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Exclusive: Okowa Plans To Layoff 568 Workers Of Delta Line Without Payment Of N531m Gratuities Backfire


*As Protesting Workers Shut Down Good Is Good Motors In Delta


Protesting workers have shut down all Good Is Good Motors (GIGM) offices, formerly known as Delta Line Transport Services in Delta state to protest the failure of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led government to pay their outstanding gratuities and other entitlements before their controversial retrenchment.

The protesting workers who seized the premises of the transport line in various locations where Delta Line formerly operated from at the wee hours of the day vowed to continue their protest today (Wednesday) until the Delta state government attend to their demands.

BigPen Online recalls that the management of Good Is Good Motors (GIGM) who buy off 60 percent of the company from Delta state Government at the cost of N161million naira had last week Thursday sacked 568 workers who were engaged by the state government.

The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration, following a recommendation by David Edevbie Committee on privatization had planned to disengaged some certain category of workers in Delta Line to allow the Ajaere family – owners and managers of one of the most successful passenger carrier companies in Nigeria,, (God is Good Motors) have a smooth takeoff in the running of the transport company.

It was gathered that the state government which claimed to have 40 percent equity share in the company had initially planned to disengage only those they claimed where above 60 years of age, or those who have worked for 30 years and above or 55 years old including those that are sick, frail and those with more than 3 queries in their files with fraudulent cases from the nominal pay roll of Delta line before the takeover by GIGM.

But for reason BigPen Online couldn’t immediately verified, the Okowa-led government approved the total sack of all the workers including the 120 staff that were in  category “E” and penciled down as those that would be reassessed to work with God Is Good Motors.

Dependable sources at Government House told BigPen Online that the action of the state government has put paid to report by this medium that Governor Okowa might have outrightly sold off the entire transport company and not the 60/40 partnership they claimed they had with GIGM.

The source queried that if Okowa-led government claimed they still have 40 percent shares in the company, why should GIGM be the one issuing sack letters to employees that they didn’t employed.

Multiple sources from the state including two Commissioners who confided in BigPen Online revealed that Governor Okowa prior to the take over by GIGM only cleared the 2015 backlog salaries which was as from July, August, September and October, and 2018 salaries which started from February, March, April, May respectively, totally about N199million through the Directorate of Transport Account in Zenith bank.

The sources disclosed that the state government did not attend to the outstanding gratuities and other entitlements of the workers which would amount to approximately N531million before they passed the employees to GIGM who then controversially sacked them.

This medium couldn’t independently verified if transfer of liabilities of Delta Transport Services Limited to GIGM was part of the partnership deal which is shrouded in secrecy.

BigPen Online gathered that management of GIGM hurriedly issued the sack letters to the workers, thus undermining the agreed stipulated category of workers to layoff ostensibly because they were trying to evade payment of June salaries.

The source also revealed that the state government was not also ready to pay June salaries hence they hurriedly gave approval for the sack of the workers with no assurance that government was still responsible to the payment of the workers gratuities.

It was gathered that GIGM had earlier intimated the state government that they didn’t have the financial strength to accommodate the workforce of Delta Line which is about 611 staff on the nominal rolls and would reassess about 120 staff who were group under category “E” but for fear of payment of June salaries, they sack all the workers thus grounding their takeoff.

Going by the scenario, GIGM have acted as though they actually buy off the entire Delta Line Company with the contentious sum of N161 million as the deal between them and Delta state government have been kept in secrecy, our source further said.

Dependable sources however revealed that to prove that there is an undercurrent deal which the state government have failed to disclosed to Deltans, GIGM which didn’t employed the workers were the ones issuing sack letters in a company where the state government claimed they have 40 percent.

In the said disengagement letter, according to our source, there is no provision for gratuities for the workers, meaning no pension payment for the staff who had laboured for years in Delta Line Transport Services Limited.

Our source hinted that the state government and GIGM were trying to dodge some of their liabilities hence there was no spell out provision in the sack letters issued by GIGM on who the workers should revert back to for payment of their gratuities.

The source said GIGM came to takeover after the state government merely clear a backlog and started recruiting non-Deltans employees at the expense of Deltans who laboured for the transport company for years as if Delta Line was a private enterprise of Okowa that was sold off.

The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) had said they put forward constructive proposals since 2016 for revitalizing the company. Besides, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on the strength of the AUPCTRE proposals had also submitted a potentially viable investment and management arrangement for the business.

Earlier reports by this medium said the NLC which offered 60% stake as proposed by AUPCTRE, was to facilitate a N2billion investment with support from banks, in order to help return Delta Line services to profitability over a 3-year period and save the jobs of the workers, but the state government rebuffed without any serious consideration.

BigPen Online recalls that Governor Okowa had through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah and his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu said Delta Line was no longer viable hence it was put out for sale.

The governor’s CPS who tried to do “damage control,” after news of the alleged partial sale of the establishment became controversial, had maintained that the state government only divested 60 percent of its equity shares to ensure greater efficiency and improved profitability in the state owned transport service.

Aniagwu had insisted that NLC which claimed they offered N2billion for the partnership apart from bidding late, didn’t have the proven technical, operational and managerial competence to run the company, stressing that the state government was interested in ensuring that Delta Line was run by competent hands that would ensure its continuous existence.

According to him, the MOU for the privatization which was signed last year provided for the retention of the company’s brand identity and identified competent staff, while ensuring the company was brought back to profitability.

He said that GIGM was preferred after individuals and organisations that bid for the company were scrutinized, saying GIGM was found to be commercially, operationally and financially competent to be able to meet the recommendations on improving the transport sector

The State Commissioner for Finance, David Edevbie, the Commissioner for Economic Planning, Kingsley Emu and Okowa’s close ally, Lulu sealed the deal in which Delta Line was partially sold with the sum of N161million to the Ajaere family, owners of God-Is-Good Motors.

Story by Julius Eras-Olabowu