A handful of thugs attacked Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) members during their protest at the NEPA junction, Kaduna, at exactly 12:05 pm on Tuesday when the leadership of the union was addressing the workers.
The rally commenced as usual from the NLC state secretariat where the workers had earlier been addressed by the president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and passed through the secretariat to the popular NEPA junction on Ahmadu Bello Way, before the thugs arrived in two small buses and jumped down with sticks to confront the labour leaders.
Some workers who tried to confront the thugs by pelting them with stones were stopped by the leaders, while the detachment of security men, police, civil defence, military men and the road safety officials who were on the ground approached the thugs in a bid to stop their planned attack.
Unyielding, the thugs started throwing stones while an attempt to disperse them with tear gas was unsuccessful before they were finally dispersed by the workers, without recording any casualty.
Having brought the situation under control, Wabba briefly addressed the workers with a promise to use all labour actions available to confront the state government.
The leadership of the labour also noted that nationwide total blackout is imminent as they vowed to shut down all electricity installations across the country from midnight if the Kaduna State government remains adamant to their demands.
Deputy President of NLC and General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero, said the power blackout would go national from tomorrow if the situation remains the same and Governor Nasir el-Rufai refuses to do the needful.
The entire Kaduna State has been thrown into a total blackout since Sunday, as all electricity installations were shut down across the state.
The national leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) also alerted its members nationwide to get ready for a showdown with the Federal Government if any of the officials of the NLC is harmed by security forces in Kaduna State.
National President and General Secretary of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha and Comrade Afolabi Olawale, respectively, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call the Kaduna State governor to order before he literally sets the country on fire. Following the protest, the state government announced the dismissal of all nurses below Grade Level 14 for participating in what it termed ‘illegal strike.’
A statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, also disclosed that nurses who disconnected oxygen from a two-day-old baby in an incubator on Monday at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital will face prosecution.
Adekeye said the “Ministry of Health has been directed to advertise vacancies for the immediate recruitment of new nurses to replace those dismissed.”
The statement directed all ministries, departments and agencies to submit attendance registers to the Head of Service while Kaduna State University (KASU) should submit same to the Secretary to the State Government and the Commissioner for Education.
Adekeye noted that the salaries that could have been paid to the dismissed nurses will be given as extraordinary occupational allowances to the health workers who are at their duty posts to fill the gap.
Meanwhile, Governor el-Rufai has declared Wabba and other labour leaders wanted. He said the labour leaders were declared wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure under miscellaneous act.
In a tweet he posted on his Twitter handle on Tuesday, the governor said “Ayuba Wabba and others of @ NLCHeadquarters are declared wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure under Miscellaneous Offences Act.
“Anyone that knows where he is hiding should send a message to @MOJKaduna KDSG. There will be a handsome reward!
“The reform of the size, cost and quality of overbloated, inefficient and barely educated public service is at stake here. We will neither retreat nor concede to any thoughtless and corrupt political hacks ever!”
Reacting to the arrest threat, Wabba dared the governor in an interview with the Nigerian Tribune as he said: “We are here and waiting for them.”
Also reacting, Ajaero said: “They said we are declared wanted and we are in the streets of Kaduna. Let me make this clear, there is division of power – the executive, the judiciary and the legislator.
“No executive governor can declare anybody wanted. The police can do that, the courts can give the order, but any executive governor that is announcing that doesn’t know his job. There is separation of powers between the three arms of government, so in furtherance of the illegality being perpetrated by el-Rufai, he declared us wanted.”
In a bid to stem the tide, the leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has urged workers under the aegis of NLC to exercise calm and restraint in its engagement with the Kaduna State government while the forum of All Progressives Congress (APC) governors appealed to both parties to seek genuine resolution of the impasse.
The NGF chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, gave the charge via a statement and called for the understanding of the burden being borne by the sub-national governments. He urged the organised labour not to see the sack of the workers as witch-hunt, but to ensure an amicable resolution of the crisis.
The APC governors, in a statement by Kebbi State governor and chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, appealed “to all patriotic Nigerians, including the NLC, to demonstrate more commitment toward engaging governments at all levels to address problems, adding that “this is not the time for muscle-flexing.”
Also, the Federal Government called on Governor el-Rufai not to escalate the labour crisis in the state, while it also appealed to the labour unions, especially those in critical sectors, not to tamper with electrical or water installations, so as not to bring more suffering to Kaduna people. Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in a statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan, said: “we hope and also pray the Kaduna State governor not to escalate matters to such a level where it becomes uncontrollable.” The statement also called on labour leaders to step down the action and make way for discussion.