Condemnation Trails Casket-Bearing Protesters in Bayelsa

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Protesters, mainly aged women believed to be kinsmen of the late former state Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, have continued to receive disapproval for carrying a mock coffin in protest against the decision of Governor Seriake Dickson to reform the state civil service.

The state government had recently removed the names of civil servants it said were above 60 years, a situation that has sparked protests by those affected, who also made mock coffins of the governor.

The protesters barricaded the road leading to their Amassoma community in Southern Ijaw following the outcome of the reforms at the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) located in the area.

In an interview yesterday, a former President of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, berated the protesters, noting that they betrayed all traces of decency.
“It is unfortunate that a governor like Dickson who has been doing a lot to better the lives of the people will be reduced to this level. But whoever carried such coffin carried it on their own head”, he said.

He described the developments in NDU, where the number of non-academic staff was far greater than the academic staff, and other public institutions in the state as unsustainable.
He said previous administrations including former governors Goodluck Jonathan and Timipre Sylva were afraid to confront the corruption in the civil service to avoid backlashes.

“The wage bill in Bayelsa is about third in the country. How many are we? This is happening because of irregularities in the civil service. But the governor decided that he would not sit down and allow the system to collapse. He decided to take a decision to sanitise the system.

“If what is happening is allowed to continue, the system will definitely collapse. There has been an embargo in employment in Bayelsa State. Young people have not been employed, yet they are graduating every year. There are many unqualified people in the state civil service. Some are supposed to have retired; others have fake certificates and false promotions.

“So, to create room for young people, those who have attained the mandatory civil service age should leave the system. Much as I sympathise with the affected persons, we must take a decision and once the decision is made some will be beneficiaries while others will be victims”, he argued.
Eradiri who said that Dickson showed a human face in implementing the reforms by paying affected persons three-month salaries in lieu of retirement, appealed to the governor not to allow blackmail to dampen his resolve to implement the reforms.

Also speaking, a female member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Kate Owoko, condemned the coffin-carrying protesters saying it was the handiwork of disgruntled elements.

Owoko, who represents Southern Ijaw Constituency 1 said: “The protesters are not true daughters and sons of Amassoma but were imported from neighbouring communities. The protest was politically-motivated”.