Business activities were yesterday paralysed at the Ministry of Power, Works & Housing
, as protesting workers blocked the major road leading to its Mabuchi District, Abuja headquarters, calling for the sack of the Minister, Babatunde Fashola, and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Abubakar, Magaji.
The protest, which commenced on Wednesday, degenerated into disruption of business activities at the ministry, following the arrest of two in-house union leaders – Aliyu Abdulazeez and Sam Apeh.
Abdulazeez, chairman, Nigeria Civil Service Union and his secretary, Apeh, were said to have been arrested by the Police on the order of the minister.
They were picked up around 6 a.m., when they were mobilising for the continuation of the protest.
The protesters, consisting of workers from the two arms of the ministry-Works and Housing, were protesting poor condition of service, alleged high-handedness and aloofness of the minister and the permanent secretary.
They also launched a scathing attack on both heads of the ministry, accusing them of serious financial infractions.
For instance, while the minister was accused of buying over 20 Prado Jeeps for his aides who followed him from Lagos, the permanent secretary was said to have allegedly spent ministry’s money to sponsor some of his cronies to Lesser Hajj.
The workers also alleged that Fashola deliberately refused to sign C of O since he became minister, thereby denying the Federal Government the needed revenue.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards displayed by the protesters read: “The President should order external auditor to come and audit the finances of the ministry”, “All the contractors handling major projects are Magaji’s friends”, “No more corruption, it must stop!
The permanent secretary was smuggled out of the ministry around 11 a.m., when policemen drafted to the scene could not control the surging crowd, who blocked all the entrances.
Chairman, Joint Union Council, Works and Housing, Alaka Olumuyiwa, who later spoke to our correspondent, chronicled some of the allegations levied against both the minister and the permanent secretary.
He said the permanent secretary had brought the ministry to its knee because of his penchant for dishonesty and deception.
According to Olumuyiwa, since Magaji assumed office in February this year, he had been treating the welfare of staff with scorn.
He said: “There are a lot of issues in contention. When this man joined us in February, it has been lies upon lies.
“And in terms of welfare, he has deliberately refused to pay burial benefits, first 28 days and promotion arrears. Even our staff that have retired have not been paid.
“This is October, we have not started any training and we heard that money has been released for that purpose. The ministry is stagnant.
Olumuyiwa also lamented the merging of Works and Housing ministries under the same headship, insisting that the housing sector had been neglected on account of that.
He called for appointment of a new minister to head the Housing Ministry, saying Fashola was incapable of managing the two all-important ministries.
A reliable source, however, countered some of the allegations, saying that the workers were protesting because it was no longer business as usual in the ministry.
For instance, he denied the allegation that the permanent secretary used ministry money to sponsor cronies to Lesser Hajji, insisting that the issue of pilgrimage was a personal thing.
On the allegation that the minister bought vehicles for his aides, the source said the vehicles in question were for execution of projects.
It was learnt however that the arrested union leaders had been released.