By John Oghojafor
For a Local Government Council staff who is being owed 15 months salary arrears and a public primary school teacher who has not been paid salary for upward of six months yet he or she cannot avoid going to the classroom to teach the pupils on a daily basis, a free gift of N20,000 at this difficult time is not only highly unexpected, but may seem to him like N2 million if it ever be. Which was why it was indeed a miracle of sort when some staff of Ughelli Local Government Council who are being owed more than 16 months salary arrears including some primary school teachers who have been suffocating under the government’s blunt continuous refusal to pay primary school teachers in the state months over five months of salary arrears, burst into momentous ecstasy when the Senator Ovie Omo-Agege empowerment train visited some communities in Ughelli North and Ughelli South Council Areas today (29/07/2017).
Her near impeccable spoken English was all that was required to convince The New Diplomat’s interaction with Mrs. Yellow Omadaja that she is literate. Indeed, she is a teacher in a public primary school in Agbarho, Ughelli North Local Government Council. But at the moment, she shuttles between her school where, according to her, she teaches primary five pupils and the Agbarho main market where she buys and sells tomatoes, pepper and vegetables just to eke a living for herself and her two young daughters. Why? Because Mrs. Yellow who is a widow has not been paid her monthly salary of about N65,000 for over five months.
With tears of joy rolling down her cheeks, Yellow gave a pathetic story of how her land lord has been threatening her with eviction over her failure to pay three months rent arrears of N4,500 per month in her single room apartment. Then suddenly, like manna from heaven, a whopping N20,000 landed on her laps. Her joy knew no bound.
She said: “My brother, I thought it was one of those deceits by politicians which we are used to. But today, what I have in my hands had convinced me that Senator Omo-Agege and APC have the interest of the masses at heart. God will continue to bless Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and the APC for this kind gesture.”
Mrs. Yellow confessed that several teachers in public primary schools in Ughelli North Local Government Area have gone into farming and petty trading to survive the unwarranted hardship imposed on them by the state government’s refusal to pay teachers and Council workers’ salaries for several months. “Many of us have gone into farming; others like me are doing small, small trade just to survive. Some are even here now but they may not want to be identified because of fear. God will bless Omo-Agege”, she said.
If the case of Mrs. Yellow Omadaja was pathetic, that of Mrs. Patricia Oniovosa, a junior staff of Ughelli North Local Government Council typifies the predicament of over 17,000 Council workers throughout Delta State who are being owed an average of 12 months salary arrears across board. The New Diplomat’s investigation has revealed that Local Government staff in the state have taken to all manners of alternative measures for daily survival, including petty trading and farming. Mrs. Oniovosa, a staff of Ughelli North Local Government, like hundreds of her colleagues, has not been paid salary for fourteen months. According to her, she has decided to go into the business of buying and selling of second hand clothes in Agbarho market with N7,000 which an uncle gave to her, adding that she makes an average of N500 to N700 profit from her daily sales which is barely enough to sustain her and her family of three children and a jobless husband.
But more pathetic in her story is the fact that she is diabetic and on a daily medication which saps her meager income from her petty trading regularly. It was in the midst of this predicament that the Senator Omo-Agege Foundation located her in Agbarho market as a potential beneficiary of the Senator’s ‘Thank You’ visits to all parts of Urhobo land. Asked if she expected the N20,000 gesture she got from the Urhobo Senator, Mrs. Oniovosa replied no, adding that she has been used to politicians’ ‘lie lie’ but was surprised that Senator Omo-Agege was different.
“I thank God for Senator Omo-Agege, God go bless am plenty plenty, I thank APC, na good party. I go work for APC”, she kept praising, singing and dancing.
The New Diplomat’s investigation revealed that many Councils staff across the state have gone into petty trading like Oniovosa while others have gone into okada business, farming, among others.