Thugs believed to be sympathetic to the Bayelsa State government attacked a peaceful protest in Yenagoa on Tuesday led by the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Medical and Health Workers Union (MHWUN), demanding salary arrears and alleging diversion of the federal government's bailout funds in Bayelsa State.
The thugs resorted to violence as they manhandled the protesting workers, including journalists who covered the protest.
Local government workers in the State were owed between five and seven months’ salary arrears despite the fact that the Bayelsa State government obtained federal government bailout funds meant to offset salaries in States owing workers.
According to a statement issued after the protest by the Joint Council of NULGE and MHWUN, the protest was in line in the struggle to improve the welfare of workers in the State.
The statement was signed by Mr. Tonye Jaja, NULGE, and Mr. Arafat Nwibani of MHWUN.
"We are demanding that the affected Chairmen of Councils and the Commissioner for Local Government should immediately pay from the bailout funds workers of the affected councils to avoid unpleasant consequences and sustain the peaceful industrial atmosphere in the system.
"We unequivocally demand for the full payment of the salary of March; we demand the release of LGAs’ allocations to the councils immediately," the statement stated.
Journalists were beaten up by the thugs with some sustaining injuries and losing their valuables, including cash and gadgets.
One of the victims, Mr. John Odhe, a reporter with the State-owned newspaper, Newwave, said his experience was a horrible one.
"It was like a movie as the thugs descended on us and started manhandling us with planks and stones,” Mr. Odhe said.
“Thankfully, I managed to escape.”