Sola Ojo, Kaduna
National leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday shut down Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State, to protest the 36,000 civil servants recently dismissed from service by the state government.
There has been controversy over the mass sack of civil servants, especially the 21,780 primary school teachers who, allegedly, failed the competency test conducted by the state government in 2017.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and other union leaders, shortly before they led their members to the streets on a peaceful protest, expressed worry over the threats issued to workers by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Commissioner of Police Agyole Abbey, restraining them from embarking on the planned protest. According to Wabba, in 2012, Governor El-rufai joined the struggle and wore labour T-shirt and cap; “after using protest to achieve his ambition, he cannot come and deny citizens. If we don’t respect the rule of law, then, we are working towards anarchy.”
“We’re here today, to stand by Kaduna workers. I’ve also seen presidents and general secretaries of all our industrial unions here to support Kaduna workers. Let me, once again, salute Kaduna workers who have come out in large numbers despite the intimidation and the use of maximum force, including bullets, to stop us from the entering into Kaduna.
“I’m aware about 8,000 forces, including the military, police and civil defence were deployed this morning to intimidate us and use maximum force against us. I’m also aware that a lot of workers were intimidated and others shot.
“Our leader in ASUU movement, Dipo Fashina, who is leading the intellectual angle of our discuss, on his entry into Kaduna, was manhandled. This is not the democracy we bargained for. Democracy is about the rule of law and respecting human beings. In the history of our movement, this is the only time that maximum force has been used to intimidate workers for fighting for their rights.
“We are fighting for the rights of 36,000 workers and their families, who were disengaged from Kaduna civil service. The last time we were here, we were talking about 21,000 teachers. But, as we speak, over 4,000 local government workers and over 8,000 workers from ministries, departments and agencies, including tertiary institutions, have been served sacked letters.”
He continued: “We cannot keep quiet. Let me assure you, comrades, that this is just the beginning. We have now tested the waters and the struggle would be carried to every state in Nigeria and Abuja, to tell the powers that be where the problem is.
“We will continue to strategize even if we have to come here every month. We will not be tired until the right thing is done. Evil cannot succeed over goodness and truth. Nigerians must know and hear the story of Kaduna workers.
“The competency test is false because government had a predetermined number of workers they wanted to sack. So, we know it is work in progress, and no worker in Kaduna is safe. But we are confident that we cannot be defeated, they can use force, but we can use our number. Injury to one must be injury to all,” he stressed.
At the Government House Kaduna, the union leaders could not submit their protest as Governor El-Rufai was said to be out of the state.
They even refused to submit the letter to one of Governor El-Rufai’s aides, Saidu Adamu, who was willing to receive on behalf of the governor.