KADUNA State government on Monday revealed that Governor Nasir el-Rufai had in a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari told him that he has jettisoned the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the state government reached with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at a meeting facilitated by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, who had ‘apprehended’ workers’ five-day warning strike and street protests on the third day of the mass action.
Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, Special Adviser to Governor el-Rufai on Media and Communication, disclosed this in a statement when he provided details of the governor’s briefing to President Buhari on his government’s mass retrenchment policy and the steps taken so far to implement it.
The statement said that Governor el-Rufai assured President Buhari that “KDSG is determined not to allow a repeat of the pains, economic losses and the restraints of freedom that the NLC inflicted on the people of Kaduna State.”
The statement noted that in order to forestall future recurrence, the government will soon bring the NLC to account by setting up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the three-day warning strike in May 2021.
He said the state’s representatives at the May 20 conciliation meeting held at the Ministry of Labour and Employment headquarters in Abuja had unequivocally indicated that whatever they signed required the approval of the Kaduna State Executive Council.
Mr Adekeye said the state government “has since informed the federal Minister of Labour that the State Executive Council is unable to approve the MoU.” He accused the NLC of demonstrating a lack of belief in equality among its own members by describing the transfer of one Kaduna employee to a place where other civil servants are serving as victimisation.
“It is trite that an MoU is not a legally binding document. The content of the MoU shows that there is no congruence between the progressive aspirations of the Kaduna State Government and the misguided sense of entitlement of the NLC which does not even believe in equality amongst its own members.
“KDSG employees are serving with dedication in Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area, amidst all the challenges. Yet, the NLC describes the transfer of one KDSG employee to Birnin-Gwari LGA as victimisation, as if other staff who have been loyally serving in the same area are lesser humans or permanent victims. KDSG rejects this unfair denigration of the very people that the transferred employee claims to lead.”
The statement added that “it is improper to describe the routine application of public service rules and labour regulations by a government as victimisation” and asked the Labour ministry to reconsider permitting such slurs in documents prepared under its auspices.
“Union membership or accession to a leadership position in a union does not grant immunity to an employee for his/her actions and conduct or exempt them from compliance with the laws that govern everyone else.
“There are procedures that need to be followed to make a strike action legal, and the kind of conduct permissible during legitimate strike action is also bound by law. Lawful strike action still subjects strikers to the no-work, no-pay rule. How then can unlawful strike action be expected to be without consequences, as spelt out in the relevant laws and regulations?”
The statement noted that the state government is in the process of recruiting over 10,000 workers including teachers, doctors, nurses and other qualified staff.
According to Adekeye, the government’s commitment to a fair assessment of the credentials of all officers shows in the painstaking approach to the ‘rightsizing exercise’ for state civil servants. He said it is only after the completion of the verification process that KDSG will “release any civil servant that is confirmed not to possess the minimum qualifications prescribed in 2017 as one of the outcomes of the state’s Public Service Revitalization and Renewal Programme.”
The statement appealed “for the continued patience and understanding of all citizens as steps are being taken for the fair conclusion of this exercise.”
The statement said that the main position of the state government at the conciliation meeting was the rejection of the criminal actions that defined the NLC’s actions. “It was notable that the NLC delegation was eager for the discourse not to dwell on their violations of laws prohibiting the disruption of essential services and their recourse to coercion and restraints to the freedom of citizens. But these are matters that cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet since unlawful actions that have come to be accepted as part and parcel of strike action remain unlawful.”
Adekeye said the state government “has not yet disengaged any state civil servant but has dispensed with the services of 99 political appointees so far.” He however said only the 23 local government councils of the state and the agencies associated with the local government system such as SUBEB and the Primary Health Care Board “have released staff.”
He said “rightsizing is about getting the optimal number of persons with the requisite skills to staff the public service,” adding that more than 10,000 such workers, including 7,600 secondary school teachers are being injected into the public service.