The Nigeria Civil Service Union, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has called on contractors protesting non-payment of projects executed in 2018 to embrace dialogue.
The chairman of the union, Mr Leon Esebanme, made the call at the Joint Mediation Council meeting on Wednesday in Abuja.
Esebanme at the meeting, which comprised six trade unions in the ministry, said there was no disputing the fact that there was contractual liability accruing from projects executed in 2018.
He, however, urged the contractors not to resort to disruption of official activities by picketing the ministry, saying it would not solve the problem.
He said from interactions with management of the ministry, measures were already in place to ensure that the debt was cleared.
According to him, picketing the ministry and stopping members of staff from accessing their offices would only prolong the process.
“We are here because we are a responsive body represented by six trade unions and we are here today to help find solution to the conflict between management and the contractors.
“We cannot be here and allow things go wrong. We know that the contractors, who have been supporting the ministry to grow have been agitating for payment due since 2018.
“We understand their plight because some of them have been with us for a long time and were always duly paid.
“We also know that some of the contractors took credit facilities from financial institutions and are finding it difficult to meet their obligations.
“We have approached management on resolving the matter and machineries to effect payment is in progress.
“We all know the management cannot sign documents without studying them because the debt was not incurred by the present management.
“It is unfortunate that this is happening now and it shows there is no perfect system anywhere in the world and when it happens understanding is necessary.
“Unfortunately, the agitation has taken a new turn, leading to security concerns. We see strange faces at the premises every day in the name of agitation for payment.
“Some days ago, workers were scampering for safety because the strange faces were scaling fences.
“We therefore appeal to both parties to sit at a roundtable to settle the matter and we are sure that this government is responsive and focused on delivering on their mandate,” he said.
Esebanme, while calling for peace, patience and understanding, said the
outcome of the meeting would be conveyed to the contractors and management.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that contractors executing projects for the ministry, had recently staged protests at the ministry, demanding payment for contracts executed.
The contractors, who alleged that they were being owed to the tune of N17billion from projects executed in 2018, said the payment was overdue.
Meanwhile, the Director Information, Mr Theodore Ogaziechi in a recent statement on behalf of the ministry, noted that it was not unmindful of the outstanding liabilities owed contractors.
“The ministers and Permanent Secretary inherited these liabilities and are in the process of compiling and verifying all outstanding contract liabilities,” he said.
He appealed for patience, understanding and cooperation those concerned to enable the ministry complete the process to forward outcome to Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for further action.