The Nigeria Labour Congress on Thursday delivered its protest letter to Governor Nasir El-Rufai against the sack of ‘incompetent teachers’ by the state government.
The President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, delivered the letter to the governor amidst armed security operatives at the Government House, Kaduna.
Hundreds of protesters crossed security barricades and marched about seven kilometres through major roads to Government House to deliver the letter.
Saidu Adamu, Councillor on Information and Communication Strategy to the governor, received the letter on behalf of the governor, who was said to be in Abuja on an official engagement.
“I have received the protest letter from the NLC President, Mr. Wabba. The message was that they are still asking the governor to try and understand their problem so that they can still come back to the drawing board and sit down on the table; to please listen to them and settle amicably. That is the message,” Mr. Adamu told journalists after receiving the letter.
“Naturally, after accepting the message, I am going to deliver it to the governor,” he said.
He denied that the government tried to muzzle Labour on the sack of the workers.
The governor’s aide said: “When it comes to demonstration in Kaduna town, we know what happened right from the 1991 Kafanchan crisis up to 2001 during Governor Ahmed Makarfi, we know what happened. Simple issues will turn out to be something different.
“That was why we had to go to the State Assembly to enact a law banning any kind of demonstration, because a demonstration that started like this, some miscreants will like to take advantage and before you know it, lives and properties will be lost and it will turn into either religious or ethnic crisis.
“That was why we were sceptical to allow any kind of procession in Kaduna. So, for anybody to think that we thought something could happen, that’s why we tried to prevent it, yes, of course, anything could happen.
“No right thinking governor would allow the death of people in his state. We are not saying they should not demonstrate, but it must be on a special arrangement and I have given a scenario of what has happened in the past in Kaduna,” Mr. Adamu stated.
He also commented on the recent issuance of sack letter to the affected teachers.
He said: “If you check the history of what happened, since November, 2017, Kaduna State Government had taken decision on the issue of primary school teachers. It was only in the month of December, after one month, (that) the passing of the judgement (occurred). We had already fast-tracked the process. We have not employed anybody yet. The court did not stop us from continuing with the process.
“If you ask the NLC and the NUT, they have also agreed that those who scored less than 60 per cent are not fit to be a teachers. Amicably, they told us and we agreed in a meeting. So, those are the category that we started giving letters in consent with what the NUT had said. So, what are they talking about?
“The Kaduna State government did not violate any law,” Mr. Adamu insisted.
The NLC President, Mr. Wabba, after delivering the letter to the representative of the governor, expressed gratitude that the protest ended peacefully.
“We also thank the representative of the governor for his understanding and demonstrating spirit of leadership by example despite the tensed situation,” he said.
“Industrial Court said status quo should be maintained, nobody should be given letter. But we were dismayed that the court order was violated, workers were issued sack letters. This does not comply with the rule of law that we talk about every day and we will continue to condemn it.
“I am assuring Kaduna State workers that the struggle is just beginning. No retreat, no surrender. If it warrants us to carry out a nationwide protest, we will do it. If it warrants us to go back and do it in Abuja for the whole world to see, we will do it. If it warrants us to come back to Kaduna and carry out a weekly or monthly protest, we will definitely do it.
“Therefore, workers of Kaduna State that their rights have been violated and their jobs taken away from them, we pray to God to take revenge on your behalf.
“Nigerian workers where ever they are, have raised their hands up and praying to God on your behalf,” he said.
Mr. Wabba said before the protest, NLC wrote the Inspector-General of Police notifying him of the protest and requesting for security cover.
He said many of their members were stopped on roads entering Kaduna from Abuja and from other parts of the country.
“Nigeria’s Supreme Court had emphasised the constitutional right of anybody to gather and show his disaffection and protest for government to hear. So we cannot be intimidated.
Earlier at the gate of Government House where the police prevented the protesters from accessing the premises, Agyole Abeh, the State Commissioner of Police, said he was exercising caution to ensure that the protest did not lead to breakdown of law and order.
“But, by all indication, the action is confrontational to the security agencies, confrontational to the environment.
“Unfortunately, their leaders are adamant, as if they did not put into consideration the safety of their members whom they claim they are protecting.
“Honestly, if they become very violent, I will be left with no option than to use maximum force,” the police chief said.
Mr. Abeh had at a press conference on Wednesday in Kaduna warned that any plan for public protest or procession should be shelved. He said the police would not stand by and watch the peace enjoyed by the citizens of the state truncated.
The police said they deployed 8,000 officers to stop the demonstration called in defiance of the state government.
Soldiers, five armoured vehicles and about 30 vans were also deployed to stop the march.
Governor El-Rufai warned he would sanction teachers who joined the protest.