Labour Vows to Embark on Protest against Rivers

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to go ahead with its planned protest on Tuesday against the government of Rivers State over alleged infractions on workers’ right.

NLC and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had planned to hold a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Tuesday to compel the state government to address their demands which ranged from payment of salary arrears, promotion arrears, pension arrears to payment of new minimum wage.

However, in a statement issued on Sunday by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the labour movement said that it has received credible information that the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has mobilized two local government councils in Port Harcourt metropolis to use their agents to stop workers from holding the legitimate protest.

NLC accused the Rivers State Government of violently disrupting the State Executive Council meeting of the state council of the congress on August 29, 2020.

It said the right to peaceful assembly and protest is not just a constitutional right as provided for and guaranteed by Section 40 of Nigeria’s Constitution, but is also a fundamental universal human rights protected by international treaties which Nigeria is a signatory to.

“We wish to send a final warning to Mr. Nyesom Wike that in the event that any harm comes to any worker on September 8, 2020, Nigerian workers and the international labour community would hold him personally to account, after all, he remains the Chief Security Officer of Rivers State,” it said.

NLC alleged that on the night of July 27, 2020, some armed hoodlums ransacked the sealed secretariat of the NLC and vandalized equipment and installation worth millions of naira.

It said that up till now, no single arrest has been made on the incident, adding that till date, workers are still looking for the kidnapped JUSUN chairman in Rivers State.

In the statement, NLC listed its concerns to include the payment of outstanding salary arrears, the governor deliberately refused to pay workers in the state especially to teachers and healthcare workers, promotion arrears since 2015, payment of pension and gratuity to retired workers in the state since 2015, and non-issuing of official circular to effect the payment/of the new national minimum wage.

Other grievances are the alleged non-remittance of withheld check-off due deductions to unions in the state, unsealing of Rivers NLC Secretariat, the withdrawal of trumped up charges against labour leaders in Rivers State and cessation of harassment and assault on workers in the state.

“The foregoing demands are in line with workers’ rights as enshrined and guaranteed by Chapter Two of Nigeria’s Constitution, relevant sections of the Section 5(3) of the Labour Act, Section 17 of the Trade Union Act and Articles 1 – 4 of Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Articles 1 – 4 of the Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining of the International Labour Organization (ILO),” it said.