Freedom of expression is stipulated in Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. However, Section 40 of the constitution provides: Every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
It is with these jurisdictions, I see nothing wrong in the industrial strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) because their activities are contained and spelled in accordance to Nigerian constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Laws.
The NLC is doing what matters to it for the interest of its members. NLC is a body of workers and pensioners’ umbrella and based on what the papers had, workers are sacked in Kaduna state without getting their entitlements. This is sad.
The first ringing sacked workers in Kaduna state were the more than 21,000 teachers whom the government said they did not pass primary four competency test. Then, 7, 310 local government workers to downsize the staff, 3000 Kaduna state civil servants, 1, 240 health workers and the recent one that caused the current industrial strike in the state was the sack of 4,000 local government workers which the governor, through his spokesperson, Muyiwa Adekeye, said significant amount of the statutory federal allocations is being spent on the wages of public servants and government cannot continue to bear the burden.
At a time of economic hardship, insecurity and daily inflation, sacking of workers by Kaduna state is not the ideal thing to do, because there are many ways to get out of the woods. Kaduna state government has been reducing cost since 2015. In 2015-2016 through different verification exercises, the government uncovered 13, 336 ghost workers and was happy to say the exercise saved it many stitches. The governor and his deputies reduced their salaries to 50% and the state ministries were capped from 19 to 13 and permanent secretaries from 35 to 18.
Again, in efforts to reduce cost and save more for the state, Governor El-Rufai appointed 10 special advisers and 12 special assistants as against the 24 commissioners, 41 special advisers and reduced the 400 special assistants appointed by the previous administration to a minimal level.
With all these beautiful economic management of Kaduna state, the painful thing is the government’s negligence to pay the workers their entitlements after disengagement.
The external debt profile of states, 2021 has shown that Lagos state is the highest debtor in Nigeria with $1.087 billion, followed by Kaduna state with $234 million. Meanwhile, in 2019, the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KDIRS) said the state has generated over N44 billion as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), higher than Kano and became the third highest state revenue generator in Nigeria.
For me, and many economists, will not choose the path of sacking workers as the last alternative at this critical condition of inflation that hit 18%. I think the system of downsizing workers by Katsina state may be the best.
NLC as an independent union that monitors and checkmates the conditions of its workers can raise questions to many reasons of sacking workers that will only do more harm to the state and the country and boldness to come out to show their grievances may make good changes in Kaduna state.
On the Trade Union Congress (TUC), it is with dismay I want to respond to some of their issues bothering Kaduna state. Markets demolishing started in 2015 with the Chanchangi Modern Market in Hayin Rigasa which was a land given by late Ahmadu Chanchangi to the Hayin Rigasa residents to have a business field but the market was hijacked by Kaduna state government and given to Waziri Integrated Services (WISER) for construction and privatization. But since 2015 only 10% of the work is completed while forms have been sold for shops purchase.
In Kaduna state, more than 12 markets were demolished and only one market was constructed while many traders suffered sunshine and rain in streets as many left the state. The demolition of these markets like the sack of workers, no formal and due process are followed in some cases. The case of Kasuwar Barchi was in court when the market was demolished on three day notice.
Traders in Kaduna state are in the same fate with workers and TUC has remained aloof and lost in the thin air to console its members. But the visit by the leadership of TUC to the state government before the 5-day warning strike in Kaduna state has many explanations on the situation of traders of Kaduna state.
TUC is not known to Kaduna traders as the union is nonchalant about the traders’ welfares. In 2018, shop prices were hiked and it went silently because the traders were afraid to raise alarm that will consume their marketers and shops.
The sale of Abubakar Gumi Market is billed for November 2021 and this will only add to more suffering for marketers as they can’t afford the high rates as Kaduna state marketers suffered the coronavirus lockdown than any other states in Nigeria.
It is time for TUC to show love to its members by finding solution to this inhuman situations consuming traders in Kaduna state. No one is against development but there are ways to do things and the TUC and Kaduna state government should choose the right path of prosperity for the development of businesses in the state.
As Kaduna state government has its own cause to develop the people and fulfil its promises to the people, the state citizens and unions should respect due process and the law.
The state is facing security challenges and demands should be toed in calm and peaceful resolutions. The state government owes the people and we should all support the vision of the state government in a manner that is open based on the laws of the land.
Ibrahim writes from Kaduna state via [email protected]