THE Nigeria Labour Congress has threatened to ground the economy over Kaduna State government’s continuation of mass retrenchment of public service workers in the state.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, said on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at a pre-NEC press conference at the end of a meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) held at the Paschal Bafyau Labour House national secretariat of NLC, that Nigerian workers in both public and private and public services will withdraw their services nationwide for five days in the first instance to protest the mass sack of workers by the Kaduna State government.
According to Comrade Wabba, the strike will become total if the state government failed to do reverse the policy.
“CWC has decided and has also recommended to the National Executive Council that labour will withdraw all services from either public or private – all services – and when I mean all services, it means all services; from all sectors of the economy, for five days in the first instance; and where there is no remorse, there is going to be a total action because we believe that el-Rufai is not alone in this action; that neo-liberal forces and also some governments are also part of it, and we wondered why this his action has not been called to order by other relevant agencies of government because of the grave implication of this action.
“Where political office holders violate laws and constitutional provisions with impunity and nobody is ready to call them to order, we thought that it is high time that workers also exercised their right to protect the right of workers that are in Kaduna and their families, and this action is going to be total and unconditional, and therefore all unions will be issuing statements and directives to their members to take this directive seriously and that the action will go ahead,” Comrade Wabba said.
Comrade Wabba, among other things also spoke on the crisis in the labour party where he emphasised NLC and TUC’s ownership of the party which he said “is being hijacked by some other political parties.”
Below is the text of the press conference transcribed by our correspondent.
In Wabba’s Own Words
The meeting in session is concerned about the state of insecurity in our country and particularly the issue of kidnapping for ransom, the issue of banditry and the latest insecurity challenge in the South-East where criminals are killing security agencies and then taking away their weapons.
We cannot also forget the ongoing challenge of Boko Haram in the North East which has not been addressed. And because of all of these, NLC have [sic] agreed to convene a meeting of the second National Security and Peace Summit to be held in Abuja on the 29th of April 2019 [sic] at the International Conference Centre. This decision was taken on the basis that NLC as a pan-Nigerian organization will be able to provide a platform and opportunity to be able to look at these issues from different perspectives and that’s why that particular meeting and session is also put together.
We are also preparing assiduously for the May Day; the May Day is also scheduled to take place on the 1st of May at the International Conference Centre; sorry, Eagle Square, as we used to have it, and this time around, all the protocols for the covid-19 will be observed, and importantly, only half of the capacity of the Eagle Square will be used; that is less than 2,000 persons because the capacity of the Eagle Square is actually 5,000.
The theme for the 2021 Workers Day is: “Covid-19 Pandemic, Social and Economic Crisis, Challenges for Decent Work, Social Protection and Welfare of the People.” This theme is central and captured the essence of the moment because of the fact that covid-19 is still ravaging the economy, but importantly, it is also an occasion by the challenge for the economy just as enunciated by the latest statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics – the unemployment situation is getting worse and also the poverty level; but importantly the inflation rate which has been on the increase, all of these gave rise to the choice of the theme for the May Day and therefore, NEC is urging all Nigerian workers in the celebration of this year’s May Day.
On Mass Sack in Kaduna
Also, the CWC has proposed to NEC the very precarious situation of workers in Kaduna State. The entire working class in Nigeria…[not clear here…] the mass sack of thousands of workers and also the conversion of workers to casuals by the Kaduna State government under the pretext of paucity of funds or drop in revenue; CWC has posited and looked at all the facts associated with this issue and has said that:
- The Kaduna State governor, as usual has violated all the known laws that regulate labour and industrial relations in Nigeria with some sort of disdain because the law on casualisation is criminalised in Nigeria and secondly, the law on redundancy on and how to declare redundancy is also very clear, and for the avoidance of doubt, CWC reasons that whereas the provision of the law is very clear about the fact that trade unions and workers representatives must first be consulted before declaration of any redundancy, and;
- That even the terms and conditions and scope of redundancy must be discussed and agreed and, lastly, that there are precedents and requirements to be met before declaring redundancy. All of these have been violated and it is a matter of great concern to Nigerians and Nigerian workers, and that is why it is condemnable.
