Staff of Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, ISOPADEC, on Monday blocked the Government House in Owerri in protest against three months unpaid salaries by the current administration led by Governor Hope Uzodinma.
The protesters, who displayed placards with various inscriptions depicting their anger, disrupted movements in and out of the Government House for hours, notwithstanding the presence of armed security men, even ignoring pleas by the chief of staff to the governor, Nnamdi Anyaehie.
The workers, led by the union chairman, Chinedu Awuzie, insisted that their three months salaries should be paid before they would vacate the government house entrance gate.
Addressing journalists, Awuzie said the state government was being “wicked,” that despite ISOPADEC having only 320 workers as against the thousands of workers such commissions have in other oil bearing states, the government had continued to shortchange them.
He said the leadership of the commission had severally met with the governor without anything fruitful as regards the payment of their salaries being reached, accusing the government of marginalising the state oil workers by allegedly encroaching into its treasury.
“We are here to protest three months unpaid salaries. Our allocation does not come from the state government but the state government is holding the money meant for payment of salaries and carrying out of projects in the oil-producing communities.
“ We had an understanding that from the 13 percent oil derivation paid to us by the federal government, the state government should take 60 percent and give us 40 percent. But unfortunately, the state government will take its 60 percent and still take our own 40 percent,” Awuzie said.
Reacting to the protest, the senior special assistant to the speaker of the state House of Assembly on Oil and Gas Matters, Utonwa Uzoma called on the aggrieved workers to calm down, assuring them that their salary arrears would be cleared, a plea they turned down.