“Anietie Ukpe lied to you! We are the unemployed workforce of AKBC” – Artistes Reply Gov. Emmanuel

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“Anietie Ukpe lied to you! We are the unemployed workforce of AKBC” – Artistes Reply Gov. Emmanuel

…say they have not been staffed after 15 years

…threaten to down tools

Priscilla Christopher

A vast number of casual workers also known as Artistes in the Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC) have expressed fury at the Director General of the Corporation, Pst Anietie Ukpe for misrepresenting and deceiving them to believe that the State Government was concretizing plans to authenticate their incorporation into the organization.

The Artistes who had their jaws drop at Governor Emmanuel’s response to a question at the Friday, June 11, 2021 parley with journalists in the state, were taken aback to learn that Anietie Ukpe had never taken their case to the State’s Chief executive after several meetings held with him and the assurances he had been giving them that hope was coming their way.

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“Don’t cry more than the bereaved. AKBC is supposed to be competing with CNN and other people… If you’re telling me that AKBC is not training, then ill query the DG. But if you say they should keep recruiting individuals, No, not at all, we are getting into the digital transmission system where one man can sit with his iPad and be controlling the entire interface so, you don’t need so much of human efforts. That is why you can never hear the DG of AKBC complaining of human beings. He will not, because he has enough people”, Governor Udom Emmanuel said.

Following this proclamation, the Artistes who confided in this reporter expressed disbelief that the DG could play with their emotions and pain despite unburdening their years of woe to him in trust.

“We have been with this organization for more than 10 years without being formally absorbed as staff. We do all the work in the organization and earn Ten to Fifteen Thousand at the end of the month as family men and women yet, they owe use terribly. Our stipend for October 2020 was just paid recently. We are shocked to hear that the DG has never mentioned our plight to the Governor whereas, he keeps telling us that our matter is with the Governor. We’ve been going to him frequently, so much that he even saw it as a disturbance and threatened to sack one of us the last time. How come the Governor is now saying he has never heard a complain about us? Who do we believe?” one of them wondered.

“We want our Governor to know that we make up for 90% of the human effort in AKBC. Even the DG knows that AKBC cannot exist without us. We direct programmes and do graphics; some of us are in Marketing, Administration, News and Current Affairs, Programs, Engineering, Account, Transport departments and including Outside Broadcasting (OB). Even the media parley was covered live by us. We are everywhere day and night. We do most of the tasks better than many of the staff; we stand in for them when they are sick or absent. Yet, a lot of them look down on us and would do anything to stand in our way of being favoured. We are the unemployed workforce of AKBC; take away Artistes and AKBC is gone!”, another decried.

Speaking further on the last encounter with the DG and their ill treatment, the Artistes informed that they had resorted to writing letters to Pst. Ukpe as a means of reminding him of their unmet demands.

“But the DG described the letter as an insult to him and threatened to sack the guy who dropped the appeal letter. He claimed he has been seeing the Governor concerning our plight but the Governor has said otherwise. We recall that the organization’s Accountant, John, when asked to explain how he spent some millions in his custody recently, lied that it was used in paying our stipends up-to-date but in reality, we’re still being owed for 7 months as we speak. We have had enough. It is either they pay our debt and pay us off, increase our pay to the minimum wage or absorb us as staff”, one of the Artistes said.

“Enough of raising our hopes and dashing it by asking us to bring our credentials for interview every now and then”, they added.

It would be recalled that the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had made a case for employment of the permanent artistes during the Workers’ Day celebration held at the Ibom Hall Grounds on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

According to the NLC, AKBC is among five government-owned corporations having a lot of people in its employ for up to 15 years without staffing them.

The State NLC Chairman, Comrade Sunny James who dared the Governor to check the Outside Broadcasting (OB) Van crew to confirm his assertion, condemned the act and wondered why the AKBC and other agencies would subject fellow indigenes of the State to a slave policy for 10-15 years “as it is in the case of permanent artistes of AKBC”. He further shocked the crowd when he announced that the permanent artistes have never been paid up to N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira) as monthly stipend.

“If you want to do a practical test, you can call members of the AKBC who are in that van to find out how many of them are government employees. You’ll find out that most of them are permanent artistes and therefore casual staff. None of them has received up to 20,000 emoluments as salary for 15 years now”, he said.

Similarly, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council had made a passionate appeal during its April 2021 Congress, urging the State Government to declare a State of Emergency for recruitment into AKBC and the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC), publisher of the Pioneer Newspaper, to grow the service, following multiple retirements of staff over the years and deaths; an indication that there is enough space to accommodate the Permanent Artistes.