Organised labour has ordered its members to withdraw services and shutdown the nation indefinitely beginning from 12 midnight.
The directive was issued by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at a joint press conference in Abuja yesterday.
On Friday, the National Industrial Court (NIC) had restrained the two labour centres and their affiliates from embarking on the planned nationwide strike.
The TUC president, Festus Osifo, who led the briefing, said government has refused to yield to the congress’ demands regarding the recent attack and brutalisation of NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, Imo State, two weeks ago, while leading union members on a strike against alleged abuse of workers’ rights by the state government.
Labour accused Governor Hope Uzodimma of mobilising thugs and officers who attacked and arrested the NLC president to frustrate the planned strike in the state.
However, the state Police Command has refuted the allegations, saying Ajaero was not arrested but taken into protective custody to avoid being lynched by a mob.
On his part, Uzodimma, who has just been re-elected governor, blamed Ajaero for his alleged partisanship in the state.
Speaking yesterday, Osifo said: “The two Labour centres have resolved to stand firmly by the decision of the joint NEC that was held last Tuesday “That effective, 00:1 hours, on November 14, we shall declare a nationwide strike.”
He stressed “So, effective tomorrow or midnight today, a nationwide strike is going to commence. All affiliates of TUC, all affiliates of NLC, all state councils of the two centres have been mobilised adequately and this is going to be indefinite until governments, at all levels, wake up to their responsibilities. This is the decision of the joint NEC of NLC and TUC and we are going to carry out to the latter.”
Respect substiting court order -FG
However, the Federal Government has insisted that there is a subsisting court order stopping the unions and their affiliates from embarking on the strike.
A statement by Kamarudeen Ogundele, media aide to the AGF & Minister of Justice said the interim order was granted on November 10 by the President of NIC, Justice B. B. Kanyip.
“The unions have been served the court order and, therefore, must surrender themselves to the authority of the court which is already seized with the facts of the case.
“Any action taken contrary to the order will be tantamount to contempt of court.
“We use this medium to urge the unions to respect the court order and adhere to the principle of the rule of law. There is no need to resort to self-help.
“We urge workers to report for duties and not to entertain any fear as their safety is guaranteed and will be protected within the ambit of law,” the statement said.
Regardless, leaders of both unions in Abia State have also said they would join the action.
In a statement, entitled: “Notice of Nationwide Industrial Action”, jointly signed by Pascal Nweke and Emma Alozie, NLC Abia State chairman and secretary respectively, the unions said: “The incident which took place on Thursday, November 2, on the orders of Governor Uzodimma saw the Imo State Police Command abducting the NLC president from Imo NLC state council secretariat in Owerri, where he was waiting to flag off a peaceful protest rally against Imo State government for non-payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners, during which he was man handled and violated by the police men. He was later blindfolded and moved to unknown location where further mistreatment was meted out on him.
“Unequivocally, the Abia State NLC says it is unfortunate that Imo State governor through the state police command has fully exploited the atmosphere of industrial tyranny in a determined effort to disorganise, dislodge and ultimately undermine the integrity of labour movement in the country.”
The statement said the essence of the release was to put all affiliates of NLC and their leadership on red alert and to urge them to begin sensitisation and mobilisation of their members in readiness to join the planned nationwide strike beginning from today.
“In this regard, all workers in Abia State both in federal, state, councils and private sector workers are by this notice directed to withdraw their services from Tuesday, November 14, by 0.00hrs.”
Last Tuesday, Labour had ordered its members to immediately withdraw services and shutdown Imo State indefinitely.
To suspend the strike, the labour centres are demanding investigation and deployment of the commissioner of police in Imo; sack of the area commander of the police and all other officers and men in Owerri through whom the police commissioner supervised the the attack; as well as the arrest and immediate prosecution of Nwaneri Chinasa, aid to Uzodimma.
They also asked for an immediate, independent and unbiased thorough professional medical examination of all victims of the attack; immediate restoration of all properties lost and urgent implementation of all the outstanding industrial relations agreements previously entered with the state government.