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For 13 months, these health workers in Ondo State have been denied their Salaries

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“We have been suffering for the past 1 year”

When Moshood Arowolo*, 40, received his appointment letter from the Ondo state government, he was happy that the long recruitment process yielded success. 

He looked forward to creating an impact in the state’s debilitating health sector and securing an improved life for himself. 

A government job usually guarantees job security, so he made long-term plans like relocating his family from Akure to his new place of work, a hospital in Ore. He rented a new flat and changed his children’s school. 

It is more than a year into the job and the transition to a new life has become ‘unbearable’. 13 months since resuming to their respective offices, Moshood and 24 others that were employed in the same batch have not been paid a single dime of their salaries. 

The exempt one amidst them secretly had her salaries paid all the while. 

Having wandered through pains and the despair of working for more than a year without getting paid, this group of workers are tired and exhausted. They would give everything to have their money issue resolved. 

False claims of illegal appointment

NewsWireNGR gathered from the group that the reason they have been denied their salary since resumption is because the Head of Service in Ondo State,  Mr Dare Aragbaye has continuously refused to sign a needed E-pass form to draft them into the salary structure of the civil service. 

The HOS claims that the appointment by the former HOS in the person of Barrister Akinkuotu was illegal. 

“These claims by Mr Aragbaye are false,” says the spokesman of the group. “We were employed following due process of procurement by the civil service. We were offered appointment letters which were duly signed by the Permanent Secretary of the State’s Health management board, Dr Adeniran Ikuomola. We have our documents to prove this.” 

“We were rightfully employed, but the HOS has refused us our salaries”

The group said the assertion by Aragbaye does not hold water because they completed all the required processes and they only resumed work after receiving their letter of appointment. They never knew of the existence of an e-pass form until four months into working and not receiving salaries. 

The 26 Health workers include Pharmacists, Doctors, Lab Technicians and other professional health workers

The former HOS, Barrister Akinkuotu was truly the one that handled the recruitment process but due to a rushed resignation, he couldn’t sign the e-pass form to fully integrate them before his tenure expired. So it was meant to be a mere continuity exercise for the incoming HOS.

When NewsWireNGR spoke to Barrister Akinkuotu, the former HOS over the phone, he said that the appointment was legal and the 26 appointed were legal employees of the government. 

He gave a background that the appointments were consequential appointments and they fulfilled all the conditions. 

“Everything I did in service was legitimate. The HOS doesn’t appoint, he can only process, and that appointment was legal . 

At the point of recruitment, we had some emergency vacancies in the system. 

The government approved the appointments, and it dragged for some time before it was finally completed.”

Akinkuotu continues that apart from the list being legal, the appointments were even based on merit. 

“There was not a single person from my town (Ondo town). In fact, there was an Igbo lady to show that the whole process was transparent and fair to all people.”

Tyranny in Ondo state’s Civil Service

“26 of us were employed in the same recruitment process but one of us has been collecting her salary because of her (an alleged) relationship with the HOS while the rest of us are still pleading with him to sign the form” 

Those are the words of one of these 25 as he lamented the nepotic and unfair regime of the HOS.  

“We have sent different people to go meet him. At some point, we reached out to the Governor to meet him and discuss our travails with the man. But even the Governor could not solve our problem because of their perceived closeness. 

No one seems to be able to talk to him or stop him from turning the civil service to his playground.”

After the first five months of working and not receiving salaries, the group went to the HOS to find a solution to the e-pass form. He chided them, told them they were employed illegally and asked them to go meet the former HOS and Permanent Secretary of the Hospital Management Board that appointed them. 

When the group continued to pressure him, he summoned the PS to bring their files and explain their legality. Despite the PS producing the documents and submitting the photocopies of their files to prove their legality, he remained adamant that he won’t sign the e-pass form. 

The situation frustrated the group, but they continued to intensify their efforts. And not long after, they discovered they may be at the receiving end of bad blood within the state’s civil service bosses. 

Since Aragbaye resumed the position of HOS, he never shied away from proving his superiority at even the detriment of the civil servants in the state. 

The HOS is primarily responsible for the welfare of all the civil servants of the state as well as everything that happens in the civil service. If he noticed that a group of workers were employed illegally, he should have taken steps to terminate this illegal appointment or reached out to all parties involved in the process. 

But he never did that. He merely let them continue going to their workplaces and refusing them their salaries for 13 months. 

The former HOS holds this position and told NewsWireNGR that if Aragbaye isn’t just after punishing these innocent workers, he should have at least queried them or call him as the past HOS to inquire about the appointment. But he has done nothing except just refused to sign the document and denied these adults with family responsibilities their hard earned money. 

Unpaid salaries has consequences

Denying an employee his salary is technically and legally a breach of contract. The moment these employees were handed their appointment letters, it became mandatory to integrate them into the salary board. By refusing to sign their e-pass form without any concrete reason, the HOS and the state government become liable before the law. 

It should be noted that the HOS is not acting in an individual capacity, he is a representative of the Ondo state government and as long as he refuses these staff their payment; he continues to drag the dignity of the state through the mud. 

When the Governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu ran for office in 2016, many people supported his mandate because of his posturing as a gentleman’s Lawyer from Ibadan. But as he seeks re-election in less than 3 months, many civil servants are rethinking their stance and debating if he truly deserves a second mandate based on what they describe as a failed approach to governance. 

This failed approach they said, is exemplified in how the health workers in Ondo state are on strike over unpaid salaries, how he showed little concern to resolve the e-pass form issue and how the HOS can act as he pleases without respect for the state’s authority. 

In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic that has rocked the world and caused increased economic hardship for the majority, this group of 25 workers are at the brick of collapse as their side businesses have suffered and their access to support aids diminishes by the day. 

These are statements from some unpaid workers 

“We are suffering. We have been suffering for more than a year” 

“I am tired. Tired of waiting, tired of excuses, tired of not knowing what to do next. I have been working as a scientific officer under Hospital Management Boards, Ondo State without being paid my monthly salary since last year June 2019.

I keep borrowing from friends and family; I have to borrow to survive until the salary will be paid, then when it is paid, I will have to use the money to settle debts. 

I can’t feed myself, I can’t help anybody, I can’t pay my rent, I can’t do anything. Most times it is difficult to go to work, but I still have to go. You can imagine someone without a salary for 15months, how do you want me to survive?

Getting a job and receiving an appointment letter should be a thing of Joy but why is mine otherwise? Why do I deserve this?? Why am I in this mess?

If I leave now, where do I start from?” 

“It was exciting news when I heard my appointment letter and posting was ready over a year ago. I even gave testimony in my church to celebrate what the Lord did in my life. But right now after a year and 2 months it’s not looking like a testimony at all. Feeding a family of 2 children without a paid salary and I keep working every day! Sometimes I get depressed with lots of sleepless nights and I still can’t see any hope nor a ray of hope. What have I done to deserve this? My wife got pregnant shortly before I collected my appointment letter, and now our baby is 6 months old. This is not life.”

“During this thirteen (13) month of non-payment of salaries, it hasn’t been easy on me at all, it has really made life unbearable for me. My sister depends on me for mostly everything, but working without being paid has really affected us greatly and is still affecting us. It really got so bad that I went as far as begging my friends for money when I don’t know what else to do. It got so bad that my mum was sick, but I didn’t have money to take care of her until my brothers came in. To cut it short, it  has really been bad to stay that long working without being paid.”

Efforts to reach the present Head of Service, Mr Dare Aragbaye and the Permanent Secretary of state’s Health Management Board, Dr Adeniran Ikuomola proved abortive. 

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