Umahi Locks Out Workers, Protesters Retaliate

Dave Umahi, minister of Works

There was apprehension at the Ministry of Works, Abuja, on Thursday as protesting civil servants grounded activities after the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, locked out over 300 staff and directors who resumed work late.

The public servants, expressing their displeasure, also confined the minister to his office, demanding an apology from him.

Earlier, the minister upon resumption at 9.30am was said to have prevented workers who came to work late from gaining access to the ministry for over four hours.

However, after the gate was opened, the workers, comprising of both Housing and Works ministries, refused to enter the ministry and resorted to an impromptu protest, barricading the entrance gates.

Our correspondent gathered that they also prevented entry and exit into the building, thereby preventing the minister from leaving the office to receive the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who came to the headquarters on a courtesy visit.

One of the affected staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that workers were shocked over Umahi’s action, arguing that he did not take into cognisance the current hardship in the country and the fact that most staff reside in areas outside the city centre.

The staff said, “The minister, upon resumption around 9.30am, instructed security officers to lock the gate.

“Over 300 staff members, including some directors, were asked to stay outside and even when we tried to enter, the gatemen said it was on the order of the minister and nobody should enter the premises.

“Eventually, we had to call our colleagues who were already inside to inform them of what had happened. They came outside to join us, blocked the road and everywhere became rowdy.

“Even the Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had to turn back because of the crowd.

“After about four hours, the minister came down to address us, apologising that he didn’t give any directive.

“The union leaders had put off the lights so no one could do anything and that’s why everyone had no choice but to come outside.”

Giving further details, another staff said it was insensitive for the minister to lock out workers, hinting that the situation would have degenerated if the minister didn’t apologise.

“To me, it was insensitive for the minister to have done such a thing even though he denied it. Everyone in the country is just managing. Most of our workers stay very far from town and it is sad all of these happened today.”

Following the protest, which lasted hours, Umahi, while apologising, promised to consider some of the complaint made regarding the high cost of transportation.

He also urged the workers to support the transformative innovation of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration and urged them not to join the planned nationwide strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress.

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