Jos — Striking workers laid siege on the Plateau State House of Assembly yesterday and beat up a commissioner and a special assistant for Governor Jonah Jang who were heading to the legislature for a budget presentation session.
Governor Jang was scheduled to present the 2013 budget to lawmakers, but protesting workers who were on their third day of strike over wages marched towards the assembly premises apparently to disrupt the process.
Agriculture commissioner Steven Barko and Jang's special assistant on Youth Development Samuel Kwamkur were ambushed as they drove towards the assembly complex, Daily Trust learnt.
Angry workers intercepted the two officials around the Plateau State Specialists Hospital and molested them as well as damaged Kwamkur's car.
Daily Trust learnt that Barko was pulled out of his car and beaten up. He was rescued by the Police.
Earlier, speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. John Clark, was smuggled into the house premises by his press secretary Mrs. Nandak Chinle.
Chinle drove the speaker in his private Toyota car, with registration number AH-626-SHD, instead of his official Prado Jeep. Clark was seen entering his office through the back door that leads into the main chamber, instead of the one that links him directly to his office.
Protesting workers blocking the Joseph Gomwalk (State) Secretariat gate were earlier forcefully dispersed by security operatives firing teargas.
The angry workers then headed towards the state assembly complex but were blocked by the police at the junction of the specialist hospital along old Bukuru Road. The police cordoned all the entry routes to the assembly.
This incident prompted police reinforcement, including the newly deployed Police Commissioner Chris Olakpe, in strategic areas of the city.
However, the state president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Samson Mafuyai, told Daily Trust the union was not aware of the attack and molestation of the commissioner.
"For the past three days we have been staging a very peaceful demonstration at the secretariat, unfortunately today we got there and the police barricaded the road and started throwing tear gas canisters at us," he said.
"All this while we have been peaceful, we never molested anyone but today the police just started attacking us."
But the state government confirmed the attack on the Agriculture commissioner and Jang's assistant, saying the action was condemnable and would not solve the workers' grievances.
In a statement titled, 'Peaceful conduct, not violence will lead to negotiated settlement,' Information commissioner Yiljap Abraham said the two officials were ambushed by protesting workers.
"It is to be noted that part of the beauty of democracy is the exercise of various forms of freedom as spelt out and guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the freedom to peaceful assembly," he said.
"However, government has noted with great dismay the continuing trend of some protesters under the organized labour to disregard the need of the generality of the people of Plateau to let peace reign in every part of the state. Rather, we have seen an unfortunate exhibition of intimidation and attacks on peace loving people as witnessed today close to the assembly premises.
"Government therefore condemns this resort to violence which resulted in attacks on two government officials who were ambushed by organised labour close to the assembly premises.
"Such brazenness, arbitrariness and outright disregard to the laws of the land will not build but stunt our march to strengthening democratic governance.
"Government appeals to citizens to remain calm but alert, and to go about their lawful business. Security agencies remain conscious of their responsibilities to maintain law and order in every part of the state."
Plateau State Police Public Relations Officer Mr Emmanuel Abuh told Daily Trust that nobody was arrested so far over the attack on the officials.
Jang later yesterday gained access into the state assembly and presented the 2013 budget estimates to the lawmakers, the Information commissioner.
"The Plateau State 2013 budget has been successfully laid before the state House of Assembly. Governor Jonah Jang did this today after he was ushered into the chambers of the house in a seating presided over by the Speaker, Rt Hon John Clark Dabwan," Abraham said.
"The Plateau State Government wishes to place on record it's appreciation to the Speaker and members of the House who have stood resolutely in discharging their constitutional duty to the people of Plateau State. Government salutes their courage."