The Nigeria Labour
Congress (NLC) may have been forced to suspend its picketing of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) following the infiltration of its ranks by suspected hoodlums and hired thugs.
The Tide gathered from a highly placed authority in the congress that the picketing was suspended Friday because the protest was taking a violent dimension.
The authority who pleaded anonymity revealed to The Tide that thugs suspected to have been hired by the management of PHEDC attacked the protesting NLC members in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The alleged hired thugs were said to have mobilised and attacked the congress members at the Moscow Road Zonal headquarters of PHEDC, Borikiri Business Unit and Ikwerre Road Office of the Diobu Business Unit of the company.
“They emerged in their numbers attacked our members and broke the chains used in sealing the entrances of the company offices”, the source said.
The Tide learnt that, during the violence unleashed on the NLC members, the official vehicle of the South South Zonal Chairman of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Godwin Eruba, was smashed and vandalised while his bag containing valuable documents and unspecified amount of money was also removed. Some members of the congress were said to have been injured in the fracas.
But while the attackers in Port Harcourt were suspected thugs hired to protect the interest of PHEDC, The Tide gathered that in Uyo and Ikot Ekpene areas of Akwa Ibom State, the attackers were members of the public who have been aggrieved by the unsatisfactory services of the company.
The hoodlums took advantage of the picketing to vent their anger on some officials of the company.
The Business Manager of Uyo Business unit was said to have been beaten to coma while his Ikot Ekpene counterpart was lucky as he had observed the influx of the hooligans and made away through the back door. It was equally gathered that apart from the two principals officers of the company, other persons also got injured.
It was in the light of the dangerous and violent way the thugs and hooligans were infiltrating the protest, according to our source, that NLC decided to suspend the picketing exercise for the safety of members and other members of the public.
The picketing which started last Tuesday in the South South zone also saw a breakdown of dialogue between the NLC leadership and PHEDC management.
The Tide learnt that choice of venue for the meeting in Port Harcourt was responsible for break down in negotiation while NLC had chosen the Labour House located at D/Line part of Port Harcourt while the PHEDC management preferred Sansun Hotel in Trans Amadi, apparently for safety reasons.
The meeting which was scheduled to hold on Thursday last week by 2Pm could not hold.
Intervention of the Rivers State Director of State Security Service (SSS), to broker peace was said to had saved the situation.
The meeting which was said to be convened at the Hotel Presidential after the said attack in Port Harcourt, our source said, lingered till 3.00am in the morning of Saturday.
Effort by The Tide to get the outcome of the meeting was unsuccessful until the time of filing this report.
On Tuesday when the picketing began, the Leader of the NLC team, Comrade Opuoyibo Lilly-West and the Head of the Police team that monitored the exercise at the zonal office of PHED at Mosco Road, Port Harcourt were satisfied with the security atmosphere of the exercise as it was very peaceful.
Lilly-West who also is the chairman, Rivers State Civil Service Union had also assured members of the public that picketing would remain peaceful.
He said, the picketing was in protest against the PHED management stance against workers unionism which is a constructional right of workers.
Lilly-West regretted that PHED, management had not shown commitment in implementing the tripartite agreement between the government, the company and workers which gave way for the take over of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
He said the congress in response to casualisation which he termed slavery, non payment of severance package and refusal to absorb the work force by the private investors who took over from the PHCN amongst others was intended to protect the interest of its members in the company.
Another issue raised by NLC was allegation of a form distributed to workers in PHEDC which sought to know their interest in unionism, stressing that the company laid of most active members off workers union as it took over from PHCN and had also marked out any staff interested in allowing deduction of union fee from his or her monthly salary for sack.
“We have written series of letters to the company’s management but they have always turned them down, saying they don’t have any business with labour, Lilly-West said and insisted that the picketing would continue until management decides to open the window for discussion.
In Cross River, the State Chairman of NLC, Comrade John Ushie who led the picketing in the state accussed PHEDC of sacking 134 union leaders in its move to abolish trade union in the company.
“There is nowhere in the world that an organisation takes over and wants to abolish trade union activities in the company,” Ushie said, remarking that the picketing would not stop until the government meet their demand. He also stated that, the Nigerian law is against casualisation of workers in whatever form. After shunning a meeting called by the union thrice, they continued to demonstrate their unfriendly posture with the union.
The Chairman of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE) in Cross Rivers State, Comrade Daniel Asuquo who corraborated what the state NLC boss said explained that the new managers of PHEDC remained adamant and unwilling to negotiate with the workers on issues of severance allowances and entitlements.
According to Asuquo, the union came in solidarity with the state NLC so that the right of the Nigerian workers would not be trampled upon and called on the management of PHEDC to demonstrate courage by ensuring dialogue with the union to ensure safe landing for the workers who have been penciled down for lay off by the new company.
The Managing Director of 4 Power Consortium had told newsmen recently that PHEDC was thoroughly assessing workers performance as their contract duration ends soon.
He said a consultant had been contracted to handle the issue and stressed that the exercise was not intended in sack workers but in finding area where each worker can perform better.
The contract agreement ended on April 2014, but management of PHEDC extended it by one month which was expected to end last month.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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