Kaduna workers’ strike: FG intervenes, Labour backs down, El-Rufai talks tough

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Wabba and Kaduna state Nasir El-Rufai

Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai has vowed that Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba and other labour leaders will never return to Kaduna by the time his government was done with them.

The protest of the organised labour in Kaduna entered its third day Wednesday.

Labour unions had declared a five-day warning strike against the administration of Governor El-Rufai over the mass sack of workers.

The strike had brought Kaduna to a standstill as hospitals, banks, train station, the airport, among others were shut.

But the governor dared the labour leaders, saying their action would not make him change his stance on the sacked workers.

Addressing the 23rd Annual Tax Conference organised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) in Kaduna Wednesday, the governor described the labour leaders as “criminals.”

He said the labour union’s actions which prevented businesses like banks, petrol stations and others from opening is criminal, illegal, threatening government would deal with “the criminals.”

The governor explained his government was not against workers’ right to embark on strike, but such workers must walk out of their work place and allow it to function without them.

While emphasising workers or their unions do not have the right to stop any business or government establishment from opening, the governor said those responsible for such were liable to be convicted on the Miscellaneous Offences Act, which attracts a minimum penalty of 21-year-imprisonment.

Apologising to his guests for whatever inconvenience experienced due to the strike, the governor said: “All those that have broken the law to the fullest extent will never come back to the state again by the time we are done with them.”

“There are efforts to prevent legitimate business to open, there are efforts to prevent banks from opening and also preventing petrol stations from dispensing fuel, this is totally criminal and illegal and we are going to take action.

“We are making efforts to provide security for all businesses that will wish to remain open.

“We are not against the right to strike; you are free to strike, but walk away from your institution and allow it to function without you.

“You have no right to stop any business from remaining open and we are going to take very strict measures against people that have tried to do that.

“What this strike is about is to answer fundamental questions, the first of which is this; should an employer, keep person of poor education, inadequate skills, qualifications and bad work attitude in employment, whether he likes it or not? Our answer in Kaduna state is in the negative.

“We, as the employer, are in a contract of employment with the employee and if he is not up to scratch, we will let him go and that is included in our contact of service.

“The second question is this, is the right to protest or to withdraw your services of an employee equivalent to the right to destroy the institution in which you work; shut it down or attack public infrastructure?

“Our position is very clear, law is very clear, you can walk out, you can strike, but you cannot shut anything down.

“Public infrastructure is a public asset belonging to the federation which belongs to all the people in Nigeria and you have no right to shut it down and if you do, you are liable to be convicted on either the Miscellaneous Offences Act which attracts a minimum penalty of 21 years imprisonment,” the governor said.

“I want to assure you that we will break the strike and deal with the criminals, prosecute all those that have broken the law to the fullest extent and I assure you that they will never come back to the state again by the time we are done with them,” El-Rufai further threatened.


Amidst the governor’s tough stance, the federal government has summoned warring parties to Abuja for a possible truce.

Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige announced this Wednesday in Abuja. 

The minister therefore invited the two parties to the trade dispute-Governor  El-Rufai and top officials of the state  as well as NLC President  Wabba and  his team to “an emergency conciliation meeting by 11 am,  tomorrow , Thursday, May 20, 2021 at the office  of the Honourable Minister of labour and Employment, Federal Secretariat, Abuja.”  

 The minister further directed the two parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum  pending the resolution of the issues in contention. 

 The letter separately addressed to both the governor and the NLC president  reads in part:

“ Sequel to the strike prompted by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)  one of the federations of Trade Unions in Nigeria, and the subsequent withdrawal of work and services in almost all public sector  establishments and institutions in Kaduna State, including but not limited to the essential services in electricity , water and health , which has consequently resulted and inflicted huge damage and loss to the economy and well-being and even loss of lives to the people of Kaduna State in the last three days. 

“ I am therefore constrained in the exercise of my powers as the Minister of Labour and Employment , under the Trade Disputes Act, CAP . T8, Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004; to invite you and your top officials to the emergency trade dispute  conciliation meeting.”

 “Between the transition period for the meeting, you are pleased requested to maintain the status quo ante bellum this dispute, so that the enabling climate for the resolution of the issues in dispute will not be hindered by the creation of new issues.”

 NLC ceases fire

 And consequent upon the intervention by the federal government, the NLC has suspended the warning strike.

Speaking after an emergency meeting in Kaduna Wednesday night, NLC President Wabba, said the strike had been suspended.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said  the federal government through  his labour and employment counterpart, Dr  Ngige, had intervened to resolve the dispute.

“The federal government is not folding its arms and already the Minister of Labour and Employment has waded in and is in touch with both the government of Kaduna State and also the Labour. In addition, the security apparatus all over the country have also taken pre-emptive measures to ensure that hoodlums don’t take advantage of this situation. In particular, I know that the police have reinforced its patrol between Kaduna and Abuja, so that we do not witness kidnappers taking advantage of the situation.

“Overall, I think the federal government is quite concerned and is doing its best to see how the two parties can resolve their misunderstandings amicably, with little loss to productivity, little loss to properties. At the end of the day, all the parties have to come back to the drawing table to agree and hammer out concessions and agreements,” Mohammed had told State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.

