By Christiana Onuoha
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), through the office of its Head of Information and Public Affairs, headed by Comrade Benson Upah, has stated that its recent 3days industrial action in Kaduna was necessitated by Governor El-Rufai’s refusal to adhere to the rule of law, especially the stipulations of the Labour Act.
Meant to set the record straight against what it termed “uncomplimentary remarks, accusatory comments, falsehood and threats”, in the May 21, 2021 address of Malam Nasir El-Rufai, on the dispute between the Nigeria Labour Congress and the state government, NLC in a letter to the Kaduna people noted that its presence in Kaduna was made inevitable by the Governor.
Tagged: My Dear People of Kaduna State, the letter in full stated: “The Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, on Friday, May 21, 2021 addressed the people of the state on the dispute between the Nigeria Labour Congress and the state government. Ordinarily we would not have responded to this address which is laced with uncomplimentary remarks, accusatory comments, falsehood and threats against us. How ever, to remain silent would mean admission of guilt. Thus, it is for the purpose of setting the record(s) straight that we aver as follows:
“We did not assault the rights, freedoms and livelihoods of the citizens of Kaduna State even though we were in Kaduna State for four days in exercise of the rights conferred on us by the 1999 constitution (as amended) and ILO Conventions 87 and 98 (freedom of association/expression/right to unionisation), and the corpus of our Labour Law ( right to protest and strike).
“Indeed our presence in Kaduna was made inevitable by the refusal of Kaduna State Government to dialogue after our letter of April 9, 2021. Our letter was a response to the letters of sack issued to workers from March 31 toApril 1 in utter violation and contempt of their fundamental terms of contract of employment and redundancy law as per Labour Act S. 20.
“Further to this, we met at the level of NEC where the decision was taken to embark on a five-day warning strike/protest as a last resort if the Kaduna State Government was still not inclined to dialogue by a certain date;
“The NEC further resolved to escalate the action to a national action if the five-day protest/strike failed to yield the desired result; Thus, our coming to Kaduna followed all due process permitted by the body of our Labour Law;
“When we did come into Kaduna State on the appointed date, we came publicly and not stealthily. We withdrew our services and marched peacefully along Independence Way/Muhammadu Buhari Way to NEPA Roundabout in line with the provisions of the law but we were assaulted and violated by a mob recruited, mobilised and deployed by the State Government;
“Some of the victims of the attack are still in hospital receiving treatment. It is equally important to point out that in the course of our protest march, we neither visited any office let alone harass anyone out of any. We strictly kept to these two streets without breaking a twig or plucking a flower;
“We were orderly and peaceful and not lawless as alluded to by Mr Governor. Indeed, if any one was lawless, it was the State Government that took pride in engaging thugs and vitriol to the point of boasting that by the time they were done with us, we would never again come to Kaduna; The threat would have been carried out but for the thoughtful presence of our security agencies.
“Not satisfied, even after we had suspended the action on Wednesday following the intervention of the Federal Government, the State Government deployed an amarda of thugs to our state secretariat on Thursday morning to seize the place;
“The duplicity of the State Government was exposed by the unsuspecting old women it had lured with a promise of palliative only for them to find themselves ranged against us. Some of them wept in shame and pain and left to the chagrin of those that misled them. Now, to the substantive issue of right-sizing. We do believe government’s policy of right-sizing as claimed by the Governor cannot be at the expense of the legal or humanitarian rights of workers;
“In propaganda, truth is sometimes mixed with falsehood. The purpose is to confuse or create doubt. We guess this must be the intent of the State Government when it introduced the issue of the National Minimum Wage in the broadcast. For the benefit of those who care to listen, our action has nothing to do with the National Minimum Wage;
“We did not impose misery on the people of Kaduna State as is alluded to here. Between us and the State Government, the people know who sacked them en-mass without their terminal benefits, violated the fundamental terms of their contract of employment, pulled down their houses in Malali, shops along virtually every street corner or in the markets…..destroyed their only means of livelihood without providing an alternative. The people know who destroyed their lives and their city, promoting insecurity.
“We are completely at a loss by the vituperations of the Governor even after the Minister of Labour and Employment had apprehended this dispute at the instance of the Federal Government and an MoU signed between the State and NLC. What message is he sending…..repudiation? It is well with us either way. We have had the meeting of the National Executive Council scheduled for today Tuesday 25th May, 2021 to de-escalate or escalate this process;
“On our part, we stand ready to be bound by the FGN-brokered peace/MoU. But as we all know, no single party to an agreement can sustain the agreement. Finally, we shall not be intimidated by threats, veiled or otherwise.”