From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
OVER 500 direct workers of the defunct Nigeria Cement Factory, Nigercem, Nkalagu, have been reported dead as a result of nonpayment of salaries and arrears of salaries since the fortune of the foremost cement factory started dwindling in 2002 till date.
Workers of the cement factory who raised the alarm in a press conference in Abakaliki recently alleged that since the problem of the firm located in Nkalagu, Ishielu Council Area of Ebonyi State, many of their colleagues have died out of hunger and frustration and called on the state government to help them before they all perish.
The Chairmen of Senior and Junior Staff Associations, Oliver Ekejiuba and Magnus Ebe, respectively, described the condition of the workers of the defunct cement factory as pitiable. They painted a gory picture of how over 500 direct staff of the company have died out of hunger and frustration as a result of the inability of the core investors and state government to revive the factory and pay them their salaries since 2002.
They said, “we discussed issues of grave concern which include the plight of the workers occasioned by the non-settlement of their outstanding salaries and terminal benefits in full and final discharge. The Nigercem workers’ salaries/terminal benefits have remained unpaid to date resulting in grave suffering and death of over 500 workers constituting 40 per cent of the workforce.”
Ekejiuba and Ebe further lamented that their condition became worse when the Federal Government Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) set up by the then South East governors conceded both assets and liabilities of the cement factory to Eastern Bulkcem Limited, Port Harcourt. The aggreaved workers called on the new core-investor, Ibeto Group, to facilitate the revival of the cement factory with a view to revamping it to be able to settle the workers whom they said are now at his mercy.
“We recall the unparalleled rousing and enthusiastic welcome accorded the new core-investor, Ibeto Group, by both the indigenous community and Nigercem staff and their families and call on him to settle the outstanding arrears of salaries and terminal benefits of our dying colleagues.” They also called on Governor David Umahi and the Federal Government to intensify efforts at reviving the defunct cement factory to enable the workers get their unpaid benefits and increase the revenue base of the state government. The Sun