The issue of using as an excuse the paucity of fund is also faulted because of the fact that the same state declared an excess of over 50 billion [naira] as internally generated revenue, and we know as a matter of fact that Kaduna State is one of the States receiving fat revenue from the federation account and therefore one wonders why Kaduna State government will indulge in the anti-people and anti-workers posture and decision.
CWC also reason that even though that we are disengaged by the same el-Rufai, we were not paid.
The teachers that were disengaged in their thousands with the so-called policy of competency test; even where we pointed out then that even deceased teachers were on the list of those that passed the competency test and therefore justifying the fact that the competency test was a mere excuse to actually sack workers. Those workers in their thousands have not been paid their benefits as required by law.
And therefore that is why the CWC is taking this issue very seriously.
CWC also reason that with the insecurity situation in the country but particularly in Kaduna, which we have raised more than a year ago, that with the mass sack of workers, it then mean that breadwinners will not be able to take care of their families and their children will be thrown out of school and therefore, the security situation will get compounded.
I think our fear has been justified because I think it is a fact now, in the entire country, one of the insecure states is Kaduna where even to travel by road between Kaduna and Abuja has become so unsafe that some people have to resort to using only train. but importantly, there is no day that passes by that citizens or workers are not kidnapped for ransom and we are sure that this situation is going to be compounded and therefore, CWC is recommending to the meeting of National Executive Council, which is to take place immediately the line of actions that will be taken against the Kaduna State government for having violated the provisions of our laws.
CWC has decided and has also recommended to the National Executive Council that Labour will withdraw all services from either public or private – all services – and when I mean all services, it means all services, from all sectors of the economy, for five days in the first instance, and where there is no remorse, there is going to be a total action because we believe that el-Rufai is not alone in this action, that neo-liberal forces and also some governments are also part of it, and we wondered why this his action has not been called to order by other relevant agencies of government because of the grave implication of this action.
Where political office holders violate laws and constitutional provisions with impunity and nobody is ready to call them to order, we thought that it is high time that workers also exercise their right to protect the right of workers that are in Kaduna and their families, and this action is going to be total and unconditional, and therefore all unions will be issuing statements and directives to their members to take this directive seriously and that the action will go ahead.
Comrades, this action is taken as a matter of last resort because all the communications that we have written so far on this issue have not received the attention of any person and therefore we thought that workers should not be allowed to die in silence because thousands of workers that have been sacked have not been paid in line with the provisions of the law.
And not only that, you cannot decide through a fiat what a worker will be paid when he is disengaged in this manner.
In fact more worrisome is the fact that the policy targets the workers that have spent more than 30 years in service or some, more than 20 years in service. In fact, the policy says that once you are up to 50 years in service, you will be disengaged and you will be sent off like a slave or at worse, like a dog, without any entitlement.
Secondly, the letter which you have seen indicated that your entitlement will be paid in due course and that is the same letter that was issued to those teachers that were disengaged a year ago, and therefore we look at this as very serious, and in fact, it is something that every Nigerian must condemn at this time and at this period that workers will be sent out in this manner.
It is a very serious issue that I think every right-thinking Nigerian must actually back labour and back this action that labour has proposed to be taken against the Kaduna State governor who I think from all intents and purposes is driving neo-liberal policies of the Breton Woods institutions.
On Crisis in Labour Party
Comrades, also, we have discussed the issue of the Labour Party. The Labour Party, all of us are aware, is a party formed by the NLC with TUC and our civil society allies.
We have identified that the party currently is being hijacked by some other political parties. In fact, we are aware that the last meeting of the party, the NEC meeting, after the demise of the chairman, was hosted and sponsored by some elements and therefore they have imposed their own as leaders on the party.
