18 December 2012

Nigeria: Again, Police Shut Down Plateau Workers Protest

Plateau State Police Command has dismissed the protest embarked upon by workers in the state, saying any protest at the moment could distort the tentative peace currently being enjoyed in the state.

This came as the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) declared a three-day nationwide solidarity strike.

Similarly, the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Abuja, yesterday said the restraining order it made against the striking workers in the state on December 7 remained in force pending the hearing and determination of the substantive case.

However, the state Deputy Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Gunshin Yarlings, has described the action of the police, whom he said shot tear gas at workers on peaceful procession along Tafawa Balewa, as unfortunate, adding that the police was only acting out the script of the state government.

He also said about 10 workers were injured in the pandemonium that ensued and are now receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital.

Yarlings said: "For government to direct the police to shoot at a peaceful procession by workers show that this government is not yet prepared for peace. We are not discouraged, we are re-grouping to re-strategise for the next action."

The NLC's nationwide strike would commence on December 20. The strike would, however, be suspended if the state government commenced meaningful dialogue with the workers before the date.

This was the resolution of the CWC after its meeting last weekend where the Plateau crises topped the agenda.

In a copy of the communiqué issued in Abuja yesterday, the CWC directed all affiliate unions and state councils of the NLC to commence mobilisation of workers for the strike.

It also directed members of the committee to be in Jos to express their solidarity with the striking workers who have been demanding the implementation of the new wage to the local government workers and the payment of arrears of six months' salary to the workers.

"The CWC directed that all state councils across the country should organise prayer sessions against the dictatorship of the Governor of Plateau State and all those standing against the implementation of the new minimum wage to local government workers in Plateau State," the communiqué stated.

The communiqué signed by the National President, Abdulwahed Omar, and Acting General Secretary, Chris Uyot, lamented that the state government refused to pay the new wage even after it had negotiated for a 55 per cent reduction until the finances of the state improves.

It added that the government instead of honouring its agreement choose to unleash violence on the workers through the use of armed troops and unemployed thugs.

Meanwhile, the President of the court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, who refused attempts by Plateau State Government to commence hearing in the matter, following the ex-parte order made against the striking workers on December 7, said there was no proof of service on the respondents before the court.

He urged the state government to seek amicable resolution of the trade dispute, even as he invoked section 20 of the National Industrial Court (NIC) Act 2006, recommending out-of-court settlement between parties, with a view to ending the seven months old strike in the state.

Justice Adejumo also ordered the publication of the next adjourned date of January 7, 2013, on two national dailies, one week from today, copies of which must be deposited before the court registry as proof of substituted service on the workers who were not in court

Speaking on efforts aimed at amicable settlement of the matter, the Secretary to Plateau State Government (SSG), Prof. Shedrack Best, said the state government had through the state House of Assembly, Plateau State Elders Committee and religious leaders, made several attempts to reach a peace resolution.

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