LABOUR KICKS AS EL RUFAI ATTEMPTS TO ARMTWIST WORKERS OVER STRIKE BY SETTING UP PANEL

By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday continued its push to force the Kaduna State government to respect the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both parties and the reversal of the planned probe of some unionists.

This followed the setting up of a panel by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to probe the week-long strike organised in the state by Labour in solidarity with its members who were disengaged by the state government.

Retired Judge Justice Ishaq Bello was named as Chairman of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry that will probe the strike

The NLC directed its state councils and affiliate unions to be on standby.

In its memo to the affiliates, Labour did not give any date that the proposed action will start.

Reacting to the composition of the investigative panel, NLC President Ayuba Wabba said: “Meanwhile, we aver that our statutory notice on the escalation of this strike/protest action as given by our National Executive Council effective from 22nd of June, 2021, stands running.

“In furtherance of this, all our affiliate trade unions and members across the country are to step up mobilisation.”

The NLC boss described the setting up of the panel as a “joke taken too far, an abuse of executive powers of a governor and a waste of the resources of the state.”

Although, the congress agreed that the governor has the powers to set up such panel, it questioned how justice will be served saying that “we do not see how Mr. El-Rufai/Kaduna State goverment could be judge in this matter and we would still have justice given his repeated boast that he would deal with Labour leaders and those who took part in the strike action….and that by the time he was done, they would never again set their feet in Kaduna.”

The NLC urged the governor to learn to respect “his office, the oath of office he took, our Labour laws and the MoU his government voluntarily signed with organised Labour.”

The NLC had on June 22, put its members on strike alert following the failure of the Kaduna State Government to respect the MoU brokered by the Federal Government.

The Congress took the decision after an emergency National Executive Council meeting presided over by Wabba.

A statement by El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Muyiwa Adekeye listed one-time Cross River State Attorney-General (A-G) and Commissioner for Justice  Eyo Ekpo and former Kaduna A-G Mrs. Joan Jatau-Kadiya as members.

According to the statement, former Assistant General of the NLC/Deputy National Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chom Bagu will also serve on the panel.

Adekeye listed other members to include AVM Rabiu Dabo, Dr Nasirudeen Usman and Malam Mohammed Isah Aliyu.

The media aide said: “The Judicial Commission of Inquiry is constituted based on the 1999 Constitution and the Commissions of Inquiry Law CAP 34, Laws of Kaduna State1991.

“The inquiry has 14 terms of reference which include: to ascertain the legality of the warning strike, the actions of various persons and organisations.”

Adekeye added that the commission should also “determine whether such actions amount to any breach of of the Trade Union Act, the Trade Disputes Act, the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, the Miscellaneous Offenses Act, the Quarantine Act, the Public Health Law and Penal Code Law of Kaduna State and other laws.

“The Inquiry will also ascertain the economic losses incurred during the strike, assign responsibility for actions and make recommendations for appropriate actions, including civil remedies, criminal prosecution and policy measures.”

The statement pointed out that “Section 7 of the Commissions of Inquiry Law grants the judicial commission of inquiry the power to summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence and to issue a warrant to compel the attendance of anyone so summoned.”

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