Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson's Health Commissioner is being accused of extortion and an employment scam by State health workers

Scores of health workers at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, filed a petition this weekend against the State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ayibatonye Owei, alleging his involvement in extortion and employment scams in the State.

The health workers, including medical doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians, acccused Mr. Owei of illegally demanding one month's worth of pay out of the six months of arrears recently paid to them by the federal government.

According to the health workers, the accused health commissioner had last week summoned the affected workers into the conference room of the State Ministry of Health and demanded that one month pay out of the six months paid by the federal ministry of health be remitted to a special account opened with the Stanbic IBTC in the State.

One of the affected workers, who pleaded anonymity, said, "At the emergency meeting called by the Commissioner of Health, all our mobile phones were seized to avoid us putting him on record. We demanded to know what the money was meant for but he said it is official directive."

The affected workers then filed a petition before the Code of Conduct Bureau, and are planning to send a copy to the Nigerian Police and the EFCC. While some State Health Ministry Staff who pleaded for anonymity suggested that the diverted one month of pay may be for legitimate bureaucratic purposes, others saw the demands for money without official notice shady and suspicious.

The Vice Chairman of the Health Workers Association at the FMC, Stanley Disi, said his organization had not seen the report, but "if such illegal demands are made, it is not right. These persons were employed and have stayed six months without salary. They should be allowed to do their work in peace."

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