By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has responded swiftly to Tuesday frontline workers’ protest that erupted at the Hospital Management Board (HMB) in Benin City over the non-payment of their entitlements which have generated much hoopla among supporters of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the September 19, 2020 Governorship election in the State.
Reacting to the the drunken mob who accompanied who joined the protesters temporarily engaged in screening and testing for Coronavirus (COVID-19) lunged at the entrance of the HMB, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the taskforce was demobilised after the state exceeded its target to screen and test over 500,000 and 5,000 persons respectfully.
The Governor’s aide who disclosed this on Tuesday in a statement, assured that the delay in payment of allowances was as a result of the vetting of the list of volunteers and other frontline workers, which would be resolved within the week.
According to Osagie: “The screening exercise was massive and crosscutting. The officials were inundated with lists of persons, who were said to have participated in the exercise. So, we are carefully vetting the lists before making the final payment. The outstanding allowances would be paid before the end of the week,” he said.
“The taskforce for the screening exercise was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government, upon the outbreak of the pandemic in the state, based its response on the data polled from an epidemiological study done in partnership with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH). This led to the setting up of a taskforce to embark on a massive screening and testing of 500,000 and 5000 persons across the State.
“The target has been achieved and surpassed. This has led to the modification of our response to the pandemic. With this, the taskforce was demobilised across the screening centres at mobile posts, borders and several other locations”, he said.
Condemning the non-payment of allowances to the workers, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu on Tuesday in a statement signed by the Director of Communication and Media of his Campaign Organization, John Mayaki, described the actions of the Edo State Government towards the “patriotic” screening team as “callous, inhumane, and unacceptable” amid allegations of the Governor’s alleged 15 billion naira payment to the PDP for its primaries and ticket.
He demanded immediate payment of the three months allowances alongside a public statement of apology by the state government and reassured the screening team of his solidarity and support to ensure that all their demands are met without any retributive actions.
Ize-Iyamu said in the statement that: “We observed today with concern the protest staged by young men and women of our state engaged by the Obaseki-led Edo State Government to form the mobile team that conducted screenings for COVID-19 in Edo State over Governor Godwin Obaseki’s refusal to pay their due allowances for three full months.”
“These people are patriotic citizens who carried out an important assignment, at great risk to their own personal health, which proved crucial in the fight against the viral disease in the state. To see them subjected to such indignity and inhumane treatment by the Obaseki-administration is saddening and extremely disappointing.”
“We find it especially odious and unacceptable that this is happening while Governor Godwin Obaseki is widely credited to have caused a ‘money rain’ in the PDP with a particular media report and EFCC petition alleging that he spent 15 billion naira on the PDP tax collectors and delegates to secure the party’s governorship ticket.”
“While his new-found allies in the PDP celebrate a new dawn of cash supply from questionable sources, responsible and dutiful workers on the payroll of the state such as the COVID-19 mobile screening team are left unpaid in the middle of an economic disruption that has caused a price hike in the cost of basic goods.
“…We demand the immediate payment of all allowances due to the mobile screening team with an attendant public statement of apology to them and other members of the public for the government’s insensitivity and callous treatment.
“We wish to express our solidarity with the protestors as they struggle for what is rightfully theirs and convey our commitment to ensure that all their demands are met quickly and without retributive actions feared by some with knowledge of the tyrannical tendencies of the Obaseki-administration”, the statement said.