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Kaduna Showdown: Labour, El-Rufai’s Tit-For-Tat Game Begins

The protest in Kaduna state, led by Nigeria Labour Congress, is the first of a five-day series to compel Kaduna state government, Northwest Nigeria, to regard labour laws in Nigeria.

Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna State Governor, Northwest Nigeria, has since 2017, sacked about 80,000 workers from the state’s civil service for what he envisions as relaying a sound foundation for a prosperous state economy.

According to figures released by the organised labour in Nigeria, from 2017 to date, 21,770 Kaduna State primary school teachers were sacked; and over 30,000 were disengaged for failing competency test, with thousands of them yet to receive their disengagement benefits.

Also booted out of the state civil service were 7,310 local government employees; 3,000 state civil servants; and 1,700 Primary Health Care Board workers.

According to the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body of Nigerian workers, 20,000 workers in the state are yet to be paid their April salary, as 11,000 other civil servants have been pencilled down for disengagement and conversion to casual and contract workers.

In protest, a coalition of workers under the umbrella of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), are poised for a showdown with the state government over what they described as ‘the most obnoxious and inhuman’ action which, they also described, as a flagrant contravention of the labour law.

To execute their threat and register their dissatisfaction, the workers have embarked on industrial action across different sectors in the state. 

El-Rufai should be prosecuted before ICC – Waba

The scenario playing out in Kaduna is akin to a tit-for-tat situation, with the governor, learning of the five-day planned state-wide strike and protest beginning Monday, May 17, warning that any worker found absent at their workplace should consider themselves sacked.

But the NLC, led by Ayuba Waba, its President, insisted on going ahead with the strike and protest, effectively shutting down the state and its economy. The action started on Sunday, May 16, when Kaduna State was cut off from such critical utilities like electricity.

Umar Muri, Kaduna State Police Commissioner, had, on the same Sunday, reportedly pleaded with the NLC against going ahead with the strike and protest.

His pleas were not heeded.

As early as 7 a.m. WAT, Monday, the workers, savouring impetus and courage from the presence of Waba leading top officials of the national headquarters of the various labour unions in solidarity to them, began building up at the main entrance of the Kaduna State Secretariat along the Independence Way.

By 11 a.m., the aggrieved crowd snaked along to the Lugard Hall housing the State House of Assembly, intermittently playing the music of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and chanting solidarity hymns, to deliver the verbal message through the state legislature to the ‘most recalcitrant’ governor.

“We are here in solidarity with the workers of Kaduna State,” the NLC President, Ayuba Waba, flanked by top officials of the various unions, said, explaining, “we are here to resist the actions of a government that does not respect the rule of law.”

Waba described the disengagement of the state workers by the El-Rufai administration as a flagrant violation of Section 20 of the Redundancy Act.

“No state of the country has violated the Labour Law like Kaduna State Government under El-Rufai,” the NLC President said in respect of the sacking of the state workers.

He argued: “If you must sack workers on redundancy you must do so in conjunction with labour in accordance with the Labour Act.”

He explained that the Redundancy Act stipulates that the disengagement letter of a worker has to be accompanied by all his or her entitlements, as against what obtains in Kaduna State where thousands of workers have been disengaged without their due entitlements or any hope for them.

By sacking thousands of workers without their due entitlements, Waba maintained that the El-Rufai government was breeding crimes and criminals. “El-Rufai should end up in ICC, he does not believe that people should survive; he believes in capitalism,” Waba said.

The NLC President said the number of the protesters on Monday was limited in respect of the COVID-19 protocol but in the following days, the number would grow higher, stating, “the struggle has just begun.”

Speaking to HumAngle, Emmanuel Mbaka, the Kaduna State Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Recreational and Technical Employees (AUPCTRE), assured: “no Kaduna worker will be sacked for striking and protesting because of any threat by the governor because the law has given us the right to do so.”

“If the governor later devises any trick sacking workers without recourse to the Rule of Law, we will devise other tricks of countering him.”

An anonymous Kaduna State Government female worker fumed to HumAngle: “We are tired of injustices meted out on us by the governor, and we have now resolved to fight on,” maintaining, “something should start somewhere sometime; we have now started it.”

And, so, with the workers chanting: ‘Hi SOLETO, Hi Africa’, they began their struggle, to be maintained and, possibly, heightened over the remaining four days, as Waba vowed.

 


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