• State workers threaten strike over N20.9bn Paris Club refund
By James Sowole in Akure
The 18 members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, who effected the removal of the Speaker, Bamidele Oloyeloogun, and his deputy, Ogundeji Iroju, shunned the meeting summoned by state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to intervene on the leadership crisis that rocked the assembly.
This is coming as the organised labour in the state has threatened to resume the suspended strike if the state government fails to start payment of the salary arrears from the N20.9 billion received as the state’s share of Paris Club loan refund by today.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that the 18 lawmakers had fled the state and relocated to Ibadan, Oyo State, following alleged threat to their lives.
The situation came just as the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the party and its state Chairman, Mr. Ade Adetimeyin, were not involved in the invasion of the assembly by hoodlums suspected to be members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) after the removal of the speaker and his deputy.
During the invasion of the assembly, some lawmakers, journalists, assembly workers and security agents were assaulted.
Sequel to the removal of Oleyelogun and Ogundeji, Olamide George and Faloju Abimbola were elected and sworn in as the new Speaker and deputy Speaker respectively.
It was gathered that the 18 lawmakers shunned the meeting convened by the governor while the removed Speaker, his deputy and four others loyal to the embattled Speaker, attended the meeting.
A lawmaker, who was among those that shunned the meeting convened by Akeredolu said they relocated to Ibadan, Oyo State capital, following series of threats to their lives after the Speaker’s removal last Friday
A source within the government also confirmed the lawmakers’ absence at the meeting, adding that only the removed leaders of the assembly and four others loyal to them honoured the governor’s invitation.
“The governor had lost the control of the assembly, and the former speaker (Oleyelogun) was not in-charge, if not for the APC and Aketi, he would have been removed since, but I don’t think the removal would be reversed because some lawmakers are not returning to the assembly in 2019, so they have nothing to lose.”
Akeredolu had early this year intervened in the removal of the speaker and his deputy, which brought them back to office.
The source said the governor was rattled with the development as George-led assembly is clearly the majority with two-third required by the constitution to take decision in the assembly.
Meanwhile, state APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alex Kalejaye, debunked the allegation that the party’s chairman led thugs to invade the assembly.
Kalejaye in a statement described the allegation as untrue and a wicked blackmail.
The publicity secretary said the chairman was only at the assembly to pacify the lawmakers, but he was assaulted and told that it was not a party affair.
“The chairman got the information that the lawmakers were planning the removal of the speaker and his deputy, and he rushed to the assembly.
“The APC members are in the majority in the House of Assembly, so, like a father, the chairman has a responsibility to race down to the assembly in response to such distress call, and that he did last Friday.
“The intention of the chairman was to explore ways to pacify aggrieved members and ensure the situation did not degenerate to an ugly scene. Unfortunately, he was rebuffed by some members, who actually assaulted him, saying it was purely a party affair.
“It therefore amounts to a deliberate blackmail for any person or group to insinuate that a well-cultured democrat like Adetimehin would lead thugs to attack the members of the assembly.
“It is disheartening that hoodlums would invade the hallow chamber of any assembly, and harass members. No government would condone such behaviour.
“We urge security agencies to carry out a thorough investigation into the matter and ensure punishment or sanction for those found culpable,” Kalejaye stated.
Meanwhile, the organised labour in Ondo State has threatened to resume the suspended strike if the government fails to start payment of the salary arrears from the N20.9 billion received as the state’s share of Paris Club Loan refund by today.
The threat of the organised labour was contained in a letter written to Governor Akeredolu and dated November 9, 2018.
The letter was signed by the State Chairmen of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) Tayo Ogunleye; Soladoye Ekundayo and Abel Oloniyo respectively.
They accused the governor of not consulting labour unions as agreed on the release of Paris club refund to the state by the federal government.
The labour leaders said they would not be able to guarantee industrial peace in the state if the government failed to pay the outstanding salaries on Tuesday.
“We believe that negotiation and agreement with labour was the key criteria of how the fund was released despite that the fund has been released to the state without consulting labour.
“We humbly refer your Excellency to the agreement between labour and the state government before the suspension of our industrial action of June 30, 2016.
“Furthermore, we want to draw the attention of His Excellency to the recommendations of a committee on payment of six month arrears of salary to Ondo State workers set up by the state government that was submitted to your Excellency in May 2017.
“We also hold that the said agreement subsists between labour and the government of Ondo State irrespective of who mounts the mantle of leadership particularly when the state Head of Service remains the signatory to both the agreement and the committee report.
“In view of the above, we call on the government to please pay in line with our agreement as analysed in our letter under reference on or before 12 noon Tuesday, November 13, 2018.
“Failure on the part of government to accede to our request may not be able to guarantee industrial peace by resuming our suspended strike of June 30, 2016”, the letter stated.