By Our Reporters
Kaduna State is at the edge of economic turmoil, as the industrial action declared by NLC may linger following Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s sack order to nurses below Grade Level 14 and Kaduna State University (KASU) lecturers who joined the strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that grounded economic activities in the State since Monday 17 May, 2021.
Governor el-Rufai also declared the leadership of NLC as bandits, describing their actions as equivalent of banditry, kidnapping and other security challenges facing the state.
He also declared wanted NLC President Ayuba Wabba and some leaders of the group for breach of public peace and economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure siting Miscellaneous Offences Act.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the acting general secretary of the Congress , Comrade Bende Ismail, Vice Presidents, Najeem Yasin and Amaechi Asigiri and Comrade Joe Ajaero and other top leaders, led the peaceful protest from its state secretariat to Kaduna state House of Assembly Monday where Wabba gave a speech on why they shutdown Kaduna.
The decision followed the commencement of NLC’s five-day warning strike and protest that shut down economic and social activities in Kaduna state Monday, literally grounding the state to a halt with the airport, train station, banks, government offices, institutions, filling stations and electricity all shut down.
Speaking in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, Governor el-Rufai lamented that some nurses engaged in sabotage of some health facilities to join the strike, adding that many nurses were implicated in the forceful discharge of patients in many health facilities.
The governor singled out three nurses of Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, who he said the state would prosecute for allegedly disconnecting the oxygen supply of a two-day old baby in an incubator Monday.
El-Rufai said the health ministry had been directed to advertise vacancies for the immediate recruitment of new nurses to replace those dismissed, warning that any academic staff of Kaduna State University (KASU) that does not report for work will be dismissed.
“KDSG will not tolerate criminal acts disguised as industrial action. Today, the Kaduna state government reviewed the sundry criminal actions that have defined the campaign of economic and social sabotage and lawlessness waged by the NLC.
“KDSG considers as unacceptable the serial violations of the Miscellaneous Offences Act and the Trade Union Act that have occurred over the last two days. The state government commends citizens for remaining calm amidst this assault on their rights and comfort and their businesses.
“However, KDSG cannot be expected to tolerate the brazen shutdown of electricity, attack on public infrastructure and buildings, locking up hospitals and forcefully discharging patients, unlawful trespass into public facilities and the wanton use of coercion and restraints of personal freedom by the NLC.
“Also, KDSG cannot ignore the illegal pressures brought to disrupt the operations of banks and other private businesses whose staff and customers do not have any industrial dispute with the state or any other government. KDSG regrets that some nurses have joined the unlawful strike and engaged in sabotage of some of our health facilities. Nurses were implicated in the forceful discharge of patients in many health facilities.
“Reports from Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital disclosed that some identified nurses disconnected the oxygen supply of a two-day old baby in an incubator on Monday, 17th May 2021. The names of the three nurses from the Special Baby Care Unit (SBCU) who were involved in this despicable act have been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice to initiate prosecution for attempted murder or murder in the event we lose the baby.
“In addition, KDSG has decided the following: Ayuba Wabba and his senior confederates in the NLC are declared wanted, and will be vigorously prosecuted for violations of the Penal Code of Kaduna state, the Miscellaneous Offences and the Trade Dispute (Essential Services) Acts. They are advised to report to the Ministry of Justice and the Police Headquarters to take their statements.
“The Ministry of Health will dismiss all nurses below GL 14 for going on an unlawful strike. Salaries that could have gone to them are to be given as extraordinary occupational allowances to the health workers who are at their duty posts to fill the gap of those absconding from duty. The Ministry of Health has been directed to advertise vacancies for the immediate recruitment of new nurses to replace those dismissed;
“Any academic staff of KASU that does not report for work will be dismissed. The authorities of KASU are to submit a copy of the attendance register for all categories of staff daily to the Secretary to the State Government and the Commissioner of Education. All MDAs are also to submit daily copies of attendance register to the Head of Service;
“KDSG views the actions of the NLC as equivalent to the actions of the bandits kidnapping and menacing our citizens. Bandits illegally use arms, but the NLC is deploying mob action for exactly the same ends: trying to hold hostage the freedoms, economic interests, livelihoods and resources of the people of Kaduna state.
“KDSG will not submit its treasury to the entitled minority. We will reform and rightsize our public service to meet the needs and resources of the Kaduna state even if the NLC strikes ad infinitum. The government remains committed to providing social services beyond paying salaries, always putting the interests of the many ahead of the few,” el-Rufai said.
Further to that, the governor promised handsome reward for anybody who knows the whereabouts of Wabba and other NLC leaders declared wanted.
El-Rufai who posted the declaration Tuesday on his verified Twitter handle @elrufai, said the labour leaders were wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure under Miscellaneous Offences Act.
The governor’s tweet Tuesday morning read: “KADUNA UPDATE: Ayuba Wabba & others of @NLCHeadquarters declared wanted for economic sabotage & attacks on public infrastructure under Miscellaneous Offences Act. Anyone that knows where he is hiding should send a message to @MOJKaduna. KDSG. There will be a handsome reward!”
Armed thugs attack workers
Meanwhile, a group of thugs suspected to be sponsored by the state government Tuesday attacked labour leaders and workers during the peaceful protest.
The attacked happened shortly after the governor left the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), adjacent where the workers assembled, with heavily armed security personnel to forcefully install power installation.
The armed thugs came in a bus brought series of weapons like stick, bottles, stones and machetes.
