The Kaduna State Government and the police have warned against the mass protest scheduled for the state capital on this Thursday.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress has vowed to proceed with the rally called over the sack of workers by the state government.
The President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, on Tuesday said the union will begin a series of actions with the first phase of protests in Kaduna on Thursday to defend the rights of the affected workers.
The NLC condemned the sack of teachers and thousands of other workers by the state government.
“Having exhausted all processes aimed at constructive engagement with the state government, it is clear that El-Rufai has to be stopped by all means with all means lawful for the sake of Kaduna State and Nigerian people,” Mr. Wabba said.
But at a press briefing in Kaduna on Wednesday, the spokesperson of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Samuel Aruwan, said security agencies had decided not to allow the protest to hold.
He said this was because protesters had attacked the State House of Assembly and destroyed public property in addition to engaging in unlawful assembly and other violations of the Penal Code of the state during a similar protest November last year organised by the NLC.
“To that effect the security agencies have already made it clear that no body or group will be allowed to repeat those messy incidents or threaten law and order in Kaduna State in the guise of a march,” Mr. Aruwan said.
“Trade unions cannot hold our state to ransom, by shamelessly insisting on the retention of bad teachers, or baseless claiming that a state must spend all its resources on one per cent of the population.
“No amount of sentiments will result in subjugating the future of these two million children to the caprices of poor teachers. Not strikes. Not blackmail. Not craven indulgence in tired clichés.
“The urgency of serving our people does not permit us to retain unqualified or redundant workers just because they were able to sneak in.
“Perhaps the labour unions are unable to identify or grapple with the great issues of the day if they are not prompted by external actors, but not every social actor shares that affliction.
“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,” the governor’s spokesperson said.
Mr. Aruwan insisted that the government was doing what is right and proper for the people of Kaduna state.
“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 government said that the labour union and the NUT were involved when the state was planning the competency test that led to the sack of 21,000 teachers in the state.
“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.
“It is instructive that NLC and NUT officials were part of the committee that organised and supervised the competency test. They requested that 60 per cent be accepted as pass mark for teachers writing a Primary Four exam, but are reluctant to admit to their members that they endorsed the logic that unqualified teachers must go. To save face, they have shamelessly tried to repudiate their participation in the process.
“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.
“The state government believes in the equality of opportunity and is devoted to promoting social mobility through Education and Skills. It is the children of the poor that attend public primary schools, and public schools must not offer inferior education.
“Therefore, senior government officials, including Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who are themselves products of public education, believe that the children of the poor are entitled to decent education.
“The government’s programmes since 2015 have been propelled by a need to improve the learning environment and the quality of teaching. It has guaranteed nine years of free basic education in its public schools, and is determined that only qualified teachers will be allowed to mould the minds of the two million pupils currently in public primary schools.
“Kaduna State has disengaged failing teachers. 25,000 new teachers will replace the almost 22,000 that have proven unsuitable. The recruitment process will continue until we find the right calibre of teachers.
“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,” Mr. Aruwan stated.
Also in a statement on Wednesday, the police warned NLC to stay away from the state because “present law of the state prohibits all forms of public protests.”
Agyole Abeh, the State Commissioner of Police, at a press briefing on Wednesday in Kaduna, warned that any individual or group intending to carry out any public protest or procession should in the interest of the public peace shelve such plans.
The police chief said his officers will not stand by and watch the peace enjoyed by the citizens of the state truncated.
“We wish to remind that the last incident relating to the same issues of teachers where the organized labour union staged what was supposed to be a peaceful protest turned out to be a near bear breach of the public peace in the state which resulted to chaos and destruction of some properties of government especially at the State House of Assembly.
“It is also in the interest of the good people of Kaduna State to note that those who might be contemplating to come to Kaduna to foment trouble are strictly advised to stay away from the state as the command is prepared to deal decisively with any such person or group,” he said.
In a statement he personally signed and issued on Wednesday evening, the NLC president said the union had “credible information” that Governor El-Rufai “has mobilised thugs to disrupt workers peaceful protest tomorrow.
“We also have information that the Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Command has said all protests in the state remain banned.
“We do not think he has such powers. Moreover, it would run against the grain of fair-play and proper policing if the commissioner will be selective in which protests he allows because only recently, the governor himself organised two protests in support of his policies in the state.
“We do hope the statement credited to the commissioner is not true.
“We also do hope he does not condition his officers and men to allow their services to be procured in furtherance of a sinister agenda.
“We not only warn against these desperate tactics, we feel duty-bound to draw the attention of the relevant authorities and the generality of Nigerians to the grave dangers these portend.
“Peaceful protest is a form of expression validated or legitimised by our national constitution, ILO Conventions and our Labour Laws and no governor, no matter how executive, should abridge this legitimacy!
“We at the Nigeria Labour Congress, and indeed, all law-abiding citizens consider any attempt to circumvent the Law by any citizen, no matter how highly-placed as an affront to our history of popular struggle and democratic values.
“We wish to use this opportunity to let the governor and his cohorts know that our members from across the country are fully mobilised in Kaduna, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop them from peacefully protesting against his mindless policies on Thursday, November 11, 2018.
“We also wish to let the world know that he has made this peaceful protest inevitable by his refusal to fully submit himself to the conciliation process by the Federal Ministry of Labour.
“We are in a democracy governed by the rule of law and not the caprice of a vindictive mind out to satisfy only the whims of the World Bank and the IMF.
“Finally, we also wish to call upon the Inspector General of Police and the leaderships of other relevant security agencies to caution their officers and men against betraying their oath of office by accepting to do a dirty job.
“Today, it is about 36,000 Kaduna State workers thrown out of work for no just cause. Tomorrow, it could be anybody.
“We are committed to a peaceful protest. No stopping us now.”
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Author: Eric Eric