Tragedy struck yesterday in Benin when a staff of Esan North East Local Government Council of Edo State slumped and died during a mass protest by members of National Union Local Government Employees (NULGE) from the 18 local governments in the state.
The protesters numbering over 3,000 and attired in black, were protesting non-payment of their accumulated salary arrears when the man, identified as Peter Ayewoh and attached to the Works department of Esan North East local government, suddenly slumped and died.
The workers, who shut down the city centre and created traffic gridlock for almost four hours, later took their protest to the Secretariat of the Edo Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) where their leaders addressed them.
One after the other, the leaders decried the attitude of Governor Adams Oshiomhole to the plight of the workers, alleging that he has abandoned the workers who voted him to power.
Specifically, National Treasurer of NULGE, Joshua Irapakob said if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was willing to pay the workers’ salaries, they were ready to vote for its candidate in the September 10 gubernatorial election, even as he called for unity of purpose among the workers to enable them achieve their cause.
National President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleen, alleged that Oshiomhole used the workers and dumped them after they rallied to elect him into power, adding “that time there was discrimination, no segregation, but because he is exiting power, he believes he can rubbish local government workers”.
He promised that the national secretariat of NULGE would identify with the workers and called for more mobilisation to see the end of the struggle.
“Your plight would be presented to the NLC so that they will know that the man we supported to office is a deviant. The NLC will mobilise to Edo in the spirit of an injury to one, is injury to all”, Khaleen who is also NLC Treasurer, assured, just as he promised that NULGE will be involved in the burial of the dead Council worker.
Earlier, the protesting workers who bore placards with various inscriptions, observed a one minute silence in honour of their departed colleague.