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Protest erupts at works ministry as Umahi locks out late workers

There was apprehension at the Works ministry on Thursday as protesting civil servants grounded activities after the minister, Dave Umahi, locked out over 300 staff and directors who resumed work late.

The public servants expressing their displeasure also confined the minister to his office, demanding an apology.

It was gathered that Umahi prevented workers who came late to work from gaining access to the ministry for over four hours after he arrived at 9:30am.

However, after the gate was opened, the workers, comprising of both Housing and Works Ministry, refused to enter the ministry and resorted to a protest.

Our correspondent gathered that they also prevented entry and exit into the building thereby preventing the minister from leaving the office to receive the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, who came to the headquarters on a courtesy visit.

Pictures obtained by our correspondent showed Islamic adherents observing prayers in front of the ministry gate.

As of the time when our correspondent visited, normalcy has returned area and everyone has resumed back to their various offices.

One of the affected workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the workers were shocked over Umahi’s action, arguing that he did not take into cognisance the current hardship in the country and the fact that most staff reside in areas outside the city centre.

The staff said, “The minister upon resumption around 9:30 am instructed security officer to lock the gate.

“Over 300 staff including some directors were asked to stay outside and even when we tried to enter, the gatemen said it was on the order of the minister and nobody should enter the premises.

“Eventually, we had to call our colleagues who were already inside to inform them of what had happened. They came outside to join us, blocked the road and everywhere became messy.

“Even the governor of Lagos, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu, had to turn back because of the crowd.

“After about four hours, the minister came down to address us apologising that he didn’t give any directive.

“The union leaders had put off the lights so no one could do anything and that’s why everyone had no choice but to come outside.”

Giving further details, another staff said it was insensitive for the minister to lock out workers, hinting that the situation would have degenerated into something if the minister didn’t apologise.

“To me, it was insensitive for the minister to have done such thing even though he denied it. Every one in the country is just managing. Most of our workers stay very far from town and it is sad all of these happened today.”

According to a staff who didn’t want his name on print, Umahi, while apologising, promised to consider some of the complaints made regarding the high cost transportation.

He also urged the workers to support the transformative innovation of the Tinubu-led administration and urged them not to join the planned nationwide strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress.