Despite the intervention of the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in the industrial dispute between Kaduna State Government and Organised Labour over mass sack of workers, fresh industrial tension appears to be brewing in the state as the government and Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, trade words.
Recall that Organised Labour led by NLC, had between last week Monday and Wednesday crippled all socio-economic activities in Kaduna State over mass sack of workers during the five-day warning strike that was apprehended Thursday by the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
At a conciliatory meeting between Labour and Kaduna State Government on Thursday, May 20, presided over by Senator Ngige, the meeting resolved to constitute a 10-man Bi-partite Committee to engage further with the objective of reverting with a work plan on how to resolve the impasse between the State Government and the NLC.
However, on May 21, 2021, Governor el-Rufai addressed the people of the state on the dispute between the NL C and the state government and accused NLC of among others, assaulting the rights, freedoms, and livelihoods of the citizens of Kaduna State.
Responding to what it termed Governor el-Rufai’s “uncomplimentary remarks, accusatory comments, falsehood, and threats against us,” NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, among others, said while “ we are ready to be bound by the Federal Government brokered peace/MoU, but as we all know, no single party to an agreement can sustain the agreement,” stressing that: “We shall not be intimidated by threats, veiled or otherwise.”
According to him: “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 the 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 to April 1 in utter violation and contempt of their fundamental terms of a 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 anyone 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.”