NLC shrugs off security intimidation, delivers protest letter to El-Rufai

Posted by Garba Ahmed | 11 January 2018 | 1,450 times

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•Hundreds of protesters seated on the roundabout at the gate of Kaduna Government House.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday surged of intimidation by security agents, proceeding with its protest march in Kaduna despite warnings not to do so. It successfully delivered its protest letter to Governor Nasir El-Rufai amidst heavily armed security at the Government House.

Hundreds of the protesters had defied security barricades and marched through Independence Way, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Ali Akilu Road and Sokoto Road, a journey of about seven kilometres to Government House to deliver their protest letter. The protesters carried placards with slogans such as: “Back dating Sack Letters By El-Rufai Is Criminal Contempt”; “El-Rufai Must Face Criminal Charges in defiance of workers’ rights and freedom”; “Mass Sack of Workers Is An Act Of Terrorism”; “El Rufai Resign If Sacking Of Workers Is All You Know About Public Service”; “Democracy without jobs” and so on.

“What happened in Kaduna, with the successful defiance of security threats that we have broken through without any arms and against heavily armed security, is an indication that Nigeria is tilting towards revolution,” some of the protesters told our reporter.

Saidu Adamu, Councillor on Information and Communication Strategy to the Governor, received the letter on behalf of the governor. Mr. El-Rufai was said to have travelled to Abuja on an official engagement.

“I have received the protest letter from the NLC President, Mr. Wabba. The message was that, they are still asking the governor to try and understand their problem so that they can still come back to drawing board and sit down on the table, to please listen to them and settle amicably. That is the message. Naturally, after accepting the message, I am going to deliver it to the governor,” Adamu said.

On whether the government is trying to muscle labour on the sack of the workers, the councillor said: “When it comes to demonstration in Kaduna town, we know what happened right from the 1991 Kafanchan crisis up to 2001 during Governor Ahmed Makarfi, we know what happened. Simple issues will turn out to be something different.

“That was why we had to go to the State Assembly to enact a law banning any kind of demonstration because a demonstration that started like this , some miscreant will like to take advantage and before you know it, lives and properties will be lost and it will turn into either religion or ethnic crisis.

“That was why we were skeptical to allow any kind of procession in Kaduna.

“So, for anybody to think that we thought something could happen; that’s why we tried to prevent it, yes, of course, anything could happen.

“No any right thinking governor could allow the death of people in his state. We are not saying they should not demonstrate, but it must be on a special arrangement and I have give a scenario of what has happened in the past in Kaduna.”

On the recent issuance of sack letter which purportedly violated earlier court order restraining government from any action on the sack of the teachers he said: “If you check the history of what happened, since November, 2017, Kaduna State Government has taken decision on the issue of primary school teachers. It was only in the month of December, after one month of passing the judgement. We have already fast track the process. We have not employed anybody yet. The court did not stop us from continuing with the process.

“If you ask the NLC and the NUT, they have also agreed that those who score less than 60% is not fit to be a teacher. Amicably they told us and we agreed in a meeting. So, those are the category that we started giving letters in consonant with what the NUT has said, so what are they talking about?

“Kaduna State Government did not violate any law.”

NLC President Ayuba Wabba, after delivering the letter to representative of the governor, expressed gratitude that the protest ended peacefully, “despite attempt by Governor El-Rufai to frustrate us.”

“We also thank, the representative of the governor for his understanding and demonstrating spirit of leadership by example despite the tensed situation,” he said, adding:

“Industrial Court said status co should be maintained, nobody should be given letter. But we were dismayed that the court order was violated, workers were issued sack letters. This does not comply with the rule of law that we talk about everyday and we will continue to condemn it.

“I am assuring Kaduna state workers that the struggle is just beginning. No retreat, no surrender. If it warrants us to carry out a nationwide protest, we will do it, if it warrants us to go back and do it in Abuja for the whole world to see, we will do it. If it warrants us to come back to Kaduna and carry out a weekly or monthly protest, we will definitely do it.

“Therefore, workers of the Kaduna State that their right has been violated and their jobs taken away from them, we pray to God to take revenge on your behalf.

“Nigerian workers where ever they are, have raised their hand up and praying to God on your behalf.”

Comrade Wabba added before the protest, NLC wrote a letter to the Inspector General of Police notifying him of the protest and requesting for security cover. He said many of their members were stopped and dropped on roads entering Kaduna from Abuja and from other parts of the country.

His words: “Nigeria’s Supreme Court had emphasised the constitutional right of anybody to gather and show his disaffection and protest for government to hear. So we cannot be intimidated.

“It is a well known fact that Governor El-Rufai had utilised this same opportunity because in 2012, we gave him T-shirt, he joined us in a protest.

“He had also hired thugs who protested in support of his plan to receive a loan from the World Bank.

“The governor also mobilised people in 10 buses each, across all the local governments in the state, he paid them to protest in his support after our last protest on same issue of sack of teachers.

“Why will he do that and turn around to prevent workers from protesting against their illegal sack” Is there something he is hiding that he doesn’t want the world to know about. If there is anything he is hiding, today the world has known and seen everything.”

Earlier at the gate of the Government House where the police prevented the protester from accessing the premises amidst solidarity songs by the workers, Agyole Abeh, the State Commissioner of Police, said he was exercising every caution to ensure that the protest did not lead to break down of law and order.

“But, by all indication, the action is confrontational to the security agencies, confrontational to the environment. Unfortunately, their leaders are adamant; they did not put into consideration the safety of their members whom they claim they are protecting.

“Honestly, if they become very violent, I will be left with no option than to use maximum force,” the CP said.

The CP had at a press conference on Wednesday in Kaduna, warned that individual or group intending to carry out any public protest or procession should in the interest of the public peace shelve such plans as he said the police will not stand by and watch the peace enjoyed by the citizens of the state truncated.  

Police said they deployed 8,000 officers to stop the demonstration called in defiance of the state government’s repeated threat.

Soldiers and five armoured vehicles and 30 vans were also deployed to stop the march.

Gov. Nasir El-Rufai warned that he would sanction teachers who joined the protest, one of the biggest the state has seen in recent years.

Photo: Garba Ahmed.

Source: News Express

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