Peter Dada, Akure
Drama ensued on the premises of the Ondo State Football Agency in Akure on Tuesday as workers of the agency allegedly held the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Saka Yusuf-Ogunleye, hostage for about three hours.
Our correspondent learnt that the workers were protesting against the non-payment of their salaries for over 20 months by the state government.
According to eyewitnesses, the commissioner visited the agency to address the workers on the need to appear for the payroll verification to enable the government to determine the number of workers at ODSFA.
It was learnt that immediately the commissioner entered the premises, the workers shut the gate and insisted that he would not go out until their salaries were paid.
It was also learnt that the workers accused Yusuf-Ogunleye of being overbearing.
A source said, “Immediately the commissioner entered the premises, the workers chanted, ‘pay our salaries’, ‘we don’t want to hear anything, just pay our salaries’.
“The angry workers would have manhandled the commissioner if his security aides didn’t respond quickly.”
One of the protesters, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the government was not sincere about the verification.
He explained the government conducted three of such exercises in the past, with some workers fired.
The source said, “We held the commissioner hostage for about three hours because he does not allow our chairman work independently and he did not do anything about our salaries.
“Instead of talking about our salaries, he said we should go for another verification before we could be paid. The government did three verifications for us but nothing came out of them. They sacked some workers and brought in their people. That means they are not sincere.”
After the uproar, it was learnt that the commissioner held a closed-door meeting with the management and representatives of the workers for some hours. Sources said the workers agreed with the commissioner on the exercise.
However, a source in the agency told our correspondent that the workers vowed to continue protesting until they are paid by the state government.
Yusuf-Ogunleye said he went to the agency to meet with the management of the agency to discuss how to pay the workers.
He denied getting some workers in through the back door, saying he employed those whose services are needed in the agency.
He said, “We owe them (workers) 20 months’ salaries. I said we must do a verification to know the number of staff and the amount of money we are owing the workers. We also discovered that some disengaged workers had found their way back to the agency.
“As I entered, they started shouting, and did not allow me to talk. But at the end of the day, I was able to address them, they now realise that we should do the verification. If they are complaining that I don’t allow the agency to be independent, what is more important is how to pay them. That is why I said I must investigate what is going on there.”