Economic activities in Nigeria’s northwest Kaduna State were grounded Monday following the commencement of the five-day warning strike by the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The NLC is protesting the sacking of thousands of civil servants by the Kaduna state government without following due process.
As early as 7am, the state secretariat and other government offices were padlocked and chained while the workers converged at the state secretariat of the NLC along Independence way, Kaduna.
Although the gates were said to have been opened by the Kaduna state Vigilante Service, the workers refused to go their offices.
Filling stations, Commercial banks as well as the branch of the Kaduna Central Bank in Bank ( CBN) were all closed.
As at 7am to 9:30am, many private businesses and shops were closed between from their business places for fear of possible outbreak of violence.
However, by 10am many businesses and markets were opened when it was clear that the protest was peaceful.
The state government had in a circular, directed all workers to ignore notice for the warning strike and report to work and sign attendance registered.
However, the workers shunned the directives and complied with the directives by the NLC.
Hundreds of workers, alongside labour leaders led by the NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba, converged at the secretariat before embarking on a peaceful to the procession.
The workers who were accompanied by security personnel during the peaceful procession, marched to the state secretariat and the House of Assembly all located along Independence Way before dispersing.
The state assembly is on recess and there was no official to receive them.
Earlier in his address before leading the procession by workers, pensioners and students, the NLC President, accused Governor Nasir El-Rufai of intimidation, falsehood and violating labour laws with impunity.
Wabba said “labour laws are very explicit, but in Kaduna workers were being sacked without regards to the law.
He said, “Political leaders are elected to respect the laws of the land, but in Kaduna, the governor is not only disrespecting the laws but violating the laws with impunity.”
According to Wabba, the governor “first sacked 5,000 Local Government workers. The second sacking was 2,000.
“We are aware that in the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, 1,700 workers were sacked. We are aware in SUBEB, 4000 workers were sacked. We are also aware that the list of 11,000 workers is ready.
“He (the governor) claimed he had not reverted salaries of workers to N18,000. We are aware that out of the 31, 000 workers in the state he did not pay 20,000 of them.
In fact those he paid three days ago in the Local Government were given N18000. These are the facts and those workers are here to confirm”, the NLC President said.
Wabba also condemned the governor for increasing school fees by 1000% after sacking workers.
According to Wabba, “the governor increased the school fees by 1000% and I have on authority that 70% of the students of Kaduna State University (KASU) are indigenes of the state.
“They are also children of workers , pensioners, petty traders. What type of system do we want to run?
“Is it not the same governor that benefited from public school from primary school to university with bursary, yet we are claiming that there is insecurity in the land.
“How can we not have insecurity?
“We have on record that those 21,000 teachers that were sacked (in 2017) were not paid.
“And if he (the governor) claim that he has paid, tomorrow, I will invite all of them to be here with their letters.
“This is where we are! Why should public officers, especially, people that are expected to hold governance in trust now lie to the public?
He also dismissed claims that that the NLC was invited for a meeting on Sunday, saying it is false.
Wabba said: “How can a government that earned the trust of the people to be elected now be deceiving the people.
“This is the real situation in the state that is why you can see the action is fully complied.
“Rail has been put on hold power supply has been stopped, petroleum stations are not dispensing, banks are closed, railway from Kaduna to Abuja has been stopped, the airport has been closed, yet we have somebody that is tyrant that will say that he is fighting. “This is to tell all of us that the situation in Nigeria cannot change, the situation in Kaduna state cannot change unless we are able to take our destinies in our hands.”
The labour leader also said claims by the state government about a subsisting warrant in 2017 for his arrest is false, maintaining that he had visited Kaduna more than 20 times.
“The governor realised that our courts have been shut down because of their actions and inactions and he issued false information that he acquired an order about four years ago to arrest us, are we in a Banana republic?
“If he had an order four years ago, I have come to Kaduna more than 20 times.
“So if the sayer is a fool, the listeners cannot be fooled.
“He never promised that he will sack Kaduna workers, he never promised that he will demolish the shops of traders, he never promised that he will sell everything that belong to public, he never said he is going to increase school fees when he was campaigning.
“How can we at this time accept the bitter pills. That is why we are here.
“We are here because of a law called Labour law in Nigeria. That law says, before you declared redundancy, Labour shall be consulted.
“He claimed he consulted NULGE (Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees), it is false! We have a letter from NULGE that said there was no consultation”, Wabba said.
According to the NLC President, the only consultation the governor made with NULGE was to reduce the minimum wage from N30,000 to N18,000.
He insisted that the N30,000 minimum wage is a law.
“You can clearly see the disconnect between him and the people…He was gone ahead to intimidate everybody including workers.”
John Shiklam in Kaduna