We have written officially to INEC, and we have made it very clear that we will recover our party and therefore a decision also was taken by the Central Working Committee, and it is also going to the NEC, to say that we are going to use our structure and might to recover the party; that all the offices of NLC in the states will actually work assiduously to recover the party, and therefore, we are going to engage INEC because we also realise that INEC is part and parcel of sanctioning this illegality because the constitution of the party provided very clearly that a NEC meeting cannot take place except where the leadership of NLC and TUC and the chairperson of the National Women Committee of the NLC are part and parcel of the NEC.
And I also want to report to you that the meeting that took place, we were not informed and that is why we said that those issues are issues that we need to engage. In fact, the acting chairman of the party reported to us officially how thugs were used to make her to sign some documents under duress.
We have already reported to INEC; we have seen the response of the faceless group; we are ready also to engage them in a way and manner that will prove that the party belongs to us. The certificate of registration of the party is in the custody of NLC and anybody that is in doubt can also approach NLC; we will show you the certificate of registration, the original copy of the certificate.
It is on record that we registered the party and there is nothing in law that NLC and other social groups cannot have a party of their own. This has been supported further by the ruling of the Supreme Court in INEC versus Musa which was actually read by Justice Uwais, and he said clearly that workers and civil servants without distinction have a right to belong to a political party of their choice and even form a party for the purpose of protecting their rights and interests.
And therefore, it is within this context that NEC thought that it is even a slap on our face for anybody to think that the party does not belong to NLC. In fact in the ruling recently by a Federal High Court by Justice Kolawole, who now has gone to the Court of Appeal; the ruling clearly stated that the party formed by NLC belongs to NLC to promote workers interests. It is clearly stated there and the judgment specified clearly that there should be a uniform congress that will be led by NLC so that new leadership will be able to emerge. Therefore, we are going to ensure that the provisions of the judgment of the court will be enforced to the letter.
Already, we have written to all the agencies of government, including INEC, and therefore, we cannot be assuaged by the comments of those detractors because I want to reiterate that if the person that is speaking is a fool, I’m not sure Nigerians will be fooled, to remember that the party was actually registered by the NLC and therefore the party belongs to NLC.
So those are some of the brief remarks that I want to make as some of the decisions of the Central Working Committee, which invariably will go to the National Executive Council and after the meeting of the National Executive Council, certainly we are also going to make that decision known to Nigerians, and importantly to all Nigerian workers.
Importantly also is the issue of the economy. We have also noted the recent report by the World Bank which said that the power sector is still being subsidised to the tune of about 6 billion [currency not stated].
We want to make it clear, and it is part of the decision of the Central Working Committee, that whereas one of the conditions precedent for the privatisation of the power sector is that everything is going to be perfect and that Nigerians will not continue to be exploited. We want to say that that privatisation process has failed and part of the condition of privatisation is that after five years, the entire process will be reviewed.
CWC decided that we will use every means to compel government to review the entire privatisation process which has failed so that Nigerians will be able to know whether we have made progress or not. And it is very clear also that we have not been able to improve any power generation; the power generation is still hovering below 4,000 megawatts and therefore there is no way you can be able to make any headway if we are going the same circle of making the same argument over issue that Nigerians were assured that once privatised; and the same privatisation, was actually a prescription by the World Bank.
So, I think that report is faulted and I would like to insist that government should not succumb to this type of report to say that Nigerians should now pay higher for electricity tariff. Where that is done, certainly Nigerians will also resist and the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress will provide the much needed platform to resist some of the policies because they are policies that are imposed on our government.
There are conditionalities that were imposed and yet I think those issues are very clear and obvious that the prescription of privatisation of power sector has failed, and even in Canada when it failed, government reversed it and did a buyback and therefore they were able to put it on a better pedestal.
We never see any reason why this particular process cannot be reviewed because the law said it shall be reviewed after five years and what is actually preventing the review is what we want to interrogate and it is part of the decision of this meeting that the process must be reviewed and that government should not contemplate imposing more hardship on Nigerians.
So, with that, comrades; we will be able to speak to you after the meeting of the National Executive Council. What I have just tried to brief you is the decision of the Central Working Committee, which has just concluded.
Thank you very much.