As Gov’t Fails To Pay Allowances For Six Months
Armed Police and military officers, were yesterday deplored to take over the Ashanti Regional office of the Forestry Commission, after some beneficiaries of the Youth in Agriculture and Afforestation programme, attempted to storm the premises to present their grievances over unpaid allowances.
The demonstration, appears coordinated as beneficiaries of the programme in the Eastern Regional Capital, Koforidua, also picketed yesterday at the Regional Office of the Forestry Commission, over the delayed allowances and the selective manner some of the payments are done by the officers.
This comes, months after they were paraded in Kumasi by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie alias “Sir John” and made to thank President Akufo-Addo with placards, song and appellations for giving them jobs.
While, the Koforidua protesters, were allowed to stage the protest and raised concerns over unspecified contract duration, poor working condition among others in a petition they presented, those in Kumasi, could not have their way as a result of the heavily armed soldiers and policemen.
The armed officers led by the Deputy Ashanti Regional Police Commander, ordered the angry beneficiaries to disperse from the converging point, because they did not notify the regional command before embarking on the exercise.
DCOP Fred Adu Anim, therefore, ordered them to disperse or the police will forcefully disperse them.
They were forced to converge about 100 meters away from the Forestry Commission office and prevented from entering the premises.
The main entrance was also locked amidst the heavy presence of armed police officers.
The youth, said they were not demonstrating, but were there to present their grievances to management, some of them who spoke to the media said, life has become unbearable for them.
“We’ve been working for close to six months without any salary or allowance. Are we not human beings? We completed universities, we were issued appointment letters, we went to farms and picked cutlasses to work. We are here to tell them to pay us our salaries. That’s all,” one of the aggrieved beneficiaries said.
“The police say we didn’t write to them. We are not on demonstration, so we don’t need any permit from the police. If you are a staff in a company and you are going to management to pay you, do you need to write to them? It is very disheartening. What Ghana police is doing is not fair,” another one added.
Meanwhile, the Ashanti Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission, Thomas Okyere, says he is surprised at the action of the beneficiaries.
“Nobody informed us. But we had the information that they are planning for this demonstration. And so we also had to prepare. We have government property here, so we can’t allow them to come and maybe vandalize anything.”
“We’ve paid them July, it’s left with August, September, October, November. It’s not even up to five. It’s four. I can’t say for sure when they will be paid, because we have done our part here. We normally collate the necessary sheets,
forward them to Accra, and these people are paid through e-zwich accounts. Even if they are paid, I wouldn’t know unless they tell us. I’m actually surprised at their action, because we are always in contact with them. We have our own supervisors who normally visit them at the various sites and talk to them. When government owes you, it will definitely pay.”
In Koforidua, the beneficiaries, revealed that they have not been paid for the last five months and in some cases, six months.
“We know that, your able office is aware of how beneficiaries in this region are committed to making this project a success and we have been working very hard even though our allowances are not forthcoming for over five months and in some cases six months now,” they said in their petition.
Their petition highlighted further that “beneficiaries who started work from the month of May, have still not received their allowances for that month, even though it was said to have been paid. The same applies to others for the month of June and July respectively”.
They have given a December 7, 2018 ultimatum for the arrears to be paid in a petition presented by Regina Aku Dzamashie, leader of the aggrieved YIA beneficiaries received by the Assistant Regional Manager of Forestry Commission, Haward Manso.
“We therefore wish to use your able office as Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission to call on the necessary authorities to immediately and as a matter of urgency pay all monthly allowances, including any arrears due us by Friday 7th December,2018 else we will advise ourselves”.
In the petition, they also raised concerns over unspecified contract duration, poor working condition and dictatorial manner in handling attendance and time sheet, as some of the concerns they want addressed.
In October, CEO of the Forestry Commission, called on beneficiaries of the Youth in Afforestation Program to exercise patience over their delayed allowances.
He said, his outfit was aware of the delay in the payment of allowances, but was working to have the monies paid as soon as possible.
This was after beneficiaries of the programme in the Eastern Region, threatened to embark on series of demonstrations citing the non-payment of their allowance and poor working conditions.
Prior to that, several others in the Greater Accra and other areas, had also protested the non-payment of allowances.
Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, in a Citi News interview, said some of the beneficiaries, have enrolled on other government youth intervention programmes and may be receiving double allowances, and so his outfit has expunged their names from the commission’s register.
He said, beneficiaries with the right records have been paid up to July, and his outfit is working hard to get funds to pay the August and September allowances.