The thugs were however overpowered by both workers and security personnel at the venue of the protest.
Meanwhile, our Reporter also gathered that some of the security personnel who were seen in groups discussing, said the government was planning to declare curfew in the state.
They described the action as “uncivilised and barbaric “, stressing that the workers were peaceful and orderly which should be commended.
Some workers who tried to confront the thugs while throwing stones were stopped by the labour leaders, while the detachment of security men, police , civil defence, military men, and the Road Safety, who were on ground approached the thugs and tried to persuade and appeal to them.
The defiant thugs, despite the appeal by security personnel, started throwing stones, and attempt to disperse them with teargas was initially unsuccessful as their actions disrupted the rally before the thugs were finally dispersed by the workers themselves, without any casualty.
When the situation was brought under control, Comrade Wabba briefly addressed the workers to end the rally with a promise to use all labour actions available to confront the state government.
Speaking on the development, the NLC president said the congress was fully aware of the plan by the state governor to unleash thugs on them, and had as early as Tuesday morning shared the information and the clips of the plan with all the security operatives.
He pointed out that the military, SSS, Police, Civil Defence were all notified earlier and were aware of the plans, alleging the governor himself led the thugs.
“We said it in the morning. We mentioned the name of the person that was contracted. We mentioned the thugs that will be coming and I told all the security agencies. I called the DSS. I called the police, I told them that this is the credible information we have. We have the clips. This clip was trending since 6 am in the morning.
“They had the meeting in the night and we shared our intelligence with the Police and the DSS. We were fully aware and that was why we informed the security operatives because it is the role of the security operatives to provide security cover for any protest.
“And you saw, he was the person that led the thugs because he came and entered NEPA office (Kaduna Electric) before the thugs came. Our workers wanted to go but we said no. He led them before they came and tried to unleash mayhem, but we thank God that our people were also good in number and they were chased away,” he said.
Power sector under threat
But the workers had threatened to escalate the power outage nationwide by Friday, if governors failed to advise El-Rufai to dialogue with the workers.
Speaking, a Deputy President of NLC and General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Ajaero, said the power blackout would go National from Friday, if the situation remains the same and El-Rufai refused to do the needful.
“The NLC had warned earlier that if after the five-day warning strike, the state governor failed to address the issues, workers across the country would join in solidarity and commence a nationwide strike.
“They said we are declared wanted and we are in the streets of Kaduna. Let me make this clear, there is decision of power – the executive, the judiciary and the legislator.
“No Executive Governor can declare anybody wanted. The police can do that, the courts can give order. Any executive Governor that is announcing that doesn’t know his job, there is separation of powers between the three arms of Government so in furtherance to the illegality being perpetrated by El-Rufai , is the power of the police and the court to declare someone wanted .
“Now, El-Rufai is an illegal governor all his actions and pronouncements are embedded in illegality so we are here the action is on, the strike is on. Rather than go into issue of negotiation, he has resulted to harassment and intimidation. Last night he tried to use force to enter power installation to install power. Let me say this under the Constitution- Sections 1&2 made it clear the supremacy of the constitution.
Section 40 gives us freedom movement, freedom of association as well as freedom to protest and we are not going to violate any law.
“We are going to perform our trade union function to the best of our knowledge. And for your information, power is under the exclusive list; el Rufai has no business to say anything about power. The state government is under concurrent list. So, everyone should mind his powers. Comrades, I want to urge all of you to stay firm. So, for some of us in the power sector, if by tomorrow or next nothing happens, we are ready to escalate it to the whole country, we want to send a message to the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) that if they don’t advise El-Rufai on this issue, they would feel also the power outage.”
The peaceful rally which commenced as usual from the NLC state secretariat where the workers were earlier addressed by the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and passed through the secretariat through to the popular NEPA Junction along Ahmadu Bello Way, before the thugs arrived in two small buses, jumped down with sticks to confront the Labour leaders.
Blueprint reports that as a t the time of this report, the Kaduna metropolis still remained deserted with all businesses under lock and key.
APC Governors Beg
And from the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) came a plea that Governor El-Rufai should negotiate with the striking workers.
Chairman of the forum and governor of Kebbi state, Abubakar Bagudu, made the plea in a statement Tuesday in Abuja.
“The PGF has been following unfolding development between NLC and Kaduna State government over the issue of rightsizing local government employees with deep concerns.
“Noting all the challenges facing all our states, especially given dwindling revenue, we appeal to all patriotic Nigerians, including the NLC, to demonstrate more commitment toward engaging governments at all levels to address problems.
“This is not the time for muscle-flexing,” Mr Bagudu said, saying Nigerians were already overstretched with many challenges.
“At this critical point of our democratic journey, there could not be limits to engagement between all governments and citizens.”
He said that every step must be taken to resolve the face-off between the state government and NLC.
“We appeal to NLC leadership to recognise that the burden of leadership is more about responding to challenges based on the honest disposition of correcting past mistakes.
“As progressive governors, we share the vision of Kaduna State government of reforming all our local government councils to make them more efficient and consequently the pivot of critical development initiatives.
“At the same time, we want to appeal to the state government under the leadership of our colleague, Malam Nasir El-Rufai to take all necessary steps to ensure the resolution of all disagreements in the larger interest of citizens in Kaduna state,” he said.
Mr Bagudu expressed confidence that both the state government and NLC would resolve all outstanding issues and restore industrial harmony in the state.