By Uzoma Ogoke
Staff of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) yesterday, staged a protest in which they locked up the gate of the commission’s secretariat, while forming human barricade in front of the gate.
Fielding questions from News Echo, Chairman, ISOPADEC Staff Welfare Association, Comrade Chinedu Awuzie gave the reasons for the protest as follows: the 80 percent slash in their salaries by the state government, non-payment of their April and May 2020 salaries, the inclusion of ISOPADEC staff in the automated salary system of the government, thereby bringing their payment at par with that of civil servants in the state. Awuzie noted that the non release of 40 percent of the 13 percent oil derivation fund to the state, as contained in the law that established the commission were part of the reasons they were protesting.
The workers union chairman made it clear that ISOPADEC is a commission, established by an act of parliament, with a clear-cut mode of operation, including how staff salaries are generated and paid.
He said that payment of staff salaries is handled by the board and managing director, through the 40 percent accrued to the commission from the 13 percent oil derivation fund accruing to the state as an oil producing state.
He painted a gory picture of how staff of the commission have been subjected to untold hardship as a result of the 80 percent slash in their salaries in which a staff who used to earn N100, 000 now earns N20,000. He said that some staff have died over inability to provide medical services while some have lost their loved ones as a result of same situation.
He threatened that the protest will continue, with no person to be allowed in or out of the office, until their demand is met. He hinted that any attempt to use force against them may trigger unpleasant situation on the oil installations in the area by angry youths of the area who have been provoked enough by the way the present government has been handling the issue of ISOPADEC staff and general welfare of oil producing areas in the state.
He listed their demands to include, payment of their unpaid April and May salaries, payment of the arrears of the 80 percent deduction from their salaries, removal of ISOPADEC from the automated salary system of the government, release of the 40 percent of the commission, among others.
Effort made to speak with the Managing Director proved abortive as he did not pick calls put across to his mobile line and equally did not respond to text message sent to him as at the time of going to press.