By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has stated that nothing would stop it from embarking on tomorrow’s protest 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, Rivers State capital, on Tuesday to compel the state government to address their demands which are payment of salary arrears, promotion arrears, pension arrears and payment of new minimum wage.
However, in a statement issued yesterday by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the labour movement said it has received very credible information that the state Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has mobilised two local government councils in the Port Harcourt metropolis to use their agents to stop workers from holding ‘legitimate’ protest scheduled for September 8, 2020, in Port Harcourt.
NLC accused the state government of violently disrupting the State Executive Council meeting of the state council of the NLC on August 27, 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 the Nigerian Constitution, but it’s also a fundamental universal human rights protected by international treaties signed up to by Nigeria.
He said: “We wish to send the final warning to Governor 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 the state.”
NLC alleged that earlier on the night of July 27, 2020, some armed hoodlums ransacked the sealed secretariat of the NLC and vandalised equipment and installation worth millions of naira. It said up till now, “no single arrest has been made on that incident. 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, “he (Wike) deliberately refused to pay workers in the state, especially teachers and healthcare workers; promotion arrears since 2015; payment of pension and gratuity to retired workers in the state since 2015; and non-issuance of official circular to effect the payment of the new national minimum wage.
“Other grievances are the alleged non-remittance of withheld check-off dues deductions to unions in the state; and we therefore demand the unsealing of the Rivers State NLC secretariat; the withdrawal of trumped up charges against labour leaders in the 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 Nigerian 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 Organise and Articles 1-4 of the Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).”