It was a day of reproof in the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) as staff members across the country protested lingering and unbearable working conditions.
The protests spread through Abuja, Ibadan, Akure, Enugu, Kaduna and other stations as the aggrieved staffers bared their grievances at the organisation’s operations.
Members of staff trooped out in black outfits to register their protest.
Some of the workers’ demands included replacement of obsolete equipment and operational vehicles.
Others were payment of outstanding allowances, expansion of manning levels to enhance promotion of staff, regular training for optimum performance as well as improved staff welfare.
Mr Nofiu Busari, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), FRCN Ibadan Chapter, said the essence of the peaceful protest was to draw attention to the state of facilities in the organisation’s stations across the country.
Busari said the protest was being held simultaneously across all FRCN stations in the country.
“We want the Federal Government to hearken to our plea. Our facilities are over 16 years old.
“ No doubt, salaries are being paid as at when due but we want to justify what we are being paid for.
“Members of staff are using their personal funds to facilitate the running of FRCN and this must stop, ”he said.
Adewunmi Faniran, the Chairman of the state council of the NUJ in Oyo State, said there was an urgent need for government intervention in redressing the challenges facing the organisation.
“We are the hen laying the golden egg and as such shouldn’t be killed. We’ve realised that they are eating both the hen and egg.
“ NAN, VON, NTA, FRCN and others need help. That they are not talking doesn’t mean all is well in their operations. They are suffering in silence.
“ All equipment here at FRCN are obsolete, they are nothing to write home about. In Ibadan here, there are over 20 media outfits.
“We are operating in a competitive environment but with little or no facilities to aid production. We have equipment here in Ibadan that had been in use since the 80s and 90s.
“We want the government without delay to look into our needs and I must emphasise that this protest is not targeted at anyone but for the benefits of members of staff, ” said Faniran who is also a member of staff.
Mrs Bolanle Owoyemi, Deputy Director Marketing, on behalf of the management commended the workers for the peaceful protest, saying “ it was for the good of all members of staff of FRCN.”
She said that the Director was away to the Abuja headquarters of the organisation over the issues raised.
“The management is on top of the development and a meeting is scheduled for today in Abuja over this matter.
“No management wants a down turn in operations; everyone wants a good working environment and I believe everything will be put back in place as soon as possible, ” she said.
In Akure, workers in the organisation also embarked on a peaceful protest at the poor working conditions and obsolete equipment.
The Chairman of FRCN, Akure Chapel, Mr John Ebiofini, said no improvement had been made on the equipment at the station since its debut 16 years ago.
Ebiofini said the equipment at the station could not cover the nooks and crannies of the state.
“Today, due to deplorable condition of our outdated equipment, we cannot boast of covering Ondo State where we are located.
“We should be ashamed of ourselves being a Federal Government establishment that is supposed to set the pace for state and private broadcasting houses to follow suit,” he said.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Radio and Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union at the station, Mr Gabriel Afolabi, said the protest was to send signals to the Federal Government through the management.
” There is a big one ahead unless it does everything possible to avert that before the 21-day ultimatum ends,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the NUJ Chairman in the State, Mr James Sowole, urged the Federal Government to send a delegation to assess the deplorable condition under which the workers were carrying out their duties.
Sowole described FRCN as a leading radio station in the country which must not be allowed to collapse due to obsolete equipment and poor working conditions.
At the same time their colleagues shut down the Kaduna station, staff at the FRCN in Abuja staged a protest against non payment of their allowances and Insurance levy.
All of them wearing black clothes, the workers decried poor treatment of the corporation and its staff by the federal government.
“We don’t have power and water in the building. We have not been paid our Transport Allowances and arrears since 2010, we don’t even have insurance,” the worker said.
“Also, no seats in the office, reporters don’t have office equipment like midgets, staff are to buy equipment and fund assignments themselves without getting paid. We also don’t have office materials like papers to print in the office.”
The Radio Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU) secretary in the office, Ishaku Musa, said that the situation at the headquarters was bad beyond control.
“We are mourning today and the protest is tagged Black Monday. Things have gone bad beyond control, when you look at the staff welfare, it is nothing to write home about,” he said.
“The working condition at FRCN is something that you can never agree that FRCN is like this. When you look at the staff themselves, they don’t have working materials, they don’t have seats to use in the offices. Most of the allowances are not being paid, and that is why we have called for this Black Monday and started this protest,” Mr Musa said.
“The permanent staff have not been paid since 2010 their T&D, Transport Allowance and accommodation. You would use your own money to travel for official assignment, it would have to take about two-three years before a staff gets paid,” he added.
Mr Musa also complained that FRCN does not use the in-house training certificate in promotions.
“Talking about training and retraining of staff, we are facing a serious problem in that sector. We have FRCN Training School in Lagos, which has now been changed to National Broadcast Academy. Within our operation, the Management does not recognise it as a step for promotion. Only the outside broadcast recognise the academy’s certificate.”
Similarly, the financial secretary of RATTAWU, FRCN headquarters, Adaora Nzekwe, said staff of private stations that go for training at the school were getting promoted by their organisations.
”They would ask you to go, but you won’t get your payment. They would hold you for that whole period that you would be there, some of the programmes are meant to hold for four to eight weeks, but when you go, you are meant to receive your feeding and accommodation allowance before going.
“At times, you go there and getting back one year two years, you have not gotten your money back, after you have spent your own personal money doing that, which is not supposed to be so.
Asked if the union served any notice before embarking on the peaceful protest, Musa said it notified the management and got the go ahead with conditions that it must be a peaceful protest, without destruction of any government property.
Musa said that the Director-General, Mansur Liman, addressed the protesters and told them to exercise patience, stating that the problem was coming from the Federal Government and something would be done about it.
Protesting staff in the premises of the FRCN Headquarters (Radio House), Abuja
He said Liman told them President Muhammadu Buhari had publicly promised to do something about their complaints, saying with time, the equipment would be replaced with digital tools as in use by other FM stations in the country.
Efforts to reach the Director-General; but his Special Adviser, Haruna Idris, directed our reporter to get the full statements from the union.