Governor Udom Emmanuel has hatched a desperate and sinister scheme to buy off labour leaders in Akwa Ibom State.
Selected industrial union leaders are being pampered with monthly payments, promotions, expensive foreign trips, settlement of foreign medical bills and other perks.
Gov Emmanuel, who is facing an uphill task to retain his seat in the gubernatorial election scheduled for March 2019, has handed down an instruction with the state Accountant General and relevant officials in the Ministry of Finance to fund the scheme.
Sources in the Governor’s campaign team and the main labour unions say the sole aim of the scheme is to silence workers, who have vowed not to vote for Gov Emmanuel in the forthcoming elections.
The workers are peeved that the governor is sitting on their promotion arrears, pensions and gratuities.
They are also seething with anger and frustration because the governor’s decision to suspend payment of imprests and other benefits since he assumed office in 2015.
Leaders in the state Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are paid as much as N30M to attend International Labour Organisation (ILO) conferences in Geneva, its headquarters, and other foreign venues.
Emmanuel’s government is also picking up the tabs for some of the leaders to travel to Jerusalem and Rome for “pilgrimages.” Trips to Jerusalem are popular with Protestant and Evangelical labour leaders while Rome, especially the Vatican, is the main destination for Catholic “comrades.”
The Udom Emmanuel administration sponsored 12 pliant union leaders on such junkets during the last Easter holidays.
Usually reliable sources told our correspondent that recently each leaders of the state NLC and TUC collected a whopping sum of N20M for “foreign medical expense.” Records show that the state government spent N120M this year alone on such “medical” trips.
A senior labour relations staff in one of the ministries said: “I can tell you that under this government, labour is dead. It just remains to be buried. They’ve all compromised, and the workers have lost their voice. There’s no one to speak for us again.”
He added: “Don’t forget that ever since (Senator Godswill) Akpabio defected to APC, Udom has become very desperate. But his desperation also stems from the fact that he has little or nothing to show after nearly three and a half years in power, so he can do anything to silence the workers, who are a critical voting bloc.”
A former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, who is familiar with scheme to compromise the unions, gave Gov Emmanuel the thumps down. He said the governor is bribing the unionists because he knows he has treated the workers badly.
His words: “I am sorry to say that the governor has a very poor judgment of the industrial relations matters in our state; he is misreading the situation. Here’s the truth: the unionists have sold out to Udom, and the workers are aware of this. They know who is speaking for them; they know they’re not getting their due, and they know that Udom Emmanuel is responsible for this.”
An activist at the Idongesit Nkanga State Secretariat in Uyo said: “The governor has been very unfair to the workers. Being an accountant, he is using crooked and evil accounting system to deny us our entitlements. He knows exactly what he is doing. He knows we’re not happy, that’s why he is spending millions to silence us through our leaders. But I can tell you that we are the ones feeling the pains of his neglect and sinister moves to compromise some of us. We shall give him an answer when the time comes.”
Sources said the next set of payouts is being prepared for the compromised labour leaders.