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NLC vows to bring Kaduna government to its knees

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• As workers ground activities in Kaduna • Kaduna airport shut, fuel queues surface
• Prices of goods, services skyrocket • Go after criminals, bandits, not civil servants, Wabba tells El-Rufai
• State govt defiant, says it will not be distracted from ‘right-sizing’ • IGP deploys officers, operational assets in Kaduna

Kaduna State was grounded yesterday as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) began its five-day warning strike to protest the sacking of council workers by Governor Nasir el-Rufai.

Addressing civil servants in the state, the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, vowed to ensure that the state government was brought to its knees until it reinstated the sacked workers.

Leaders of various labour bodies, who were in Kaduna to demonstrate their solidarity with the sacked workers, went through Kaduna metropolis to ensure that all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were stopped from operating. All commercial banks, transporters, traders, petrol attendants and others withdrew their services in the metropolis.

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The workers, who also staged road protest along popular streets and highways, later converged at the Kaduna State House of Assembly and blocked the entrance.

Consequently, prices of goods and services skyrocketed due to scarcity. Transporters within Kaduna metropolis hiked their charges by as much as 100 per cent, as petrol sold for N500 per litre in the black market.

In solidarity with the protest, aviation workers shut down operations of Kaduna International Airport (KIA) effective Sunday midnight. The workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), said the airport would remain shut for the period of the warning strike.

Wabba condemned el-Rufai’s sack of workers in the state, while subjecting traders and other citizens to hardship through his policies. He said: “All the workers are here. The governor claimed that the local council employees were consulted before their sack. That statement is false.”

Pointing out that labour would not succumb to the deceit of Kaduna government, he added: “We are going to teach government how to respect labour laws. As we speak, all labour leaderships in the country are here in Kaduna to protest the neoliberal policy of this government in throwing workers out of jobs.”

“The governor said we were invited for a meeting and we did not attend. This is false. I only got a call from a government official yesterday night asking us to come. I put him on record. They cannot blackmail us.”

According to him, some of their grievances include the sack of 7,310 local council workers in the state, sack of 3,000 civil servants, withholding April salaries of about 20,000 workers, non-remittance of statutory check-off dues to trade unions, unlawful reversal of minimum wage for local council employees, non-implementation of promotions, as well as intimidation and harassment of workers to opt out of the union, among others.

He added: “We are also aware that 1,700 workers were sacked in the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA). All these are happening in the face of exorbitant increment in tuition fees, high cost of living and other uncalled-for actions in MDAs in the state.

“Fuel stations, hospitals, banks, railway and airport, among others have been closed because we must take our destiny in our hands, if the situation in Kaduna and Nigeria cannot change. We cannot accept the bitter pills; we are here in Kaduna today because the labour law in Nigeria says before you can declare redundancy, labour shall be consulted, and we were never consulted. We have the right to protest peacefully without being intimidated or harassed.”

Wabba urged the governor to go after criminals, especially kidnappers and bandits terrorising the state, and not workers who earn their legitimate wages.

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While thanking other union leaders for cooperating with the NLC towards ensuring full compliance of the warning strike in Kaduna, Wabba assured that the organised labour would declare another five-day national strike across the country to ensure that the NLC’s demands were met.

HOWEVER, a defiant Kaduna State government has said the five-day warning strike, which began on Monday, will not distract it from its plan to ‘right-size’ the civil service of the state. The state government dismissed the strike and street protests as an attempt by labour union leaders to sabotage its policy but said the first day of the strike has not affected the operations of the government.

The state’s Head of Service, Mrs. Bara’atu Mohammed, said this to journalists in Kaduna during a brief state executive council meeting on Monday. Mohammed said the state government will not rescind the decision to sack civil servants that are not needed in the state.

“What is happening in Kaduna is not an industrial action but a campaign of social and economic sabotage. Kaduna State government is functioning despite the illegal attempt to block our offices, hospitals and schools. The schools are opened, our offices are opened, the hospitals are opened.

“NLC is aware that inflicting pains on citizens by locking hospitals and shutting down electricity will not change the decision of Kaduna State government to rightsize and will not change our intention to use the Trade Union Act which prohibits strike by extension service workers.”

Mohammed also said she received the leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in her office on Monday morning. The TUC leadership told the government they will not be part of the NLC strike.

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MEANWHILE, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, has ordered the deployment of additional police operatives and crime prevention assets to ensure public safety and strengthen security along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway. The IGP gave the directive as a proactive measure to protect communities and travellers in anticipation of increased traffic on Kaduna-Abuja expressway following the disruption of other means of transportation by industrial action in Kaduna.

This was disclosed in a statement issued on Monday and signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba. According to the statement: “The IGP noted that the deployment is designed to enhance police visibility, prevent and neutralize possible criminal activities targeted at citizens plying the road.

“The IGP has directed the AIG and CPs in Zonal and State Commands with jurisdictions straddling Kaduna – Abuja Highway and its environs to ensure no new threat to lives and property thrive within their Area of Responsibility (AoR) as a result of the industrial action.

“The Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Intelligence Bureau has been directed to immediately deploy covert operatives from the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and the Special Tactical Squad (STS) to prevent any untoward situation along the expressway.

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