The event of Wednesday May 8, 2019 in Abuja which gave way for the humiliation of Labour leaders was undoubtedly a National embarrassment which has grossly put Nigeria in bad light.
Frankly, it is within the rights of members of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to protest against the Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige on his failure to inaugurate the board of National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) with Comrade (Chief) Frank Kokori as the Chairman, and for the Minister in reference to disrupt the protest by his armed thugs in Abuja out-rightly showed how low our public servants could go.
The defenseless workers were shot at, while some of them who sustained injuries were taken to the National Hospital in Abuja for treatment. It is not new anywhere in the world that workers are known for picketing, which is a form of protest in which they congregate to draw public attention to a cause. From all indications, the Abuja protesters were non-violent, with the sole aim to put pressure on the Minister to make Chief Kokori as the NSITF Chairman and in this instance, no law was violated.
With my practice in law for almost two decades I can conveniently say that Nigeria and her people are governed by laws one of which does not condone assault or banditry. It is worrisome to see a former Governor of a State, former Senator and a serving Federal Minister to influence some youths to cause bodily harm on some high profile protesters like the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha, others, who are guided by law.
The act on Wednesday was utterly barbaric, callous and inhuman; where maximum force and live bullets were used on workers. Meanwhile workers went with bare hands.
I am however making a passionate appeal to the Inspector General of Police to immediately cause investigation to the act of the Minister of Labour and Employment on this heinous crime against civil population. Similarly, there is also need for President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve him of his job as a cabinet member for desecrating the good image of his government through this unfortunate conduct.
For the affected workers especially NUPENG, I urge them to embark on nationwide industrial action in order to strike a warning in order to avert repeat of such in future. They must also bear in mind that if they allow this open assault to pass, it may just be the end of picketing in this country, a situation where the labour movement will no longer have rights to protect their interest or call the government to order when necessary.
Showing solidarity to Chief Kokori, a man that parades sterling credentials is a good step in the right direction. He should be remembered and celebrated at a time like this because of his role in the struggle for democracy that we all enjoy today, which made the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Amnesty International (AI) and labour federations across the globe declare him prisoner of conscience between August 1994 and June 1998. Kokori was in solitary confinement for four consecutive years in the infamous Bama Prison. He was just dumped there with no charges preferred against him by the evil regime of Gen. Sani Abacha. Kokori has a lot to offer Nigeria and he should be given all the support to serve this country.
Dr Kayode Ajulo