Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has vowed that his administration would not honour a meeting with the Nigeria Labour Congress unless electricity is restored in his state.
The governor also lambasted the federal government for allowing workers of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) owned by it to disrupt electricity supply to his state.
Mr El-Rufai made the comment after the NLC announced a suspension of a five-day warning strike called to protest the Kaduna government’s plans to lay off some of its civil servants due to what it blamed on a severe fiscal crisis.
The NLC suspended the industrial action after the intervention of the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, who requested parties to sheathe swords for a federal government-mediated negotiation to hold in Abuja.
But shortly after the NLC announced it was suspending the strike to enable it to honour the planned Abuja meeting, a defiant Mr El-Rufai issued a statement that said no official of his government would negotiate with the unions unless electricity is restored in the state.
The National Union of Electricity Employees is an affiliate of the NLC and its members had on Sunday switched off electricity supply in the state and joined the strike.
In his statement early Thursday morning, Mr El-Rufai said, “No official of Kaduna State will go to Abuja for any meeting with FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria) or NLC when the citizens of the State have no electricity.”
“We hold the FGN responsible for (its) inability to assert its ownership rights over TCN (Transmission Company of Nigeria). No electricity, no meeting.”
Hours before his latest update, the state government had said it was yet to see evidence “that the NLC is backing off from its campaign of economic and social sabotage against the people of the State.”
“Electric power is yet to be restored after it was shut down at dawn on Sunday, 16th May 2021, in brazen violation of the laws protecting essential services and infrastructure,” Muyiwa Adekeye, the spokesperson to Mr El-Rufai, had said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES at 9:21 pm on Wednesday.
“That action removed any basis for state government officials to meet the NLC last Sunday. Denying our people electricity about 18 hours to the advertised commencement of their organised sabotage was akin to putting a gun on the government’s head. Government has a lawful duty not to indulge blackmail.
“Restoring electricity is vital to relieving some of the pain that needless acts of lawlessness have inflicted on our people.
“The unimpeded provision of essential services is vital to civilised order. Those who have disrupted it should promptly reverse themselves, not expect that it will be a matter for negotiation, much less being viewed as a precondition.
“KDSG will not participate in such a negotiation or countenance one whilst our people are still being denied their right to electricity.”
Mr Ngige had on Wednesday afternoon announced that he had apprehended the strike and invited parties to an emergency conciliation meeting at his office in the nation’s capital by 11 am on Thursday.
The minister further directed the two parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the resolution of the issues in contention.
The letter Mr Ngige separately addressed to both Governor El-Rufai and the president of the NLC reads in part:
“ Sequel to the strike prompted by the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) one of the federations of Trade Unions in Nigeria, and the subsequent withdrawal of work and services in almost all public sector establishments and institutions in Kaduna State, including but not limited to the essential services in electricity, water and health, which has consequently resulted and inflicted huge damage and loss to the economy and well-being and even loss of lives to the people of Kaduna State in the last three days.
“ I am therefore constrained in the exercise of my powers as the Minister of Labour and Employment, under the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004; to invite you and your top officials to the emergency trade dispute conciliation meeting.”
The letter said “between the transition period for the meeting, you are please requested to maintain the status quo ante bellum before this dispute so that the enabling climate for the resolution of the issues in dispute will not be hindered by the creation of new issues.”
Under the Trade Disputes Act, which is the principal law dealing with the settlement of industrial disputes in Nigeria, the Minister of Labour has powers to intervene in a trade dispute for the purpose of settling it.