Economic and social activities were yesterday halted in Kaduna State as Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba led union leaders and workers on a street protest.

Ayuba and the union leaders had last week vowed to be present in the state to monitor a five-day warning strike ordered by the NLC over the retrenchment of over 45,000 civil servants and the anti-labour policies of the Nasir El-Rufai administration.

The Police Inspector-General, Usman Baba Alkali has, however, announced the deployment of additional Police operatives and crime prevention assets to ensure public safety and strengthen security along the Kaduna – Abuja Expressway.

Also, the state Emergency Management Agency assured residents of prompt response to emergencies, regardless of the strike.

The warning strike by labour started at midnight on Sunday. Hours before its commencement, affiliates of the NLC, including the National Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), had cut electricity and petroleum product supplies to the state.

Yesterday, aviation unions under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) also joined the strike.

The situation was made worse by banks that shut their doors to customers. Also, the Kaduna station of the Abuja-Kaduna railway was under lock and keys, thereby aggravating the pains of the residents of the state.

The labour leaders and workers had before taking to the streets from the state NLC secretariat on Golf Course Road gone round to lock up the gates of key government ministries and agencies.

At the Kaduna State Secretariat Complex, which hosts about 10 ministries, Wabba addressed the workers on the essence of the strike. Immediately after, the union leaders shut down the complex, but security personnel later forced the main gate open.

Some workers who hung around the complex after the labour leaders left remained outside in apparent compliance with the NLC directive.

From the complex, Wabba led the union leaders and workers to the state House of Assembly where the protest terminated for the day.

Ayuba had while addressing the workers at the NLC secretariat dismissed the threat by the state government to arrest him, saying he cannot be intimidated.

Noting that workers’ right to protest is enshrined in the African Union Charter and Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, the NLC president said anyone who wanted to intimidate him and other union leaders should rather go after bandits.

Wabba emphasised that there will be no retreat or surrender by labour to ensure that the demands of the workers were acceded to by the governor.

He also hinted that the strike may go national, if El-Rufai remained adamant.

Wabba lamented that Kaduna State has become the epicentre of banditry in Nigeria without an appropriate response from the government, which rather “got busy responding to workers fighting for their legitimate rights.”

Recounting the ordeals of the sacked workers and their children, the NLC President asked: “What type of a system do we want to run? How can we not have insecurity? We have on record that the 21, 000 teachers that were sacked two years ago have not been paid. If he says he has paid them, tomorrow, I will ask them to bring their letters.

“Why should public officers, especially those expected to hold government in trust, now be lying to the public? He also claimed that he invited NLC to a meeting and we declined. It is false, we were never invited.

“In fact, it was late last night someone called that he wanted us to hold a meeting. Later, he called that the meeting will no longer hold. I recorded the conversation.

“Comrades, is it not even laughable that when El-Rufai discovered that we meant business and ready to shutdown Kaduna that he said he acquired a warrant of arrest six years ago. He said he wants to arrest us. Are we in Banana Republic? Over six years ago, I had come to Kaduna more than 20 times.

“I read El-Rufai saying that NLC itself is not implementing minimum wage and as such we cannot ask for minimum wage. That is not true. I saw the publication and concluded that it was sponsored because there is no accredited source to that information.

“We are here to tell him that there is labour law in Nigeria, which says that, before you declare redundancy, the labour union must be consulted. The laws say, ‘labour shall be consulted’. But, the governor claimed to have consulted labour. The labour leaders here today say it is a lie.”

“There is no retreat, no surrender. I want to thank our union leaders, both in the public and private sector, from NUEE to NUPENG, from bank union to railway union, aviation and others that are giving maximum support and maximum action for the success of this action.

“El-Rufai should know by now that this is beyond the issue of rhetorics. It is an issue that is affecting lives of citizens.”

Aviation workers, who were seen barricading the gates of the Kaduna airport, accused the governor of flouting civil service laws and sacking civil servants before they served their mandatory 35 years or reach 60 years.

“He has violated civil service rules that state that a worker is entitled to work for 35 years or till 60 years, whichever comes first. He has unilaterally fixed 50 years,” the General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, said. The Nation

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