The Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER) has urged the Attorney-General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to direct the arrest and prosecution of electricity union workers for embarking on strike action on August 17 knowing fully well that they render essential service to the nation.
Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had shut down a number of power supply stations across the country throwing parts of the nation into darkness.
They had declared industrial action to protest the directive by the Transmission Company of Nigeria board that all principal managers in acting capacity must undergo a promotion interview before getting promoted to acting general manager.
Later, the union called off the strike same day after reaching a truce with the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige.
But CASER’s Executive Director, Frank Tietie, maintained in a statement, yesterday, that the strike action was an act of terrorism on the nation.
He argued that it is unconstitutional for trade unions and workers in the essential services sector to embark on such actions.
He wrote, “What the electricity workers who went on strike have failed to realise is that their strike action on the 17th of August, 2022 amounted to an act of terrorism against the Nigerian State and that they are, therefore, liable to be punished with life imprisonment on conviction according to the combined provisions of Section 1 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (as Amended) which defines an ‘act of terrorism’ to include any act deliberately done with malice, aforethought and which: (a) may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organisation; (b) is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to— (i) unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; (ii) seriously intimidate a population ; (iii) seriously destabilise, or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic, social structures of a country or an international organisation; or, (iv) otherwise influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coercion; and (c) involves, as the case may be, the interference with or disruption of the supply of water, power or any other fundamental natural resource, the effect of which is to endanger human life.”
Tietie added that irrespective of the genuineness of the demands of any Nigerian workers union, the Nigerian law restrains them from strike actions capable of crippling the economy.
He urged the AGF to use his office to enforce legal provisions against illegal strikes.
The statement partly reads: “The Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER) has since 2014 been at the forefront of calling for proper legal action against trade unions in Nigeria which embark on illegal strike actions, especially in the essential services sectors of health and education.
“It is criminal by the provisions of Section 31 (6) of the Trade Unions Act for workers in the essential services sector to embark on strike actions, but the failure of successive administrations to deal with this mindless criminality has led to the present worsening and highly embarrassing situation where even electricity workers have now decided to disregard the law by embarking on debilitating strike action on the 17th of August, 2022.
“There is a reason why the National Assembly of Nigeria in 2005 outlawed strikes in the essential services sector. It is not unconnected with the fragility of the Nigerian society and other related problems which are fundamental to the well-being of the Nigerian people. Thus, in that short period for which power generation and distribution were wholly shut down in Nigeria, the electricity union succeeded in inflicting untold hardships on Nigerians and caused losses in the billions of Naira to Nigerian businesses. This is unacceptable!
“To the above end, the electricity workers cannot be excused by the exception in subsection 3 of the above section as they embarked on the strike for coercion.
“What the electricity workers have done is not different from acts by a terrorist group such as Boko Haram. Therefore, it is only appropriate to institute criminal proceedings against them to serve as deterrence to other unions in the essential services sector that may contemplate any illegal strikes.
“If electricity workers can embark on strikes, then members of the Nigerian Police and military- Army, Navy and Air Force can also embark on strike actions. Such a situation is unimaginable. That is why the law prohibits such strike actions.
“Therefore, dear Attorney General, your failure to enforce the legal standards as to illegal strikes as in the tradition of past administrations which, for reasons of lack of political will, failed to act in the public interest, will lead to the further expansion of the reign of impunity which has been the bane of Nigeria’s fragile democracy.
“TAKE NOTICE, therefore, that CASER shall continue to engage your office in this matter in the hope that decisive actions will be taken against illegal strikes in Nigeria. Where necessary, it shall secure an appropriate order of a court of competent jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the above standards set in Nigerian criminal law.”
Substance Abuse Becoming Thing Of Concern -Odu
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ngozi Nma Odu, has lauded the important role pharmacists play in the wellbeing of the society.
Odu gave this commendation while playing host to members of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The deputy governor said while others are sleeping, pharmacists work hard “to ensure we all live in a better society, especially when you talk about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Odu stressed that, “It is really becoming a thing of great concern because of the level of children getting involved in this thing. It is even coming down to primary schools which now increases the burden of what you are doing, so we appreciate you for what you are doing for the society which we all are living in.”
The deputy governor extolled the lady pharmacists for the scholarship scheme they were sponsoring, noting that it was “amazing because when you change the narrative of somebody’s life, you become what they call a destiny helper.”
The deputy governor added, “So, for me, it is something I would encourage. Even the Bible says when you do it for them you have done unto God. It is a thing we get a lot of blessings out off, you may not see it now but some day it will definitely come.”
She expressed gratitude to them for their support for the Fubara-led administration which according to her has continued to spur them into action.
“Let me thank you for upholding the governor and myself in prayers, because without prayers we won’t be here, many people have prayed and God has heard, please do not stop, even for good governance, we need God to grant us the wisdom and knowledge of what to do”, she said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Rivers State Branch of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Ebelechukwu Odom, said they were at the Government House to identify with the Governor Fubara-led administration in the ongoing restructuring of the state, and pledged their allegiance and unflinching support to the administration.
She assured that they would utilize the competences of Lady Pharmacists in Rivers State and synergize with partners for improvement in health, education, research development and socio-economic wellbeing of humanity through relevant and appropriate interventions, projects and programmes.
RSG Denies Rumours Of Cholera Outbreak In Soku
The Rivers State Government says it is not aware of any cholera outbreak in Soku community in the Akuku Toru Local Government Area of the State.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt by the State Ministry of Health.
According to the statement signed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh, the clarification was necessary following numerous enquiries from the media over a purported outbreak of cholera in Soku community.
The statement read in part, “The Rivers State Ministry of Health has received numerous enquiries from the Press regarding an alleged outbreak of cholera in Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
“Public health teams dispatched to investigate these alleged cases and deaths have so far received no confirmation of such.”
While describing cholera as a waterborne infectious disease, the commissioner said that the disease is notifiable, warranting escalating reports from disease surveillance and notification officers at the community level.
The statement clarified that the ongoing medical outreach in Soku community is in no way related to any outbreak of cholera.
“Outreaches have always been a way of getting accessible health care to underserved and vulnerable population, however, all such outreach activities must be conducted with approval from and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health and as such no entity should be conducting outreaches outside the coordination of the ministry”, it warned.
The ministry further said that all infectious diseases of this nature are reported, managed and escalated by the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
Dr. Oreh said the statement should serve as a strong warning to anyone conducting or planning health activities without due recourse to the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
She added that any such activities found to be carried out without the knowledge and clearance of the State Ministry of Health will be fully investigated and dealt with in order to ensure the protection of the lives of the people.
“Therefore, the general public and members of the Press are advised to disregard the rumours making the round on an ongoing outbreak of cholera and the death of some citizens of Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State as it is presently unfounded, misguided and capable of causing panic amongst citizens and residents.
“The general public is thus urged to remain calm and rest assured that the Rivers State Ministry of Health will continue to be a veritable source of public health information in the state”, the statement concluded.
Bill On State Police Scales Second Reading
The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed for second reading a bill to provide for the establishment of state police in the country.
Sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu and 14 others, the bill seeks to alter the relevant Sections of the 1999 Constitution to pave the way for states to establish their own policing outfits.
As lawmakers took turns to contribute to the debate on the floor of the House during yesterday’s plenary, Kalu who stood in for the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen, urged members to look beyond political ambitions and think about the safety of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Also speaking, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) said, “It is the job of the police to maintain law and order. We have a population of over 200m people but we have a police strength that is less than 400,000. State Police should be created to address the internal security challenges of Nigeria.”
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