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Protest: Rivers Govt, labour unions set for battle


The government of Governor Nyesom Wike seems set for war with the leaders of labour unions in Nigeria over their planned protest in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Leaders of the two major labour unions in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC,  had in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday announced their intention to organize a peaceful protest in the oil city on September 8, 2020.

But the Rivers State Government said the protest cannot go ahead as it has already obtained an injunction to stop it: “They (labour unions) cannot go against the law, if they do anything outside what the court has said they would be infringing on the laws of Nigeria and of course you know the consequences of going that way”.

According to the labour unions, the planned protest will be used to draw attention to “full-fledged bloom of despotic rule in Rivers State under the administration and supervision of Governor Nyesom Wike”.

In the statement which was signed by Ayuba Wabba and Quadiri Olaleye, the  Presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress  and Trade Union Congress, respectively, the unions  accused the Rivers Government of  authoritarianism, industrial tyranny as well as sponsorship of violence and terrorism against workers and citizens of the State.

“The events of the past few weeks confirm to us and many right-thinking Nigerians that there is a full-fledged bloom of despotic rule in Rivers State under the administration and supervision of Mr. Nyesom Wike.

“The attack on the leaders of the NLC in Rivers State on Thursday, 27th August 2020 was only the tipping of a well calculated attempt by the Rivers State government to eviscerate, incarcerate and decimate the leadership of Labour in Rivers State. The grand design is to muzzle the voice of Rivers State workers who face a despicable industrial ordeal”, the labour leaders declared.

“Nigerian workers have never had it so bad under a state governor as Mr. Nyesom Wike who now sees himself as a demi-god. As the demi-god that he believes he is, Mr. Nyesom Wike has no scruples for the rule of law or basic standards of decency.

He has arrogated and appropriated to himself the powers of both the executive, the judiciary, the legislative and the vicious powers of underground non-state operatives who openly identify themselves as thugs loyal to Mr. Wike.

“Nigerian workers are not cowed and will never be cowed by the cowardly actions of Mr. Nyesom Wike to cower our voices. Workers will never succumb to his scare tactics. We will continue to demand that the rights of our workers in the workplace, their safety, and the sanctity of their lives must be respected always both by government and private sector employers. We will never shirk from this sacred mandate.

“Nigerian workers under the aegis of NLC and TUC and our civil society allies in the discharge of our constitutional rights will embark on a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on September 8, 2020. The protest is to draw the attention of the world to the infractions on workers and trade union rights in Rivers State,” the labour leaders said in the statement.

But in a swift reaction, the State Government said it has already obtained an injunction to stop the planned protest or any form of industrial action by the labour leaders in a statement signed by Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim.

The Rivers State Government added that  the decision of organised labour to embark on the protest  ins in spite of the injunction it has obtained would amount to a contravention of the law.

“It’s quite sad that we are hearing this kind of thing from Labour.  The administration of his Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is not a lawless administration and already because government wants things to be done properly, there is an interim injunction restraining Labour from any form of protest or strike.

“Now the Attorney General of the state, Dr Zacheus Adango, has gotten that injunction and those who are defendants in this matter: The Nigerian Labour Congress, The Trade Union Congress, The NLC President Ayuba Waba, Comrade Quadiri Olaleye, Comrade Beatrice Itubo and Comrade Austin Jonah.

“In the interim injunction, the defendants are either by themselves or through their servants, agents, privies, officers or otherwise, howsoever are restrained from stopping preventing, hindering, disrupting or interfering in any manner whatsoever with the provision of services or other works by their members in the civil and public service of Rivers State government pending the hearing and determination of the substantive motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed in the suit.

“So this is the position we are in and Labour cannot claim not to have been served because even the court, because of the urgency of this matter said that the originating summons and all the notice and processes of this suit on the defendants, along with the interim order be published in two national newspapers circulating in Nigeria.

“This we did yesterday. Now this is done as prescribed under Order 7 Rule 17H of the court before the before the return of the date of other proceedings. The matter is to be heard again on the 8th of September”.

“We have on good authority that they have been served, even if they have not, ignorance of the law is not an excuse that’s why the court ordered that they be given substituted service in two national newspapers which was done yesterday.

“They cannot go against the law, if they do anything outside what the court has said they would be infringing on the laws of Nigeria and of course you know the consequences of going that way”.