Why Abuja workers demand sack of Minister Bala Mohammed

The FCT workers protested unpaid salaries and allowances

Several aggrieved workers of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, on Monday, held a protest at their premises, demanding their unpaid salaries and allowances.

The workers also demanded an increase in their housing allowance – which was previously slashed by 60 per cent, enough staff buses to convey workers who live in the Abuja suburbs, among other welfare packages.

They also sought the removal of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed.

One of the protesting workers, Elizabeth Obinna, speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, said that ever since Mr. Mohammed came into power everything had changed within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. She asked that the Minister be removed and his predecessor, Modibbo Aliyu, be returned.

“We want Bala Mohammed to go because our promotions have been on hold ever since he started work; none of us have been promoted. We have not been given our (housing allowance) for the last 13 months now. The housing quote was even slashed by 60 per cent.

“During Modibbo’s tenure, we were paid the complete 100 per cent without any delay. We want Jonathan to hear this and hear our cry; not just hear but come to our rescue,” she said

Another protester, Frank Edward, told PREMIUM TIMES that a lot of their benefits were stopped and salaries were not paid in the last three months

“We are not benefiting from any allowances at all. I mean some people live in Nyanyan, Maraba, Suleja, Kaduna, Keffi and come to work in FCDA every day on their own account. We do not have staff bus to convey such people – rather let me rephrase it, we were not given staff bus at all. It is so not right,” he said

A third aggrieved staff, Sule Ibrahim, lamented that they were being treated poorly despite working for the good of everybody in Abuja.

“We have various reasons for coming out today. This is FCT; this is the heart of the FCT Administration. We, the staff, are working for the betterment of everybody. It is rather ironic that we are not treated well. We give houses, lands to people and yet a large percentage of us do not even have lands of our own to develop; let alone, our own house. What do you call that?” he said.

He also alleged that despite money being allocated for staff training, none of the staff had ever gone on training.

“All we want is for the management to address these matters and he, Bala, should come out and speak to us,” Mr. Ibrahim demanded.

After the protest, the chairman for the workers’ union, Abdullahi Yahaya, addressed the angry protesters, saying that their struggle would not be in vain. He said that he was informed of the protest by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, John Chukwu, and asked the aggrieved workers to go home while the union deliberated with the executives in the ministry.

The protesters, however, refused and demanded that the Minister address them; at which point Mr. Yahaya informed them that Mr. Mohammed was at a meeting at the Presidency.

“When we got to the minister’s office, we were told that he was not on seat, that the presidency had summoned him with regards to this protest,” he said.

He insisted that the protesters go home and return the following day.

The executive members of the ministry claimed that they could not talk to the press as the Minister was unavailable.

However, in a press statement later sent to PREMIUM TIMES, the Permanent Secretary in the FCT Ministry, John Chukwu, the minister said a large staff strength and corresponding monthly wage bill had informed his decisions.

He disclosed that the administration had a staff strength of over 28,000 personnel and paid about N3.6 billion monthly as staff wages and salaries. This, he said, led to the Ministry adopting a biometric system of payment to make sure that the monies were not being paid to ghost workers. He said that the biometric exercise was concluded with 3,000 staff having cases to iron out.

He said, to be sure that injustice was not done to any staff, those with cases were rescreened and cleared in batches while their salaries were restored accordingly.

Mr. Mohammed said that following the biometric exercise, the government would now embark on promotion exercise based on the vacancies declared and availability of funds.

He explained that there was no way any reasonable administration would embark on a promotion exercise without first verifying the actual number of its workforce and ensuring that an adequate budget was provided to cater for the additional costs envisaged.

“The FCT Administration wants to ensure that every dime spent is well spent with commensurate value in tune with the Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government,” the statement said.

The minister insisted that the FCT Administration under his supervision had never delayed staff salary as wages and salaries were always paid on or before the 25th of every month. He asked that the staff commend him for what he deemed a patriotic gesture.

Mr. Mohammed pointed out that in the history of the FCT Administration, his management was the only one that paid 13th month salary in 2011. He said the records were there to back up his claim.

On long service award, the Minister revealed that his administration had already set aside plots of land to be given to some staff with meritorious long service in the FCT Administration. He, however, noted that some other staff had already been allocated plots.

The minister disclosed that his administration was making arrangements with reputable Motor Companies in conjunction with financial institutions to organise a car loan scheme for befitting staff.

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