By. Saviour Imukudo
Beneficiaries of a federal government monthly “survival” grant, who work in a hotel in Akwa Ibom State, have been forced to surrender the money for three months to the hotel management.
Ten employees of the hotel, Duran Hotels, Uyo, including the hotel CEO, in October, enrolled in the Survival Fund scheme, an initiative of the Nigerian government to support small businesses and help protect jobs during the outbreak of COVID-19.
The hotel employees received N30,000 each as a monthly grant from the programme.
But as soon as the money hit their bank account, they were instructed by the CEO of the hotel, Anthony Achanya, to withdraw and hand it over to a senior official of the hotel.
The hotel would then give them a lesser amount of the money as salary.
Mr Achanya, who did not deny the story, told PREMIUM TIMES that Duran Hotels acted in accordance with an agreement it had with the employees before their enrolment in the scheme.
Mr Achanya, himself a registered beneficiary of the grant, said he introduced the scheme to the hotel workers.
He said he had informed them that the grant money would be shared to cover other hotel workers who were not able to enroll.
“We have about 40 workers,” said Mr Achanga who said he was only able to secure 10 slots for his hotel.
The hotel, prior to the survival programme, was paying each of the employees N15,000 as monthly salary.
The salary was increased to N17,000 after the hotel started benefitting from the federal grant.
One of the employees, who identified herself simply as Ekanem, remitted only N29,000 to Duran Hotel in the first month. She claimed bank charges chopped off about a thousand naira from the grant.
The hotel eventually stopped her December salary and fired her after she refused to remit the grant money for the other two months.
Ms Ekanem denied Mr Achanga’s claim about the existence of an understanding that the grant money was meant to be shared to other employees. Two other employees, however, told PREMIUM TIMES there was such understanding.
Mr Achanga said Ms Ekanem’s salary was stopped because she was unable to recover N26,000 from a customer whom she sold an item to on credit.
Six of the employees were consistent in remitting the N30,000 every month, for three months, to the hotel, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, while two of the hotel workers who enrolled for the grant, left the hotel’s employ before the commencement of the programme.
Mr Achanga said a former manager with the hotel, Lizzy John, went away with the grant money and other monies belonging to the hotel.
Ms John denied the allegation.
She said she only collated the workers’ name, their Bank Verification Number (BVN) and other information for enrollment for the grant, and that she resigned from the hotel in October before the first grant money was paid in November.
“It’s a cheap blackmail,” she said of the accusation from her former boss whom she said was still owing her N455,000 as unpaid salaries.
Duran Hotels is a small hotel located in the heart of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital.
Similar extortion is said to have been perpetrated by proprietors of private schools in Akwa Ibom State.
“A Nursery school teacher also narrated how his employer demanded 20k out of the 30k that was paid by FG and he refused to give it to the proprietress which led to his resignation from the school,” a Facebook user, Eyakndu Ubong, said on the social media site.
“I don’t know why some employers are this selfish,” he added.
The Survival Fund scheme is a component of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo heads a committee which produced the plan and is also overseeing its implementation.
N27 billion was released for the implementation of the Survival Fund scheme nationwide, according to a report by ThisDay newspaper.