REPORT: The plight of the Street Sweepers in Imo State

Though the government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha is barely two months old, a time not suitable enough to be used in measuring performance in governance, yet every progressive in the state is as much concerned and worried as yours truly is over the waning popularity of the government. I least intend to cast aspersion on the new government by this piece but rather to provide her with the real feelings of the grassroot whom they may be far from now as a tool for strengthening its governace.

This government unlike any other government since 1999, enjoyed the greatest support and goodwill of Imo people and the people in turn expected none other than inclusiveness, rationality and fair treatment from the government. The people also expected the government to keep to her election promises and to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in the state.

The Igbo adage that says “the taste of the feces is known from the smell of the gassing”could probably be responsible for the sudden cloud of apprehension and uncertainty in the minds of the people concerning the government with respect to the policies and actions of the government so far.

Mixed reactions have continued to trail the government’s dissolution spree which some schools of thought perceive as purely vindictive, the creation of a legion of appointees in which most portfolios are irrelevant as against the election promise of pruning down same to reduce cost, the appropriation of N2.7b outside the budget, the abolition of Development centers established by law and its replacement with an unconstitutional Mayorial system, the politicization of the 10,000 job scheme and its consequent controversial review, confinement of appointment within and around the Governor’s, deputy Governor’s relations and lackeys without consideration to competence and capability, the continous defacing of Owerri by heaps of refuse, to mention but a few. Subsequently I will expatiate on these issue but in this one, I intend to look into the pathetic situation of our road sweepers.

The road sweepers mainly constitute women from the down trodden in the society. These women often wake up as early as 4am in order to meet up with the obligation of sweeping the roads we all use, the roads our almighty government officials ride on with their extra-comfort machines and their blaring sirens. In several cases these women have been attacked by hoodlums and miscreants who waylay them at those dangerous wee hours of the day.

An example is one of them who was raped by four men some weeks back around Amakohia area while going to work. These women also abandon their early morning domestic responsibilities (as we know the duties of mothers in the morning, especially those with children) to do this job which they are grossly under paid for, considering the risk involved. It was perplexing to me on Friday to see some famished and hungry looking women rendering curses on the government along weathral road and a probe identified them as our road sweepers.

I found out that these women were owed a month salary by the Udenwa administration, two months by the Ohakim regime and two months by the present regime. According to their account, a certain woman who claimed to have been promised the coordination of the sweepers by Owelle forcefully hijacked the responsibility and fired hundreds of them whom she now replaced with her own people. They alleged that prior to their disengagement, they were asked to re register with N300 which they all did but were still laid off finally.

The replacement of these pitiable road sweepers seemed to be in fulfillment of the biblical injunction that “it shall be taken from those who do not have and given to those who have”, because those who are now given the job are the well to do women who own cars, restaurants, one form of business or the other, but this job is meant to engage the down trodden jobless women folk.

While I suspended my program and ventured into the stadium, I now discovered that these women have been invited severally by the government through different people as new coordinators with promises that they will be paid soonest, but how soon is soonest?. They have been addressed by Victor of Disney hotel, Deputy Governor’s wife, etc, who all claim to be in charge but all to no avail. When the government now discovered that the women were about embarking on a protest, a face saving invitation was hurriedly made to them by the Governor’s wife at the stadium.It was at this point that the women were confused the more without any tangible message. A few of them was counted and the government agents promised to pay them that day but it ended up a farce.

The arrival of August will now make it six months that these women are owed, and I sincerely appeal to the conscience of the government, especially those in charge of this payment to urgently pay these patriotic women. The government should also look into the controversy surrounding those that were sacked and treat the issue with a human face. There can be no greater Imo citizen that the other, it is unfair to bring in politics into everything thing we do. These women have been sweeping the roads for over six years and they do it well, let us instead encourage them.

Written by: Comr. Aku Obidinma


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