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I’m waiting for your arrest, Wabba dares el-Rufai

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Kaduna protest rally. Photo/TWITTER/TWITTER/CHIDIODINKALU

FG wades into NLC/Kaduna face-off
• Governor sacks Kaduna University lecturers, nurses
• TUC, NUPENG put members on red alert for a national shutdown
• Electricity workers consider shutting power installation nationwide
• APC governors, Shehu Sani, SERAP, others urge el-Rufai to resolve the dispute

The Federal Government, yesterday, sued for peace in the industrial dispute and picketing in Kaduna State by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which has crippled economic activities in Kaduna. The government appealed to the parties to return to dialogue to end the industrial dispute.

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Labour’s five-day warning strike to protest the sack of workers by Governor Nasir el-Rufai entered its second day yesterday with no end in sight.

Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, appealed to El-Rufai, NLC President Ayuba Wabba, as well as President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, to immediately cease-fire.

The minister in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan, said: “We are not unaware of what is going on in Kaduna. It is a labour issue, which has snowballed into a national strike. We hope and pray the state governor not escalate matters to such a level where it becomes uncontrollable. We also appeal to the leaders of the labour unions to step down the action to make way for discussion.”

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The minister also appealed to all workers on essential duties, including doctors and nurses, not to join the strike.

EL-RUFAI yesterday fired Kaduna State University’s lecturers who joined the strike. A statement by his spokesman, Muyiwa Adekeye, said any academic staff of KASU that does not report for work will be dismissed.

It ordered the management 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. Also, all Ministries, Department and Agencies must tender daily copies of the attendance register to the Head of Service.

The El-Rufai administration vowed to reform and right-size the public service to meet the needs and resources of the state even if the strike continues indefinitely.

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Organised labour, yesterday, dared the governor despite threats made to the NLC President and other members of the union. The labour leader also dared el-Rufai to come and arrest him after he was declared wanted by the governor.

“It is not about me. We are here and waiting for them,” the NLC President said in a telephone chat moments after el-Rufai declared him wanted for economic sabotage.

El-Rufai, in a tweet on Tuesday, said: “Ayuba Wabba & others of @NLCHeadquarters declared wanted for economic sabotage and 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!”

In another tweet, he said: “The reform of the size, cost and quality of over-bloated, inefficient and barely educated public service is at stake here. We will neither retreat nor concede to any thoughtless and corrupt political hacks ever!”

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THE Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) might shut down all power installations nationwide tomorrow (Thursday) night over the industrial crisis rocking Kaduna. General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, said though there has been no electricity in Kaduna since Sunday, the blackout is likely going to be extended to the whole country if the governor insists on the planned mass sack of workers in the state.

This follows the directive of the NLC, which said the warning strike will be extended to the whole country if the governor does not halt the mass sack by the end of this Friday. Ajaero insisted that the organised labour would perform its function of protecting the interests of the working people.

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has called on the Federal Government to immediately call el-Rufai to order before his arrogance and power-drunk ego push the situation into the calamitous end as he has been doing in all issues relating to human life and wellbeing.

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NUPENG warned that if any harm is inflicted on any of the members of organised labour, the leadership of the union would not hesitate to call on its members across the nation for a total shutdown of services in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.

A lawyer on labour matters, Paul Omoijiade, said the governor was displaying his limitations. He said the issue of industrial conflict was not within the ambit of the police but should be handled within the trade dispute Act.

“If the NLC president is arrested, it can result to the industrial crisis. The unions are enough to bring the state to a halt. El-Rufai needs to bring his thinking cap and go to the negotiation table,” he said.

Also, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) has advised the Kaduna governor to resolve the dispute with labour leaders amicably. Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said: “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.”

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“This is not the time for muscle-flexing. Nigerians are already overstretched with many challenges. At this critical point of our democratic journey, there cannot be limits to engagement between all governments and citizens. We appeal to both the State Government and NLC to return to the negotiating table.”

A staunch critic of the governor, Senator Shehu Sani yesterday lamented the use of armed thugs to disrupt workers peaceful protest in Kaduna, saying the action stands unreservedly condemnable. He recalled that the ruling party had enjoyed the freedom and rights to protest when they were in opposition, advising the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be tolerant of dissent and criticism.

Likewise, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Kaduna governor, to immediately end the growing crackdown on workers and protesters in his state.

In a statement signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said El-Rufai and Kaduna authorities must end the harassment and intimidation of NLC leaders and withdraw the illegal statement declaring Wabba and other NLC leaders ‘wanted’.

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