Civil servants in Oyo State will commence an indefinite strike starting Tuesday, the Nigerian Labour Congress declared on Monday.
The strike directive came through a joint order by the NLC headquarters and the Oyo State chapter, as part of steps to oppose the plan by the Oyo State Government to involve private organisations in the running of public secondary schools in the State.
The NLC National Vice-Chairman, Solomon Adelegan, issued the directive at a congress held at the labour secretariat in Ibadan shortly after the seven labour leaders detained since Friday regained their freedom Monday.
Also, the directive came amid protest by secondary school students in the state capital, Ibadan, on Monday.
On May 25, the state government requested “expression of interest in public private partnership and ownership” of schools from “interested stakeholders”.
Since the announcement, the Abiola Ajimobi-led Government has continued to be opposed regarding a policy the Labour and other groups, notably Oyo Global Forum, Oyo Progressive Assembly and the Muslim Community of Oyo State, have labelled “privatisation of public schools”.
Yet, the government claimed it was not privatising schools, but that “it is intended that less than 10 per cent of the 631 secondary schools in the State may be involved in the participatory venture, rather than erroneous impression that education in the State is being privatized wholesale.”
The Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Ali, said that last Wednesday, hours after a consultative forum on the new policy was disrupted by labour.
Following the disruption, labour leaders in the State, including chairman, Waheed Olojede, were arrested, charged to court and remanded in prison, before they were released on Monday.
Mr. Adelegan said the strike action would continue until the workers’ demands were met.
“Immediate withdrawal of all trump-up charges leveled against the incarcerated labour leaders; Government must rescind its decision to sell-off any public schools in the state; Proper and adequate funding of the education sector including payment of living wages and other incentive for educational workers; and Immediate Payment of 6 months outstanding salaries and all pension arrears withdrawal of all trump-up charges leveled against the incarcerated labour leaders,” Mr. Adelegan listed the demands.
He added that, “The National Secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is quick to bring to the notice of the general public of how the Oyo government went ahead early hour Monday 6th June, 2016 to mobilise hundreds of armed thugs to Iyaganku magistrate court with a directive to allegedly attack innocent and law abiding workers whom are expected to be at the same magistrate court this morning to ensure the adequate perfection of bail conditions given towards the release of the labour leaders who had been incarcerated since Friday 3rd of June 2016 at Agodi prison, in Ibadan.
“Consequently, our members were beaten, harassed and intimated by these gangs of armed thugs.
“This is a deliberate attempt to scare the workers away from the court premises with a view to frustrate the perfection of the bail conditions and ensure that our leaders continue to be incarcerated. It is also disheartening to state that students who also stormed the court premises in a protest against an attempt to sell off their schools to a handful of capitalist profiteers in the state were also tear gas by members of the Nigeria Police force.
“We of the NLC, Oyo State council absolutely condemned this dastard and uncivilised approach of Senator Abiola-led government, at the same time, remain undaunted and no amount of persecution and intimidation is capable to deter us in the struggle to resist the sale of any of the public schools in the state.
“Therefore, we call on the general public not to hesitate to hold Senator Ajimobi solely responsible should Oyo State be plunged into a state of uncontrollable anarchy as a result of his crude and uncivilised method of mobilising thugs and use of military force to silence the opposition voice against the anti-people plan to sell some leading secondary schools in the state under the pretence of private public partnership, PPP.”
Mr. Olojede urged market women and men should join the Labour against “selling of schools in the State.”
Meanwhile, the state too, has ordered immediate closure of all primary and secondary schools in the state as a way of protecting lives and properties of the entire citizenry.”
It alleged that students and members of the public were “coerced” by Labour to disrupt school sessions and engage in unwarranted public protest and wanton destruction of properties.
It noted that the strike action called by NLC was illegal, saying the action contravened “all known labour law and conventions.”
“It is quite unfortunate that labour leaders at the national level, who ought to know better, also failed to avail themselves of the opportunity of meeting with officials of the state government to clear apparent misconceptions about the intention of the government,” It said.
“The state government wishes to state for the umpteenth time that it never had any intention to privatize, commercialize or cede any of its public secondary schools to any individual or group.”
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