Labour, religious leaders caution El-Rufai against ‘anti-people’ policies
… Govt Reassures They Are In Public Interest
Labour leaders and religious clerics have urged Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai to reverse what they described as “anti-people” policies his government initiated recently, saying they were capable of derailing his administration.
Those who spoke against the workers verification exercise, which requires civil servants in the state to disclose whether they want to belong to trade unions, and the religious Bill presented to the House of Assembly, include the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) leader, Issa Aremu; President of National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ibrahim Khalid; constitutional lawyer and civil rights activist, Festus Okoye; Chairman of Kaduna branch of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Professor Femi Ehimidu; and spokesman of the Shiites, Mallam Ibrahim Musa.
Besides, the state government has defended its policy initiatives, saying they were meant to uplift the welfare of workers and also secure the state better for religious harmony and peace.
However, speaking on the verification forms issued to workers over their status as members of trade unions, Khalid said, “what El-Rufai intends to do is to divide our ranks,” adding: “We must express our solidarity through collective action against any anti-labour agents.”
“That is why the entire leadership of NULGE is behind the workers of Kaduna State. My second mandate from my people is to tell El-Rufai that his policy is a disgrace to the entire Labour.”
“This is somebody we gave our support to in building the state, and see the kind of administration he is now running in the state.”
Aremu, who is also the Secretary General of the National Union of Textiles, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), said: “If there is any state governor that has enjoyed the goodwill of Labour, it is El-Rufai,” adding: “This is a governor we thought is a progressive and we supported and when he did some things, Labour really supported him.”
“Unfortunately for El-Rufai, one good turn does not deserve another. And he is trying to repay goodwill with bad policies.”
“It is a complete disappointment, and I think this governor has the privilege to retrace his steps. If he doesn’t, I think the Nigerian workers have the capacity to recall any governor. If he does not serve the working people in the state with good policies, he can be recalled.”
“The verification forms is an attempt to deny unionism in the state, which is unconstitutional, and I want to remind El-Rufai that if he does not know, he should go and read that constitution again.”
“If any governor violates any section of the constitution dealing with the rights of workers, that governor can be impeached.”
“If you also check the Schedule One of the constitution, all issues dealing with Labour union are on the Exclusive Legislative List and only the federal government can make pronouncements on it, not even the states.”
“So, what Nasir El-Rufai is doing is illegal and impeachable. The earlier he is called to order, the better.”
On his part, Okoye said the workers have to stand firm to defend their rights to belong to trade unions, recalling that the struggle by some of the state governors to remove trade unionism did not start with El-Rufai.
According to him, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, there were lots of pressure and debate to remove issues bordering on trade unionism from the Exclusive List.
“Some of us who were part of the 2014 National Conference stood firmly against the agenda to allow the states to handle this,” he recounted.
Okoye argued that what El-Rufai is trying to do through the verification exercise is to deny workers their rights, urging them not to allow him to get away with this.
The government also received knocks on the religious Bill, as both Muslim and Christian clerics opposed its enactment into law.
Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shiites, alleged that it was targeted against them, noting that the level of public criticism against it by Christians and Muslims showed that such Bill, if enacted into law, might not stand the test of time.”
Its spokesman, who does not want his name in print, said: “Definitely, you can see that the Bill will not work.” “But we cannot join issues with the government yet on this because we are presently being persecuted. When we overcome our present problems, we will know what to say on this bill.”
Worried by the religious upheaval the Bill could precipitate, Christian leaders, under the umbrella of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in the State, said it is an obnoxious law targeted at Christians.
The clerics said that there were enough laws in existence in the country and state’s legal system to handle any attempt to breach law and order by both Christians and Muslims in the society, urging the governor to rely on them to prosecute offenders.
“Taking away our rights to preach and evangelise is telling us not to practise our religion, as we are commanded by the Lord Jesus,” Ehimidu stated.
Meanwhile, the government, through the Deputy Governor, Yusuf Bala, allayed the fears of critics when he told a delegation of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Government House that the Bill, when passed into law, would curb religious extremism.
He also assured Labour that the ongoing verification exercise is for the good and interest of civil servants in the state.