Peace Returns as FG Reconciles Kaduna Govt, Labour
•Parties raise committee to resolve dispute
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government yesterday brokered an agreement between the Kaduna State Government and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on measures to resolve their labour dispute.
The feuding parties have also agreed to set up a 10-man committee to iron out their differences.
With the agreement, Kaduna State workers, who went on a five-day warning strike, which was suspended on Wednesday for the truce talks, are to return to their duty posts immediately.
The state government also committed to not victimising any worker on account of his or her role during the warning strike.
Speaking at the end of the conciliatory meeting in Abuja, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the parties agreed to constitute the a bipartite committee, comprising six representatives of the state government and three officials of the NLC, to resolve the dispute.
He said the committee would revert to his ministry latest by Tuesday with its work plan on how to resolve the dispute.
He said the committee would work to integrate the provisions of the Labour Act, “to resolve the impasse between the Kaduna State Government and the state branch of the NLC.”
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was jointly signed by the Kaduna State Head of Service, Mr. Bariatu Mohammed; Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Ja’afaru Sani; NLC President, Dr. Ayuba Wabba; and the Deputy President of NLC, Mr. Najeem Usman.
Others that signed are: the Director of Finance and Accounts, Mr. Moneke Aloy – for Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment; and Director of Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations, Mrs. Omoabie Akpan.
The meeting also stipulated that Mohammed should chair the committee and be assisted by a deputy national president of the NLC.
The agreement prescribed a work plan to itemise the structure and sub-structure in the state and local government of their activities, time of commencement and envisaged final tenure of the committee or make recommendations if in its wisdom it thinks the committee should be a permanent standing one.
It was also agreed that there will be no further industrial action on the issues and that no worker shall be victimised on account of his or her participation in the industrial action.
Ngige had earlier expressed the federal government’s worry over what he described as an avoidable labour crisis, which crippled economic and social activities in Kaduna State for three days.
He said from his assessment of the issues and measures taken to address them, the matter would not have snowballed into a major confrontation if proper labour dispute resolution mechanism was employed.
According to him, the federal government decided to wade into the dispute in order to halt the deteriorating situation in the state.
Ngige said all the parties should maintain status quo to enable the ministry to resolve the dispute.
He added that the order for the arrest of Wabba no longer has any effect since the federal government has intervened.
Ngige said the ministry had set a one-week target to resolve the dispute, failing which it might be constrained to refer the parties to industrial arbitration for further action.
“The federal government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Federal Executive Council are worried at the development in Kaduna State. This is a state where we have security problem prompted by bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements to the extent that we have even as we speak, people still in captivity and then we suddenly woke up again to find that the economic activity in that state is being jeopardised by labour industrial dispute. We decided that the labour minister should wade in,” he stated.
While presenting the position of the state government, the Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Ja’afaru Sani, who represented the Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, said the state was responding to the challenges posed by dwindling revenue from the Federation Account.
He stated that the state government had resolved to go ahead with its policy of rightsizing its workforce no matter the resistance from the organised labour.
“In response to the fiscal headwinds caused by declining Federation Account receipts and huge outlays on the personnel cost, the government transparently and democratically announced in April, 2021 that it will right size the public service by reducing the number of political appointees and civil servants,” he said.
He added that the verification of credentials for the implementation of the decision is still ongoing for the state civil service, while the number of those to be disengaged was yet to be determined.
Wabba, who led other NLC members, including the Deputy President, Mr. Joe Ajero, to the talks, said the organised labour decided to undertake the warning strike in Kaduna because the governor refused to subject the rightsizing and redundancy policy to due process of collective bargaining and negotiations as provided by the Trade Dispute Act.
He accused the governor of refusing to respond to letters sent to him by the organised labour seeking to discuss the issues in dispute.
Wabba said: “We have engaged different employers, different governments, including the federal government and it can be attested that NLC is one reputable organisation that believes in the rule of law.
“In fact, in 2012, the present Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, joined NLC protest, where I was a chairperson; he came with his T-shirt, joined us and reiterated what I said, that NLC is the most creditable platform to represent the interest of workers and the larger Nigerian public.
“So, we are here because we are committed to the issue of social dialogue because it is a global standard. And as I said, because the issue is straight forward redundancy has been declared and there are clear provisions on how to address the issue of redundancy in our laws.”