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Gov’t Delegate Drags Gov’t To Court 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

The Government Delegate to the Douala City Council, Dr. Fritz Ntone Ntone

The Government Delegate to the Douala City Council, Dr. Fritz Ntone Ntone, has dragged the Government (Ministry of Labour and Social Security), to the Littoral Administrative Court in Douala.

Ntone Ntone, who has been in office since September 2006 (11 years), has challenged the Ministry of Labour’s refusal to grant him authorisation to sack 10 workers’ representatives that he put on indefinite suspension since April.

On April 10, over 100 workers of the Douala City Council staged a sit-down protest at the Council premises in Bonanjo, Douala I. The protesting workers, who carried several placards, complained of persistent failure by Ntone Ntone, who is also a medical doctor, to provide the workers with health insurance cover since he took office in 2006.

The strike, which was led by Staff Delegates with spokesperson, Samuel Sosso, was supported by Wouri Divisional Syndicate of Council Workers. The Monday strike action coincided with the first day of work for the new Wouri SDO, Joseph Bertrand Mache Njouonwet.

Gov’t Delegate Embarrasses New SDO

Mache Njouonwet, in his double capacity as Wouri SDO, invited the Government Delegate and the representatives of the striking workers to a meeting on that April 10. But the Government Delegate also scheduled a meeting with the same staff delegates on that day at the Council.

The 10 staff delegates, taking into consideration hierarchy, went for the meeting with the SDO. Meanwhile, the Government Delegate had instead sent the Secretary General at the Douala City Council to represent him at the meeting with the SDO.

That evening of April 10, the Government Delegate signed an order suspending, indefinitely, the 10 Staff Delegates, who he said refused to attend the meeting he convened. He accused them of gross insubordination. The salaries of the 10 Staff Delegates were also suspended. The new Wouri SDO tried in vain to persuade the Government Delegate to reverse his decision.

Complaints To Littoral Delegate of Labour

The suspended 10 Staff Delegates, backed by the Wouri Divisional Syndicate of Council Workers, lodged a complaint with the Littoral Regional Delegate of Labour and Social Security, against the decision of the Government Delegate to suspend them.

The Government Delegate, on his part, wrote to the Littoral Delegate of Labour, demanding authorisation to dismiss the 10 suspended Staff Delegates.

Apparently, considering the personality of the Government Delegate, the Littoral Labour Delegate thought it wise to seek the advice of her hierarchy on the matter and sent the file to the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Gregoire Owona.

After the Minister and his collaborators, including Technical Advisers, examined all the files in the matter, the Minister, late May, wrote to the Littoral Regional Labour Delegate instructing her to reject the demand by the Government Delegate to fire the 10 Staff Delegates.

The Minister described the Government Delegate’s accusation against the Staff Delegates as unfounded, and their suspension as illegal. The Littoral Labour Delegate, in June, addressed an official correspondence to the Government Delegate explaining that his action to suspend the 10 Staff Delegates was illegal.

She demanded their reintegration and the payment of their accrued salaries and other advantages.

Gov’t Delegate Goes To Court

The Government Delegate refused to reintegrate the Staff Delegates and rather dragged the Ministry of Labour, or Government, to Court in Douala. He is challenging the decision of the Ministry of Labour rejecting his demand for authorisation to sack the 10 Staff Delegates that he continued to accuse of gross indiscipline.

Ntone Ntone also claims that the over 100 Council workers who went on strike were manipulated by some hidden hands and that their complaints were unfounded, whereas the Secretary General of the Council who represented him at the April 10 meeting with the SDO, admitted that the council workers did not have health insurance cover.

He, however, said the council authority was at that moment finalising arrangements with an insurance company to provide health insurance for the workers, who had been for 10 years without health insurance.

The Government Delegate also claims that the Wouri Divisional Syndicate of Council Workers that supported the strike was illegal. There are copies of correspondences exchanged between the Government Delegate and the Littoral Labour Delegate in February 2016 on the issue.

The Government Delegate had written to find out which of the workers syndicates in Douala has the legal authority and legitimacy to talk on behalf of Council workers.

In her response, the Littoral Labour Delegate stated that the Wouri Divisional Syndicate of Council Workers has a legal existence as well as authority to talk on behalf of the council workers.

Peaceful Protest Demonstration

The 10 Staff Delegates announced a peaceful demonstration on September 6, to press for their reintegration and the payment of their salary arrears. Meantime, the Government Delegate mobilised a team of municipal police and a squad of anti-riot policemen from the GMI, to block the protesters from having access to the Council premises.

But the Staff Delegates were forced to stage their demonstration on the roadside in front of the Council, which gave their action more public visibility. They carried placards with messages denouncing the illegal action of the Government Delegate and making an appeal to President Biya to intervene.

Children Join Demonstration

The irate workers turned out for the demonstration with their children who also carried placards with massages like: “We Want To Go to School!” The children held that following the resumption of school on September 4, they have not been able to go to school because their patents have no money, as their salaries have been suspended.

The demonstration with the children took place throughout the day in the full view of the Littoral Governor, Wouri SDO and DO of Douala I, whose offices overlook the Council premises.

But none of the administrative authorities intervened, presumably because they have intervened but the Government Delegate has ignored them.

“Yaounde has Been Briefed”

The Post has learnt that the demonstration by the suspended staff delegates and their children who are crying that they are unable to go to school because of the Government Delegate, has so much embarrassed Ntone Ntone.

More so, he is said to have panicked over reports that ‘Yaounde’ has been briefed about the peaceful protest demonstration by the suspended council workers and their children, including the cry of the children that they want to go back to school.

Meanwhile, when reporters met the Secretary General at the Douala City Council to comment on the protest demonstration of the suspended staff delegates, he evaded the issue under the pretext that he would not comment on a matter which is in court.

It remains to be seen, what ruling the Littoral Administrative Court will deliver on the issue pitting the Government Delegate and the Government.

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