Agric Ministry: Workers Protest Picketing, Asks FG To Clear N17bn Contract Debts
The protests and crisis rocking the Abuja head office of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development took another turn on Wednesday as ministry workers protested against disruption of work by indebted contractors.
Although the workers called on the management of the ministry to expedite action in settling its N17bn debt to the contractors, they kicked against the continued disruption of business at the agriculture ministry by the contractors.
In the past two weeks, aggrieved contractors of the ministry had continued to stage protests at the ministry, a development that had hampered activities at the FMARD for weeks.
But workers of the ministry, under various unions, came out on Wednesday, displaying placards in protest against the continued picketing of their workplace by aggrieved contractors.
Speaking on behalf of the unions, the Joint Chairman, Nigerian Civil Service Unions, FMARD, Leon Esebanme, said, “Moving to this building to disrupt official business cannot bring about their (contractors) payments.
“What is required for their payments is patience and dialogue. So, our key position in the union is to effect a dialogue where everybody will be carried along in the process of payments.”
Esebanme said the issues of contention were debts and payments, adding that the union was calling on the ministry’s management to expedite action in paying the contractors.
The workers also urged the contractors to exercise patience with the minister and his permanent secretary, as they argued that both officials inherited the debts.
They said dialogue was the way out, stressing that the continued disruption of work at the ministry would further stall the payment process.
“Dialogue is the solution to the debt owed by the ministry so that the contractors will continue doing business with us without fear and those who have borrowed money will get these monies paid back,” Esebanme said.
He added, “We know the constraints that they are passing through and that is why we are begging for understanding. Our major focus here is the call for understanding.”
On Monday, Economic Confidential reported that the Federal Government would include the N17bn debt in the 2020 revised budget in order to halt the continued picketing of the FMARD by members of the Concerned Unpaid 2018 Contractors of the ministry.
The National Assembly had to wade into the matter, as it urged the contractors to stop the picketing based on the fact that their monies were now captured in the amended 2020 budget.
The contractors had on May 21 stormed the ministry to demand the payment of their monies.
They blocked the major entrance to the minister’s office and also prevented the permanent secretary from entering his office.