Serious trouble at the Lagos office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, as some of the ad hoc registration officials damaged the commission’s equipment in a bid to drive home their demand for better payment.
They claimed that INEC promised to pay them above N3,000 daily in the registration of voters in Lagos, but reneged on the agreement on the last day of the exercise.The youths said the commission instead announced it could only afford N2,000. The protesters, who numbered about 800 were attached to the Lagos Mainland area of the state. They had first converged on the Yaba secretariat of INEC to register their grievances. They came in no fewer than 10 commercial buses and private cars, carrying demonstration placards, some of which read, “Pay us our correct money, which is N5,000 per day”, “INEC, there is God o” and “N2,000 is too small”.
They were on their way to the commission’s headquarters on Birrel Avenue, Sabo, when they swooped on a registration point in the area and smashed some of the equipment. Nobody was injured during the fracas.
They vowed to continue with the demonstration until INEC acceded to their request.
An ex-corps member, Oluwatosin Agbaje, said, “How can somebody work from 7am to 7pm and he will be paid N2,000?
“No transport allowance, no feeding allowance, no security. We risked our lives to do this job and yet, somebody wants to pay us N2,000. It’s not fair.”
Another protester, Chukwuleta Samuel, said the agreement they had with INEC was that they would be paid above N3,000.
He said, “Right from the beginning, we asked how much they would pay us for the Permanent Voters Cards’ distribution and they said N3,000. However, they paid for only three days out of the four days that we worked.
“When we were about to start the Continuous Registration Exercise, they assured us they would pay above N3, 000 for that one because it was more rigorous than the PVCs distribution.
“So, how can they suddenly change their mind and pay a paltry sum of N2,000 in a country like Nigeria?”
Dapo Owolabi, who said he had been registering residents of Oyingbo unit, said he believed INEC tricked them by not being specific on the amount they would pay despite their insistence on a mutual agreement.
He said they fought hard before they were paid for the PVCs distribution.
“I am a married man. I expect a good earning for my service. What do I tell my family when I get back home? And it was just today they are giving us this bad news,” he added.
Von Adesoji, another protester, said they were insisting on N5,000 because it was the least they could collect.
He alleged that their approved money from Abuja had been tampered with.
An official of INEC was said to have met with four representatives of the protesters for a discussion at the state secretariat.
The official, who was identified simply as Alhaji, allegedly attempted to bribe two of the representatives with N2, 000 and a bottle of an alcoholic drink.
One of the representatives, Mustapha Rasak, said, “I was bribed with Origin (an alcoholic drink) and N2, 000. I rejected the money, but collected the drink. When I got outside, I burst the drink in the presence of everybody.
“Look at me; I came from the Ojo Local Government Area everyday for this exercise. I worked for two days out of three, and they didn’t pay me anything. I spent much on transport everyday.”
When approached the electoral officer in charge of the Lagos Mainland, Oluwole Alagbe, he declined comment, saying he would not address the press.
But the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Adekunle Ogunmola, told our correspondent that there was no substance in the protest.
He, however, acknowledged that the Mainland electoral officer made a mistake by not informing the ad hoc workers of their wages.
He said, “Honestly, if you don’t want to heat up the polity unnecessarily, there is no substance in this. I spoke with their representatives that the money is N2,000 per day. But they said they heard from Ogun State that it was N5,000. I showed them documents to prove it. Even our permanent staff members who joined them for the exercise were given N1,000.
“In places where the electoral officer informed the ad hoc officials of their entitlements before the exercise, we did not have any problem. But the electoral officer for Lagos Mainland confessed to me that he forgot to tell them.”
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