By Laleye Dipo
The Niger State Government has declared the protests by former councillors over their demand for the payment of their severance and furniture allowances as illegal and unwarranted.
The former councillors (2016-2019 set) have been protesting in Minna, the state capital, since last Thursday, blocking the entrance into the state secretariat and stopping workers from accessing the institution.
Reacting to the action of the former councillors, the Commissioner for Local Government, Alhaji Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, said shutting down the Secretariat against workers and others that wanted to transact business there in an infringement on the rights of others.
“We will not tolerate this again. Yes, it is their right to protest but it is not their right to stop others from doing their legitimate duties in the Secretariat,” he said, adding that the protesters have “caused a lot of damage not only to the image of the state but also its economy”.
He reminded the protesters that it was not the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government to pay them what they were asking for, adding that the responsibility “is that of their respective local governments, even if we approve here we don’t have the power to pay”.
Sarkin-Daji however acknowledged the fact that the former councillors have a case, but they should pursue their demands with decorum and respect as public office holders that they were.
He said he had met with the leadership of the protesters and directed them to put their request in writing and submit to the office, “because as we speak, there is no instrument to show what has been paid to them while they were in office”.
He said: “I have spoken to them; we should have a dialogue; they should write to me formally. We cannot talk until they have submitted their position, we didn’t say we are not going to pay but they should write formally.”
Sarkin-Daji disclosed that government is also owing public office holders who were in office from 2003-2007, 2007-2011 and also those who served from 2011-2016, saying the amount involved is colossal.
The commissioner however said that to forestall further accumulation of debts, the government has been releasing N3 million monthly to each of the local governments to be disbursed to all public office holders in the local governments as furniture allowances, pointing out that what will be left after their exit from office will be their severance allowance.
Reacting, the spokesman of the former councillors, Malam Garbage Umar, said that the group in a meeting with the government on Monday, March 15, 2021 agreed that the current local government chairmen across the 25 councils in the state would start payment of the unpaid benefits by the end of March this year.
Umar, a former councillor representing Usalle ward in Kontagora Local Government Area of the state, said that government officials at the meeting included Sarkin-Daji, Chief of Staff to the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Balarabe; the state Chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria and Chairman Chanchaga Local Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Lalalo; and representatives of the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Department of State Services (DSS).