The Kogi state government on Tuesday refuted reports that nine of its workers died due to the non-payment of salaries in the state.
The Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Publicity, Jacob Edi, said in a statement that the reports were “totally false, borne out of ignorance as well as mischief on the part of the reporters and the said workers”.
He said the company that employed the unpaid staff was liquidated in 2011 and at that time, incumbent Governor Idris Wada was not at the helm.
He further explained that the law establishing the state transport company “states clearly that workers of the company were not civil servants but staff of the organisation employed by the management of the company”.
Mr. Edi said the law also stated that the state government would only provide take-off capital for the company.
He said after the liquidation of the company, workers deployed from various ministries, departments and agencies were returned to their original offices to continue their civil service careers.
He explained that the state governor, Mr. Wada, “has never contemplated the option of retrenching workers in the state civil service despite the financial challenges facing the state because of his humane and godly posture”.
Mr. Edi was reacting to widespread reports three days ago suggesting that nine of the 142 staff placed on compulsory leave without pay since 2011 by the Kogi State Transport Company had died.
Two colleagues of the deceased persons, Ndakwo Mohammed and Anate Audu, made that known in a statement circulated to journalists in Lokoja on Sunday.
Messrs Mohammed and Audu said a number of their colleagues were also facing life-threatening situations. They said the workers, who had put in years of services, ranging from 10 to 23 years, were facing untold hardship with their health failing because they neither had money to feed nor to pay for medical treatment.
“Many of us have been ejected out of our houses and our children chased out of schools due to our inability to pay rents and schools fees,” the statement said.
All efforts to seek redress through the intervention of the state house of assembly and several letters to Governor Wada, were unsuccessful, the workers said.
The Kogi State Transport Company had, through a circular dated June 30, 2011 and signed by its General Manager, Augustine Tokula, directed all the 142 members of staff of the company to immediately proceed on compulsory leave without pay.
The fate of the workers have since then been hanging in the balance as the government has remained silent on the matter. Messrs Mohammed and Audu appealed to the state government to take a definite position on their matter, saying that they could no longer live with their present condition.
The workers also indicated their plans to embark on peaceful protests on major streets of Lokoja. The State Security Service and the police have been notified of the plan, the workers said.