers get their dues.
She said the economic hardship was not peculiar to Ondo State, noting that as long as there were funds, the NLC would ensure the interests of workers are prioritised.
The anniversary event, which was well attended by political and diplomatic bigwigs from within and outside the state, held at the newly built international conference centre, also referred to as the Dome.
Foods were in abundance and exotic drinks were served.
The events were televised live on TV, which cost the states several millions.
A tour of some key projects across the state was conducted in which dignitaries, including former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku; former Information Minister, Labaran Maku; former Labour Party Chairman, Dan Iwuanyanwu, and two senators, Ben Muray-Bruce and Shehu Sani, participating.
While defending the celebration, the Chairman of the Anniversary Planning Committee and Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Akin Adaramola, said the celebration was modest enough, in line with the economic realities of the state.