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Nigeria:  Kaduna Governor El-Rufai, Labour Poised for Showdown Over Monday’s Warning Strike  

The Kaduna State Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) are poised for a showdown on Monday at the commencement of a five-day warning strike by the latter. The state

The Kaduna State Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) are poised for a showdown on Monday at the commencement of a five-day warning strike by the latter. The state chapter of NLC had last week issued notice of the warning strike, commencing on Monday, to protest the sacking of workers by the state government.

But the government warned civil servants against participating in the strike, accusing NLC of plotting to cause violence in the state.

However, several labour organisations directed their members to participate in the action, with aviation workers threatening to close the Kaduna airport in compliance with the NLC protest.

At a press conference on Saturday in Kaduna, the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Mallam Jafaru Sani, alleged that some trade union leaders, led by President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, were planning to cause mayhem in the state. Sani also accused Wabba of causing the destruction of government property in 2017 during a protest against the sacking of over 20,000 workers by the Governor Nasir el-Rufai government.

He alleged that there was a subsisting warrant for Wabba’s arrest “for vandalisation of government facilities, in violation of the Miscellaneous Offences Act and other laws of the land.”

According to the commissioner, “Security agencies have been notified of the plans of some trade unionists to recruit hoodlums, including from other states, to create a destructive spectacle and further their self-serving narrative about public service jobs and insecurity.”

Sani alleged, “The Kaduna State Government has been made aware of plans by some trade unionists, led by Ayuba Wabba, to reprise the mayhem they visited on Kaduna during their rampage of 8 November 2017.”

Wabba and other trade union leaders on November 8, 2017 led a protest against the sacking of 21,780 schoolteachers in the state, said to have failed a competency test organised by the government.

Sani warned that besides the restriction on imposed by the COVID-19 protocols, a ban on public processions subsisted in this state.

He said the state government would “protect its facilities and the right of its staff to access and work in their offices,” warning, “It is unlawful for anyone to try to deny them access or exit.”

He said, “Government offices are not the property of any trade unionist and none of them should entertain thoughts of locking up or vandalising any facility.

“As in 2017, the Kaduna State Government will not subject its policy to the veto of a mob.

“This government did not campaign on a platform of tired populism and it was not elected to practice timidity as public policy.

“It is not about to create the mistaken impression that it has much fiscal wiggle room as a subnational or that it is the supreme goal of government to pay 100,000 people while ignoring the larger public welfare of 10m citizens.

“The trade union laws of this country are not a cover for irresponsibility, and therefore everyone concerned should be rightly guided.”

The state government had earlier in the week issued a circular directing civil servants to disregard the NLC strike notice. The circular by the Permanent Secretary, Establishment, Amina Abdullahi, on behalf the Head of Service, and addressed to all chief executives of government agencies and parastatals, directed all civil servants to report to work and sign a register.

“I am directed to request you to inform all civil servants in your MDAs and other arms of government to disregard the notice issued by the NLC and report to work,” the circular said.

However, the state chapter of NLC, in a statement, called on workers to disregard the threats by the government. The statement signed by the state secretary of NLC, Comrade Christiana Bawa, said no worker in the state civil service in the El-Rufai administration had job security.

NLC accused the Kaduna State government of sacking over 30,000 workers in 2016 and refusing to pay their entitlements.

It said, “Since the history of Nigeria there’s no government that disengaged workers like the present government of Governor Nasir Elrufai.

“This is the time to tell the world that Kaduna State government is antiworker and want to destroy the civil service in the name of reform.”

Meanwhile, several bodies affiliated to NLC directed their members to participate in the five-day warning strike. The unions include Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), National Union of Electricity Employees of Nigeria (NUEE), National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE), Nigeria Union of Railway Workers, National Association of Nurses and Midwives, Aviation Workers Union, and Local Government Employees.

Aviation workers under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) threatened to shut down the Kaduna airport in compliance with the strike action declared by NLC

The unions made this known in a statement on Saturday addressed to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and copied to the Kaduna Branch Chairman/Secretariat of NUATE, ANAP and NAAPE.

The unions said they would proceed with the industrial action from midnight of Sunday, May 16 to midnight of Friday, May 21.

The statement dated May 14, 2021 and titled, “Notice of Strike Action at Kaduna Airport,” was jointly signed by General Secretary, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, Secretary General, ANAP, Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, and Deputy General Secretary, NAAPE, Comrade Umoh Ofonime. It said, “All workers at the Kaduna airport have been directed to withdraw all services at the airport within the stipulated period. In effect, there will be no operations of any kind into, at or out of, the airport within the period.”

John Shiklam in Kaduna and Chinedu Eze in Lagos