From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Members of staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), under the aegies of the Joint Consultative Forum of The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), have appealed to the Presidency to restrain security agencies from harassing workers of the agency.
In a joint statement signed by the Chairman Senior Staff Union, Runnson Williams and his counterpart for the Junior Staff Union, Sampson Agbone, the workers expressed their support for the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to fight corruption and deal with the alleged malfeasance in the NDDC.
They stated, however, that they would not support “the undue harassment by security agencies of our Staff who are carrying out their legitimate duties.”
The statement declared: “The Staff of the Commission welcomes both the Forensic Audit and National Assembly Probe as these are mechanisms for ensuring that the Commission does not deviate from its core mandate for improving the human and physical capital development of the Niger Delta Region.
While the Staff support these actions, it is imperative to note that some of the recommendations of the National Assembly reports do not paint the true picture of the activities of the Commission.
“While not being apologists of the Expanded Interim Management Committee, EIMC, it will be wrong to blame the EIMC for paying for inherited liabilities of the NDDC since the activities of the Commission is a continuum”.
The Staff Union said they were particularly worried that workers’ allowances and benefits such as trainings were being called to question, noting that government agencies were structured to operate according to the instruments establishing them.
The statement stated that the NDDC Act 2000 empowered the Governing Board, among other things, “to manage and supervise the affairs of the Commission; make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission; enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions, as well as pay the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as appropriate.”
According to the staff union, the allowances and benefits paid by NDDC were not different from what obtained in other peer organizations in the country and in other climes, stating: “It is, therefore, most uncharitable to blackmail the Commission and the staff on account of duly approved allowances and wages. Issues of Staff refunds of allowances should not be contemplated as no staff violated the Public Service Rules, Staff Terms and Conditions of Service and other extant rules.
“Consequent upon the above, it is imperative to note that all allowances paid to Staff by the Commission, including the Covid-19 palliative and issues bothering on the ILO training are in line with the Act establishing the Commission, Public Service Rules and were provided for in the NDDC Board Approved Staff Terms and Conditions of Service signed by a Tripartite Committee which includes Management, the NDDC Union under the guidance of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
“Therefore, the payment of Covid-19 palliative was the Commission’s proactive economic stimulus plans and workplace measure to protect the health and the income of workers and their families and stabilize the real economy. This is not peculiar to NDDC and its employees. Nevertheless, contending with Covid-19 globally was an emergency that was hardly anticipated”.