It is no longer news that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) last Thursday held a protest march in Kaduna to demand that the Kaduna state government reverses it's decision to sack 36,000 workers. However, the state government has since insisted that it is not going back on the sack of the workers.
According to the NLC, the sacked workers comprises over 22, 000 teachers, 4, 000 Local government workers. And another 8,000 workers from various Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA).
While the state government said the 22,000 sacked teachers failed the competence test set by the state government, it did not however explained the reason for the sack of the other workers. This has boldened the organised labour to argue that the Kaduna state government has other motives behind the sack of the workers.
For instance, the NLC through its President Ayuba Wabba argued that, " These acts of impunity against workers have been committed by the state government under the guise of a so-called competency test that was deliberately programmed to fail teachers and a spurious programme that goes by the name the Public Service Revitalization and Renewal Project, which are all a smokescreen by the state government to fulfill conditions for accessing a World Bank loan that will be paid back by the working people who are tax payers for generations to come."
But the Kaduna state government through the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the state governor, Samuel Aruwan countered that, "The government is doing what is right and proper for the people. Getting employed as a public servant does not elevate the interests and perks of that person above the larger interests of society. Keeping five people in employment sharing the desk and job of one person amounts to injustice to the many whose public resources are being squandered on a few.
"The Kaduna State Government launched its Public-Sector Revitalisation Programme in October 2016. No cadre of its public service was left in any doubt that the public service must be made leaner, more efficient, younger and IT-savvy. Government engaged with labour unions and individual workers before it launched the programme in 2016. Nobody can blame a government for acting on the things it has repeatedly said it would do."
The state government went ahead to say, "There is no way to even contemplate retaining teachers who have failed badly, and who are actually in need of adult education classes in Literacy and Numeracy."
But the NLC again through its General Secretary, Dr Ozo-Eson asked the state government to be ready for more protests and strikes until the sacked workers are recalled.
He said in a statement on Friday, "We are fully determined to ensure the recall of all the sacked workers and will not relent in our efforts as we will use every lawful means to compel El Rufai to reverse his anti-workers stance.
"The mass actions just got started and nobody, group of persons or authority can stop us as peaceful protests are not only lawful but a fundamental right of the Nigerian people as guaranteed by the constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court.
"The only way the mass protests and strike can be stopped is by the Governor respecting the judgement of the National Industrial Court by reversing the sack of over 36, 000 workers."
From all indications, it appears that the stage is now set for an epic battle between the state government and the organised labour. Even the conciliation set up by the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige seems to have collapsed.
Labour also claimed that despite an existing Court order from the National Industrial Court (NIC), ordering the state government to stay action on the sack of the workers, "Immediately after the New Year on 3rd January, 2018, the elected Governor of Kaduna state, in obvious disregard and fragrant abuse of the existing court ruling and the legal process, issued letters of disengagement to thousands of teachers and back dated them to November 3rd, 2017 ostensibly to circumvent the court order."
But despite the tussle between the state government and the NLC, for the 36,000 sacked workers and their dependants, the issue is simple, they want their jobs back. And this is one huge test for the NLC leadership. Should they fail to protect these workers, there are fear that other states may take a cue.
For the 36,000 Kaduna workers, their fate still hangs in the balance. For now, neither the state government nor organised labour is ready to bulge.
Aruwan claims, "The government has proposed a package to help ease the post-service transition of disengaged public servants. But nobody should foster the delusion that this government will be browbeaten into surrendering the interests of the majority for a vocal and selfish minority."
He said already, the scripts of the 43,000 applicants who sat for teacher recruitment exams have been marked, and are being collated. The next phase is to interview and screen the candidates that passed the recruitment test.
The question is what should the sacked workers settle for? Accept their fate or insist on having their jobs back?
Offering it's advice on the way forward, the Head of Publicity Bureau of the
Nigeria Intervention Movement, a Civil Society Organisation, Mallam Naseer Kura said, "In handling the alleged incompetence of teachers of Kaduna State, NIM recommends the governance solution model which some other states have employed with appreciable degrees of success. Faced with such critical decision imperatives in the recent past, states like Kwara, Ekiti, Sokoto etc opted to retrain and retool their teachers. Today, the fortunes of education in those states have improved significantly as evidenced in the performance of their pupils and students in National examinations such as WASC, NECO, JAMB etc. A novel managerial thinking is exemplified in the Sokoto State initiative where those totally found deficient in the profession of teaching are redeployed to other sectors of the state economy where their skill sets are best utilised. Except the mass sack in Kaduna State is dictated by some other undisclosed reasons, the above models can be appropriated to resolve the Kauna State imbroglio."
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