By Our Reporters
LAGOS—NIGERIA Labour Congress, NLC, led by Ayuba Wabba, yesterday embarked on a nationwide protest against the killing of two workers and injuring of others in Nasarawa State, as well as Imo State government’s new employment policy.
The protest, which led to total shut-down of Government Houses in some states, was held in solidarity with workers in Imo, Nasarawa and Benue states over protracted wage issues, which led to the killing of two workers in Nasarawa, among others.
This came as leaders of NLC called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, to prevail on the governors of the three states to respect Nigerian labour laws, stop wage cut and arbitrary redeployment of workers to the farms as a way of avoiding full pay.
While Imo and kwara states, were crippled by the protesting workers, their counterparts in Adamawa State shut the gates of Government House, crippling government operations. However, the protest was suspended in Nasarawa State, following the intervention of National Human Rights Commission, NHRC.
Among other states where the protest took place were Lagos, Edo, Enugu, Ebonyi Anambra, Bayelsa and Kaduna. It will be recalled that Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura, had arbitrarily cut workers’ pay by 50 per cent and also threatened to sack striking workers who rightly protested his wage cut and replace them with “fresh graduates.”
In Imo State, under the emergency “Back to Land for Agriculture”, Governor Rochas Okorocha, also announced the reduction of normal working days from five to three days a week. He also slashed workers monthly salaries. Similarly, in June, Benue State government had also declared Friday of every week a work-free day “to enable workers in the state to work on their farms.”
Leading the Lagos protest, General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN and Chairman of IndustriALL Global Union, Sub Saharan Africa, Issa Aremu, insisted that the killing of two workers in Nasarawa State by Government House security operatives as well as the increasing violations of workers’ rights in the country were unacceptable.
Addressing protesters at the Lagos rally, which commenced at Maryland and terminated at Ikeja under bridge, Aremu contended: “Labour matters are on the exclusive federal list of 1999 constitution. ‘’It is, therefore, illegal and unconstitutional for these governors as employers of labour to arbitrarily violate the terms of contract of their workers with respect to pay and work schedule.”
He called on the Head of Service of the Federation as well as heads of service of the 36 states to speak out in defense of the rights of public servants against serial attacks of some states.
Labour suspends protest in Nasarawa
However, in Lafia, the source of labour grievance, the planned protest was suspended, following advice from NHRC. Speaking on the suspension, Wabba said: “As law abiding citizens and unions, we have decided to shelve the planned solidarity procession. The purpose of the planned rally was for the full compensation by government to the family of the two workers who were killed and the several others who were injured by police shooting.
‘’The NHRC, though informed us late yesterday (Monday) to suspend the procession because it has commenced full investigation into the alleged killing, but we had to be here this morning (yesterday) to inform our members.
“Secondly, the state government wrote to us that it has suspended further deduction of workers salary which is part of reasons we wanted to hold rally this morning. The suspension has nothing to do with the strike. The strike is still on till we see government’s seriousness and sincerity. We are not going back until we reach a logical conclusion on Nasarawa issue because injury to one is injury to all.”
We’ve not been paid since January — Imo workers
In Imo State, leaders the State Council of NLC, claimed the workers had not been paid their salaries since January 2016. Chairman of the NLC, Austin Chilakpu, while speaking during the protest, accused the government of insensitivity to the plight of workers and also violating the agreement reached with NLC on February 9.
The protesting workers, who marched from Port Harcourt road to ministries, where the gate was shut down completely, also displayed placards which read: “Imo workers are not unproductive.”
Workers shut down Ilorin
In Ilorin, Kwara State, the workers called on the state government to pay their backlog of salaries and other benefits. The protesters, clad in black T-shirts, went round the popular streets in the state capital under the watchful eyes of anti-riot mobile and regular police officers, before moving to Government House on Ahmadu Bello way where they were received by the Secretary to the State Government, Isiaka Gold.
Chairman of NLC, Yekeen Agunbiade, condemned the killing of civil servants in Nasarawa.. He called for adequate compensation for the families of the victims so that the death of their bread winners would not be in vain.
Bayelsa workers want review of 50% salaries
In Yenagoa, leaders of NLC said the 50 percent salary being paid by the state government was no longer sustainable and called for a review of same. State chairman of NLC, John Ndiomu, who spoke during the protest, said Labour had started the process of reopening negotiations with the government for the payment of full salaries, insisting that the workers would no longer take half salary.
Bauchi workers demand payment of salaries’ arrears
IN Bauchi State, state chapter of NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, urged Governor Muhammed Abubakar to, without further delay, pay workers their outstanding salaries for the months of June, July and August to alleviate their hardships.