By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA-THE Nigeria Labour Congress,Wednesday morning, led many workers across government agencies to picket the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC,over alleged unfriendly policies against workers of the commission.
The action was carried out at the headquarters of the commission,located at the Maitama highbrow area of Abuja,the nation’s federal capital city.
The NLC accuses the CAC leadership of clamping down on members of the union,who are opposed to CAC’s anti-workers’ policies.
The Trade Union Congress and the NLC, however, are divided on the issuue, a development that resulted in a clash between the rival unions members during the picketing.
The national leadership of NLC, led by its President, Comrade Ayuba Waba,led executive executive and members of several registered unions to the action intended to change certain policies considered to be against the interest of workers of the organization.
The protest which started as early as 8:00am, saw the premises of the Commission blocked, preventing workers from gaining entry into the building. The commission’s workers who were to resume work as early as 8:00am were stranded outside the building.
Apart from causing heavy traffic gridlock thus preventing vehicular movement along the ever-busy road leading to the CAS headquarters,workers of the commission were stranded as they could not have their way into the premises of the organisation to carry out their day’s assignments.
The action of the NLC was in solidarity with its affiliate union,the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees,AUPCTRE, which had alleged wrongdoings by CAC’s Registrar-General, Alhaji Garba Abubakar.
Besides accusing the CAS boss of thwarting their promotions,AUPCTRE had also accused Abubakar of indulging in divide-and-rule tactics, arbitrary transfer of union leaders, transfer of married women out of places where their spouses live, intimidation of workers against engaging in union activities among many others.
Speaking at the protest ground,Waba alleged that the Commission’s Registrar General, Garba Abubakar stalled staff promotion and brought in environmental experts to fumigate the agency for N35million in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, including contracting someone to paint the Zone 5 annex office for N25million.
Among other allegations raised by NLC was that the Registrar transferred married women who are staff out of the commission.
Waba vowed that the protest which he said, will be for three consecutive days would paralyse the activities of the Commission if their grievances were not addressed today.
The NLC boss alleged that the CAC’s Abubakar committed various anti-union offences, ranging from corruption, illegal redeployment of married women out of the commission, stopping staff’s promotion arrears among others.
He alleged that Abubakar brought in environmental experts to fumigate the agency for N35 million in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, including contracting someone to paint the commission’s Zone 5 Abuja annexe office for N25 million.
On his part,AUPCTRE branch chairman, Comrade Ibrahim Makirfi, alleged that the CAC boss ignored series of actions it carried out with a view to averting the development.
According to him, different letters to him containing alleged infractions by the commission were ignored.
He said the picketing was principally informed by the deliberate refusal of the CAC’s Registrar-General to promote staff of the commission besides other issues.
Noting that,”There is no motivation to any worker anywhere except promotion”,he added that “there are some entitlements meant for staff that are not negotiable.”
Recalled that on it’s part,the Trade Union Congress, had on Tuesday held a news conference, warning that they will resist the picketing by the Nigeria Labour Congress.
Recall also that earlier,the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba,had at the congress’ meeting, declared that “the right to belong to a trade union of choice by workers is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of the United Nations, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and relevant sections of the Trade Union Act.”
Ayuba further disclosed that conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organisation which Nigeria ratified upon attaining independence amply protects the fundamental rights of workers to organise, join trade unions of their choice and freely enter into collective bargaining with employers in the public and in the private sectors of the economy.
He said: “Of recent, we have witnessed an upsurge in the attack against trade union rights by some organizations in Nigeria. First is the corporate irresponsibility of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which management has introduced very draconian measures to stifle trade unions and worker’s rights in the establishment.
“The management has institutionalized practice of punitive transfers and other forms of punishment against trade union leaders and workers who dare speak up for their rights in the CAC. Many members of AUPCTRE have been affected in this wise. Also, the management of CAC has refused to remit check-off dues accruing to AUPCTRE.
“This is aimed at killing unionism in CAC. In order to cover their tracks, the management of CAC has also tried to introduce divide and rule tactics between the unions in CAC.
“The management of CAC also attempts to adorn its industrial tyranny with a robe of officialdom by taking AUPCTRE to court. Our response as Organized Labour is simple – we will picket CAC for three days as a warning to other employers who desire to tow CAC’s line of perfidy. Our message is very clear – no one can take away the rights of workers and trade unions to organize, unionize and engage in collective bargaining.”