THE five-day warning strike embarked upon by the Kaduna State Council of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on Monday has paralysed the state.
Socio-economic activities were brought to a halt on Monday, especially in the state capital, where the protesting workers converged.
Schools, banks, railway, airport, hospitals, among other critical facilities, were shut down by the workers.
Power and water supply to various parts of the state were also cut off by the workers.
Joined by its affiliate unions, the NLC embarked on the strike to compel Governor Nasir el-Rufai to reinstate 4,000 workers recently disengaged by the government and pay severance packages of others who had been sacked by the government.
Led by the NLC’s National President Ayuba Wabba, the workers stormed the state secretariat of the union before 8am, carrying different placards against the government, before proceeding to the State House of Assembly and other parts of the state capital.
Many people made panic withdrawals from banks’ Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), while others were seen in markets buying foodstuffs to stock in their homes, according to some residents of the state who spoke with our reporter.
The ICIR reports that many streets in Kaduna recorded very low vehicular movement because of the strike.
Some of the unions participating in the action are: The National Association of Nurses and Midwives; Nigerian Union of Railway Workers; Nigerian Union of Teachers and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions; National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE; National Union of Banks, Insurance & Financial Institutions Employees; and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).
Others are: Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP); Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG); National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW); Radio, Television, Theatre and Art Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWA); National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees; and Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE)
The government has repeatedly said the workers would not be reinstated.
Sack comes after a similar action by government three years ago
Workers’ strike by Kaduna State government is coming exactly three years after the el-Rufai’s government sacked nearly 5,000 of about 16,000 teachers it newly engaged in 2018.
The action is also coming amidst ballooning security crisis in the state.
El-Rufai-led government had, in April this year, carried out disengagement of workers, citing dwindling revenues and the need to invest in infrastructures and other critical sectors in the state.
The sacked workers were drawn from 23 local government areas of the state; the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and the state Primary Health Care Agency.
Governor El-Rufai had said he was not elected to pay salaries, which he claimed was taking nearly 90 per cent of monthly federal allocation accruing to the state.
Efforts by the NLC to convince the government to reverse the downsizing failed, hence the decision by union’s National Executive Council Meeting on April 22 to call for a warning strike in the state.
The NLC had, on May 11, directed all workers’ unions in the state to embark on indefinite strike to compel the government to rescind the sack.
The workers, through their unions, promptly directed their members to comply with the order in letters seen by The ICIR.
Human rights lawyers, Femi Falani, condemns sack
The Interim National Chairman of the Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB) Femi Falana has attributed insecurity in the state to unprecedented anti-workers policy of the state government.
Falana, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said in a statement on Sunday that rather than look for ways to address the economic challenges in the state, the state government had resorted to sacking its workforce.
“The level of insecurity in Kaduna State today is a function of unprecedented, cruel anti-workers policy of the Kaduna State Government, including repeated mass layoffs,” Falana said.
El-Rufai mocks workers, PDP
Responding to call by the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (PDP) that the government should reverse the sack, el-Rufai, on Saturday, described the party and the NLC’s strike as “Fathers of all hypocrites.”
He said, “Kaduna will wait for you all – the invisible PDP & affiliates like the hypocritical NLC that is yet to implement the National Minimum Wage Act, 2019, for its own employees.”
His claim was corroborated by series of tweets by the state government as reported by The ICIR on Sunday.
While reiterating its decision to ‘rightsize’ the state public service, the government said it was the first to pay the new minimum wage and minimum pension of N30,000 monthly, as well as fund its contributory pension scheme.
It also claimed to have paid over N13 billion inherited arrears of gratuity and death benefits over five years.
“Given the patchy level of compliance with the new minimum wage across the country, how come it is the same Kaduna State that blazed the trail in paying it and has continued paying it at both state and local government levels that some trade unionists are consistently traducing,?” the state queried.
Strike may further worsen insecurity in state
The ICIR reports that the strike may further worsen insecurity and other socio-economic challenges in the state.
Kaduna State has witnessed increasing banditry and kidnapping in the past months more than any state in Nigeria.
The ICIR had reported in March this year how deaths arising from insecurity were there times higher than what was recorded in the country’s North-East in 2020. Nigeria’s North-East has been the epicentre of insurgency facing the nation in the past decade.
Reports have also shown how bandits in Kaduna State killed 323 people and kidnapped 949 others within three months in the state.
Last month, the state government increased tuition for its tertiary institutions of learning by at least over 300 per cent, in a bid to increase its revenues. The decision received stiff opposition from the students and their parents, forcing the government to put the hike on hold.