13TH OF AUGUST, 2023
THIS HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION OF TRADE UNION LEADERS MUST STOP
It has become urgent that we bring to the notice of all Nigerians that just as we were preparing to receive our brothers from trade unions across the continent of Africa who have come to attend an Executive Meeting of the African Alliance of Trade Unions, we have been forced for the past three days to confront the illegal interference by the Inspector General of Police in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) which is one of our affiliates.
Two days ago, some National officers of the Union who went voluntarily to the Police in response to an invitation by the IGP were unlawfully detained by the Police without any discernible reason other than to clandestinely force a scuttling of a properly convened Trade Union Programme.
Nigerians should recall that the NURTW has had their lawful activities restricted and shackled in Lagos state and other South West states of Oyo, Osun and Ondo despite the pronouncement of the Courts to the contrary. Having felt unchallenged thus invincible, the same forces that forcefully took over the Union in these states and renamed them in some as Lands and Parks seek to expand their reach nationwide. They seek to completely takeover the leadership of the Union which they hope to use to seize the nation’s civic space, muzzle voices of opposition and undermine democratic practices and aspirations in Nigeria.
The NLC does not understand where the IGP derives the power to meddle in the affairs of trade unions when it is neither a Court of Law nor any other known arbiter in Industrial Disputes as stipulated in the Constitution of the federal republic. Our Laws are very clear on how industrial Disputes should be settled in Nigeria and we are sure that the IGP as the Chief Law enforcement officer is conversant with that process. We wonder why he has refused to submit himself to the supremacy of the Law especially these time-honoured statutes and traditions.
What is happening demonstrates a further extension of the same brutal power play at work which was used by the same actors to forcefully take over the Union which was established under the instrumentality of the Law. It is an unholy quest at expanding the hegemony of impunity originating from these same powers who may want to deploy the instrumentality of the IGP to spread this illegality around the nation. This definitely raises yet another ugly scepter in our nation’s democratic space and must be condemned by all patriots.
We want to warn the IGP to thread with caution and stop meddling in affairs that are clearly beyond the purview of his powers. If he receives a complaint against any trade union that is carrying out their legitimate duties, the norm is to refer such matters to the federal ministry of Labour who have the statutory powers to intervene or apprehend such matters for arbitration but not to begin to hunt the leaders with the intention to harass and intimidate or frighten them to submit to whatever their wishes may be.
The federal Government which the IGP serves must insist on the prevalence of the Rule of Law and desist from any action that hinders the free operation of the levers of democracy thus capable of scuttling the nation’s democracy especially at this time when the nation seems to be walking through a mine field. The IGP must subject every of his activities to our Laws and should avoid using same for the purposes of achieving some clannish or narrow objectives that are not acceptable within the rarefied atmosphere of democracy.
Nigerian workers will not fold our hands and watch the actions of the IGP scuttle the democratic culture which we have all made huge sacrifices for and worked hard to enthrone. We will not allow the emergence of the rule of the powers of brigandage over the powers of Social Dialogue. We will not allow the prevalence of the powers of brute force over the powers of sane and reasonable engagement. We will not allow the continued diminution of our nation and the remaining sound terrains that have kept us together as a people and as a country.
The IGP should quickly hands-off from this unwarranted interference and allow other relevant institutions that are also creatures of the Law to take charge of their responsibility unless he has been able to comprehensively deal with his major responsibilities and now seek to help other agencies of government discharge theirs. It is better he keeps to the dictates of his job and allow others stick to theirs. What he is doing is not helpful to Nigeria but can only be self-seeking or an attempt to satisfy some other interests.
That is why the NLC calls on the IGP to deploy this energy to combating the insecurity challenges that confront Nigerians everyday everywhere around the nation instead of pursuing trade union matters that are not within his jurisdiction. We would not know why the burgeoning crime rate does not bother the Police neither does ridding our cities of crime infestations seem to be any worry to it rather than chasing trade union leaders for incarceration. It is important that he should focus more on his job than this interference.
If nothing is done to stop this, Nigerian workers may be forced to resume work daily in all Police Stations around the Country. We will demand the repayment of the cost incurred by the National Union of Road transport Workers (NURTW) as result of the actions of the IGP if we are forced to resume at the Police Headquarters and Posts around the Country.
Nigeria belongs to all of us and as major stakeholders, we are worried that these actions may further heat up the polity and cause greater disaffection amongst the citizenry. The Civic space belongs to the people and attempting to scuttle it rings the alarm bells. We strongly frown at this and seriously want this present harassment and intimidation of trade union leaders to stop forthwith. This is unacceptable.
Comrade Joe Ajaero