*Threatens to picket Police stations nationwide
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Ugo Aliogo in Lagos
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has asked the federal government to stop the harassment of trade union leaders by the Nigerian Police.
It warned that if nothing was done to stop the alleged Illegal interference in the affairs of unions, Nigerian workers may be forced to resume work daily in all Police Stations around the country.
In a statement signed by NLC president, Joe Ajaero, the Congress accused the Inspector General of Police, “of illegal interference in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) which is one of our affiliates.”
In the statement NLC said that, “It has become urgent that we bring to the notice of all Nigerians that just as we were preparing to receive our brothers from trade unions across the continent of Africa who have come to attend an Executive Meeting of the African Alliance of Trade Unions, we have been forced for the past three days to confront the illegal interference by the Inspector General of Police in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) which is one of our affiliates.
“Two days ago, some National officers of the Union who went voluntarily to the Police in response to an invitation by the IGP were unlawfully detained by the Police without any discernible reason other than to clandestinely force a scuttling of a properly convened Trade Union Programme.
“Nigerians should recall that the NURTW has had their lawful activities restricted and shackled in Lagos state and other South West states of Oyo, Osun and Ondo despite the pronouncement of the Courts to the contrary.
“Having felt unchallenged thus invincible, the same forces that forcefully took over the Union in these states and
renamed them in some as Lands and Parks seek to expand their reach nationwide”.
That is why the NLC calls on the IGP to deploy this energy to combating the insecurity challenges that confront Nigerians everyday everywhere around the nation instead of pursuing trade union matters that are not within his jurisdiction.
“We would not know why the burgeoning crime rate does not bother the Police neither does ridding our cities of crime infestations seem to be any worry to it rather than chasing trade union leaders for incarceration.
“It is important that he should focus more on his job than this interference. If nothing is done to stop this, Nigerian workers may be forced to resume work dailyin all Police Stations around the Country.
“We will demand the repayment of the cost incurred by the National Union of Road transport Workers (NURTW) as result of the actions of the IGP if we are forced to resume at the Police Headquarters and Posts around the Country.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us and as major stakeholders, we are worried that these actions may further heat up the polity and cause greater disaffection amongst the citizenry,” it said.
NLC urged the IGP to thread with caution and stop meddling in affairs that are clearly beyond the purview of his powers, adding that If Police receives a complaint against any trade union, it should try to refer such matters to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment which have the statutory powers to intervene.
NLC accused the government of seeking to completely takeover the leadership of the Union which they hope to use to seize the nation’s civic space, muzzle voices of opposition and undermine democratic practices and aspirations in Nigeria.
NLC said it does not understand where the IGP derives the power to meddle in the affairs of trade unions when it is neither a court of law nor any other known arbiter in industrial disputes as stipulated in the constitution of the federal republic.
According to NLC, the Laws are very clear on how industrial disputes should be settled in Nigeria.
“We wonder why he has refused to submit himself to the supremacy of the law especially these time-honoured statutes and traditions.
“What is happening demonstrates a further extension of the same brutal power play at work which was used by the same actors to forcefully take over the Union which was established under the instrumentality of the Law. It is an unholy quest at expanding the hegemony of impunity originating from these same powers who may want to deploy the instrumentality of the IGP to spread this illegality around the nation.
“This definitely raises yet another ugly scepter in our nation’s democratic space and must be condemned by all patriots.
We will not allow the continued diminution of our nation and the remaining sound terrains that have kept us together as a people and as a country.
“The IGP should quickly hands-off from this unwarranted interference and allow other
relevant institutions that are also creatures of the Law to take charge of their responsibility unless he has been able to comprehensively deal with his major responsibilities and now seek to help other agencies of government discharge theirs”.