Armed thugs alleged to have been sponsored yesterday attacked the protesting workers led by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayuba Wabba, in Kaduna just as governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have appealed to the Kaduna State government and the NLC to settle the rift.
But Governor Nasir el-Rufai has declared Wabba and other labour leaders wanted for alleged economic sabotage even as he sacked nurses below Grade Level 14.
In a swift response, Wabba said he was waiting for el-Rufai to arrest him and his colleagues.
The workers were attacked at the NEPA Roundabout, Kaduna, during their peaceful procession in continuation with their five-day warning strike against the mass sacking of workers by the Kaduna State government.
The hoodlums, armed with sticks and knives arrived in two vehicles and Keke NAPEP, throwing stones at the protesters.
There was pandemonium as the police who have been accompanying the protesting workers on their processions swiftly responded by firing teargas at the hoodlums.
The workers also joined the police in repelling the thugs one of whom was caught and beaten mercilessly.
Wabba announced that one of the suspected thugs below the age of 16 died as a result of the stone thrown at him accidentally by one of the thugs.
However, the workers carried on with their procession back to the state secretariat of the NLC after the disruption.
Speaking in an interview with ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, the NLC president condemned the attack, alleging that the thugs were sponsored by Governor Nasir el-Rufai.
Wabba said: “Today is a sad day in the history of democracy in Nigeria.
“Early in the morning today, we got credible information that Governor El-Rufai had hired one Alhaji Hassan Gwaska, who lives in Hayin Banki.
“He was a car dealer; he hired some thugs to come and attack us.
“I called the DSS (Department of State Services), I called the DIG (Deputy Inspector-General) Operations, I also called the Director of SSS (State Security Services) and gave them the information.
“While we are here, they (thugs) came, but we thank God, we dismantled them. We have chased them away because we have the number.
“We are not thugs and we are not using thugs, we are using Nigerian workers”.
Reacting to el-Rufai’s declaration of them as wanted persons, Wabba said he was waiting for the governor to arrest him.
The NLC President said the issue is not about him but about workers.
“We are here and waiting for him to come and arrest us. This is not about me, it is about Nigerian workers,” Wabba said.
The Kaduna State governments yesterday announced the dismissal of all nurses below Grade Level 14 for the illegal strike.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, said the state Ministry of Health had been directed to advertise vacancies for the immediate recruitment of new nurses to replace those dismissed.
The statement also disclosed that “nurses disconnected oxygen from a two-day old baby in an incubator on Monday at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, when they joined the National Labour Congress (NLC) strike.”
The statement added that apart from the nurses involved had been recommended to the Ministry of Justice to initiate prosecution.
The statement also directed all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to submit their attendance registers to the Head of Service while those in Kaduna State University should submit the same to the Secretary to the State Government and the Commissioner of Education.
Adekeye said: “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 of those absconding from duty.”
The statement commended doctors and some categories of health workers that tried to run public health facilities.
Adekeye expressed regrets that some nurses joined the strike and engaged in sabotage of some of our health facilities.
“Nurses were implicated in the forceful discharge of patients in many health facilities,’’ he said.
The government also warned that any academic staff of KASU that does not report for work will be dismissed, adding that government will not tolerate the brazen shutdown of electricity, attack on public infrastructure and buildings, locking up hospitals and forceful discharge of patients.
The statement said the actions of the NLC were equivalent to the actions of the bandits kidnapping and menacing citizens. “Bandits illegally use arms, but the NLC is deploying mob action for exactly the same ends,” it said, adding: “Efforts to dress up criminal activity as industrial action do not change the reality of lawbreaking that has unfolded, including their persistently ignoring the prohibition against impeding essential services.’’
It reiterated that Wabba and his senior confederates in the NLC had been declared wanted and would be vigorously prosecuted for violations of the Penal Code of Kaduna State, the Miscellaneous Offences and the Trade Dispute (Essential Services) Acts.
The statement said: “Wabba and his cohorts should report to the Ministry of Justice and the Police Headquarters to make their statements.’’
Also in speaking with journalists in an interview yesterday, el-Rufai declared that he would not negotiate with striking workers.
The governor also declared Wabba wanted for alleged economic sabotage.
el-Rufai accused Wabba of allegedly attacking facilities, declaring that he will be prosecuted for economic sabotage.
“They attacked facilities, they engaged in economic sabotage, that is an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences Act and we want him, we will bring him to justice.
“We are looking for him, he should report to the nearest police station or report to us. He will be prosecuted for economic sabotage,” the governor said.
He also declared that there is no ground for any compromise with the NLC, insisting the labour union has used its last ultimate weapon and that it will not change his position.
“There are no grounds for compromise, they (NLC) have used their last ultimate weapon, it will not change anything, we will not change our position,” el-Rufai said.
Meanwhile, the Progressives Governor’s Forum (PGF) has appealed to both the NLC and the Kaduna State government to find an amicable way of resolving the problem.
A statement issued yesterday by the Chairman of the forum and governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, noted the challenges facing the states, especially given dwindling revenue, and appealed to all patriotic Nigerians, including the NLC to demonstrate more commitment toward engaging governments at all levels to address problems.
Bagudu said: “This is not the time for muscle-flexing, Nigerians are already overstretched with many challenges.
“At this critical point of our democratic journey, there cannot be limits to engagement between all governments and citizens.
“Every step must be, therefore, taken to resolve the current face-off between Kaduna State government and NLC.”
The statement appealed to both the state government and NLC to return to the negotiating table.
It stated: “In particular, we want to appeal to the NLC leadership to recognise that the burden of leadership at this point is more about responding to challenges based on the honest disposition of correcting past mistakes.
“As Progressive governors, we share the vision of Kaduna State government of reforming all our local governments to make them more efficient and consequently the pivot of critical development initiatives.
“At the same time, we want to appeal to Kaduna State government under the leadership of our colleague, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai to take all necessary steps to ensure the resolution of all disagreements in the larger interest of citizens in Kaduna State.
el-Rufai Lacks Power to Declare Wabba Wanted, Says Falana
Reacting to the declaration of Wabba wanted by el-Rufai, the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), led by a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) stated that the Kaduna State governor lacked the powers to declare the NLC president wanted.
In a statement issued yesterday by Falana on behalf of the group, the coalition described el-Rufai’s declaration as laughable, stressing that Wabba and his colleagues were on the streets of Kaduna leading the peaceful protests embarked upon by the entire workers in the state.
According to Falana, the order of the governor cannot be enforced.
He explained: “By the combined effect of the Trade Union Act and the Nigerian Constitution, [Mr.] Wabba and other labour leaders have the unquestionable rights to participate in the peaceful warning strike and mass protests against further retrenchment of workers in the Kaduna State public service.
“The Miscellaneous Offences Act is not a state statute but a federal enactment. To that extent, if Governor el-Rufai has evidence that Wabba and other labour leaders have contravened any provisions of the Act he is required to lodge a complaint in any of the police stations in Kaduna State.
“The governor lacks the power to declare any alleged offender wanted under the Act or any other law whatsoever.”