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Benue crisis may worsen as NEMA threatens strike

NEMA

The humanitarian crisis in Benue State and other distressed communities may worsen as officials of the National Emergency Management Agency have threatened to embark on strike over the non-payment of their allowances, among other issues.

The threat was contained in a letter written by the Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Isaac Ojenmhenike; which was addressed to the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other senior government officials.

In the letter dated August 10, 2017, the association asked the Federal Government to meet their demands on or before August 31, or they would embark on strike.

It stated, “The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria is constrained to inform you that its leadership had met with the management of NEMA on several occasions to discuss labour issues affecting its members to no avail.

 “The most grievous of these labour issues include the refusal of the NEMA management to pay legitimate overtime claims of deserving staff; the refusal of the management to renew the personnel life assurance policy of staff and the monthly unauthorised payments to certain categories of staff using nepotism by the management of NEMA without due process.”

The association also accused the management of the agency of failing to train its personnel as well as refusing to pay the Duty Tour Allowance and other claims to deserving officers.

The letter added, “If the management of NEMA fails to address these unfair labour practices at the expiration of this 21-day ultimatum, the leadership of the association should not be held liable for whatever industrial action it chooses to embark upon.”

Some employees of the agency told one of our correspondents that the strike was inevitable, unless the Federal Government cautioned the agency’s Director-General, Mustapha Maihaja.

An employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Since the new DG resumed, he has been silent on approvals for different projects at the IDPs’ camps. There is now over N2bn in NEMA’s account, but the DG has refused to release money for anything.

“If not that the President directed him to intervene in the Benue incident, he would have done nothing about it. In fact, the Benue incident is the first flood disaster that NEMA is trying to tackle since the agency got its new DG.”

Efforts to get the reaction of the NEMA boss were not successful as he did not answer calls made to his telephone and did not also reply to a text message sent to him on the matter.

But the agency’s Head, Media and Public Relations, Mr. Sani Datti, told one of our correspondents that he would not speak on the matter until Tuesday after the holiday.

“For now, I can’t say anything because I’m in Kano. You know we are still observing the public holiday; I think until when we resume on Tuesday, then we can see what will happen. So I can’t say anything for now, until Tuesday,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday condoled with the government and people of Benue State over the flood that wreaked havoc on farmlands and displaced thousands of inhabitants in 24 communities including Makurdi, the state capital.

The party, in a statement released from the office of its national publicity secretary, also condemned the alleged slow response by NEMA.

The statement said, “We condemn the slow response of the National Emergency Management Agency to the disaster.

“We wonder why NEMA, an agency created by the Federal Government with the mandate to respond speedily in times of emergency, will wait for the so called “Presidential directives’ before performing its duties.

“In view of the above, we consider NEMA’s action unfortunate and unprofessional. We therefore advise all agencies of government whose duty it is to provide emergency services to do so promptly in order to save lives.

“We call on state and federal governments to be more proactive by taking adequate steps to put in place mechanisms that will curtail such a level of disaster in other flood-prone areas across the country.”

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