Health workers on red alert 

 Meanwhile, the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) has asked her members nationwide to be on red alert for further directives against the attack of workers who were on a peaceful protest in Kaduna by thugs suspected to be sponsored by Governor  El-Rufai.

A statement by MHWUN President Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah said the union further asked both workers and people of  the state  to declare May 18 as a day of mourning for the undemocratic behaviour of the state government.

 Josiah however described the governor’s action as barbaric, primitive and anarchist that could still be practiced in modern day Nigeria.

 He lamented that “this incident is occurring at a time when the heightened cases of insecurity said to have been aided by hunger and deprivation, even in the face of helplessness of the authorities has brought about an envelope of fear and trepidation in all the six geo-political zones of the country.”

The union leader further urged the governor  to as a matter of urgency recall all sacked workers in the interest of industrial peace.

“On behalf of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) in Nigeria, I want to use this occasion to register our utmost displeasure, disgust and dismay at the naked display of executive rascality exhibited by the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Mal. Nasir El-Rufai by unleashing hoodlums on defenseless workers’ led by Global President, Comrade (Dr.) Ayuba Wabba, mni while on a Peaceful Protest Rally against the mass sack and casualization of workers of Kaduna State.

“So for Mal. El-Rufai to mass sack workers whose only offence is that they chose to serve their fatherland faithfully and diligently with all man made inconveniences is most unfortunate.  We are, therefore, angered that even in the face of this deprivation, we are being provoked and humiliated.

“Let it be known to members of the public that peaceful picketing is guaranteed under section 43 of Trade Union ACT CAP T14 LFN 2004.  This position of the law has been affirmed severally by the superior courts of record up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“We wish to use this medium to highlight the illegal actions by the Governor which is being challenged by the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress are retirement of Officers who are 50 years of age and above, retirement of Officers on GL. 14 and above, Converting Officers on GL. 01 – 06 to casual labourers, Dismissal of Nurses on GL. 14 and below.

and Dismissal of Lecturers and Staff of Kaduna State University for participating in the peaceful protest.

“These actions have been taken without regard to extant labour laws and circulars that regulate employment of public servants whose appointment are clothed with statutory flavor.

“The union, therefore, call on Mal. El-Rufai to as a matter of urgency to recall all those he sacked unjustly and to publicly offer an unreserved apology to the Global President and Nigerian Workers within the next forty eight hours for the dastardly act.

“The union re-affirms our commitment to actions already taken and other being contemplated by the leadership of Congress to bring succor to the long suffering workers of Kaduna State.

“We particularly call on all workers and citizens of Kaduna State to tag Tuesday, 18th May, 2021 as a sad day for democracy and a day of mourning when an elected Governor threw away the constitution he swore to uphold and embraced thuggery.

“We call on the entire citizens of Kaduna State to particularly remember this day so that when this same man come calling to beg for votes to go to the retirement home of former Governors – the senate or for any other elective position, he should be rejected out rightly as there is no room for anarchist in a democratic society.

Meanwhile, we call on our members nationwide to remain alert and await further directives on this matter as “an injury to one is an injury to all” and “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere,” the union said.

 PDP slams KDSG

 Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged Governor El-Rufai to immediately and unconditionally reinstate all the sacked workers.

PDP in a statement Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan,  expressed shock over alarming reports that “the el-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government in Kaduna state had sacked about 70,000 since 2016, describing such as wicked, insensitive and unacceptable, particularly under the current economic hardship foisted on our nation by the APC administration. 

“It is even more worrisome that in its arrogant insensitivity, the Kaduna state government dismissed many of the workers without recourse to laid down due disengagement processes and benefits as prescribed by the extant labour laws, the opposition party added.

 The party further berated the governor “for overstepping the law in declaring the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba wanted as well as ordering the sack of health workers and lecturers for joining in peaceful solidarity procession with the sacked workers.

“Our party insists that the right of citizens to peaceful protest is fully guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and charges Governor el-Rufai to douse the tensed situation by coming down from his high horse, rescind his position and listen to the people.

“Governor el-Rufai must understand that we are in a democratic nation governed by law; where sovereignty belongs to the people, and not a dictatorial regime as being witnessed in the attitude of the Kaduna state government towards workers.”

RATTAWU issues threat  

 Similarly, the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) has warned against the continued use of thugs by the Kaduna state government.

Speaking on the development on the sideline of the ongoing industrial action in Kaduna, RATTAWU National President Kabir Garba Tsanni said the union would  not hesitate to shut down all government owned media houses should this uncivilised manner persists.

“This condemnation is predicated on the resort to barbaric use of thugs to disrupt the peaceful protest of the Nigeria Labour Congress, which is occasioned by the inimical Neoliberal policies of the state government that has resulted in the termination of thousands of workers in the state civil service.

“RATTAWU does not only find the actions and inactions of the Kaduna state government as an uncivil invitation to anarchy in the state but a betrayal of the oath of office that public office holders swore to uphold. 

“The state governor, Nasiru El-Rufai has in his quest for arbitrary use of power violated all provisions of the law regarding redundancy and retrenchment of workers as enshrined in labour laws.

“Consequently, the union WARNS that Governor El-Rufai should not take his luck too far by insisting on his egocentric rather than administrative posture. Should he fails to adhere to this good counsel, RATTAWU will not have any other option than to close down all government owned media houses, and some privately owned media houses that are unionized in Nigeria,” the union leader said.

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