From EMMANUEL ADEYEMI, Lokoja
No fewer than 100 workers of Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State on Monday protested over unpaid salaries. According to an eyewitness, the workers stormed the council headquarters in Abejukolo at about 8. 00am, singing war songs. It was gathered that the protesters, who barricaded the main entrance to the council secretariat and strategic locations in the town with bonfires, were demanding the removal of the council Chairman, Aminu Atabo.
The workers with various placards were owed six months salaries and other allowances. It was alleged that, since Atabo assumed office, the workers had been suffering untold hardship. They also alleged of the high-handedness of the chairman, victimisation and harassment of perceived political opponents. It was gathered that the protest, which started on a peaceful note, became uncontrollable when the police who were drafted to curtail the protest arrested six of the leaders and whisked them away to the force headquarters in Lokoja, Kogi State capital.
Those arrested were Godwin Noah, Paul Wada, Mohammed Bamidele, Jacob Audu, Alilu Shehu and Mohammed Ademu. As the news of the arrest filtered into town, it was learnt that the youths under the aegis of Omala Youth Network barricaded all the major roads leading to the town demanding the release of their colleagues. The council chairman was also said to have drafted in soldiers, who shot indiscriminately leaving many people injured.
Speaking on phone with Daily Sun, a youth leader who identified himself as Ojodale Umoru, alleged that the council boss had turned the police into an army of occupation arresting supporters of his political opponents on trump up charges It took the efforts of Aliyu Akuh, House member representing the area and Ali Ajuh commissioner for commerce and industry to secure the release of those arrested while the injured were hospitalized in a private clinic in the town. Reacting, the council chairman said the protest was politically motivated, saying those who participated in the protest were not council workers.
“The protesters were idle illiterates and bunch of miscreants hired by my political enemies, and the protest had nothing to do with unpaid salaries. “I inherited N58 million as monthly wage bill, and I receive an average of N32 million monthly, so where do they expect me to get the balance to pay the salaries?” he asked. When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer of the state command, DSP Romanus Nwaneiri, confirmed the arrest, warning the people not take laws into their hands.