NLC, ex-PHCN workers protest unlawful sack in Ibadan
Activities were disrupted yesterday at the headquarters of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) as members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights () barricaded the entrance of the office.
The workers, who stormed the place around 7:15am, prevented many of the company’s staff from entering the premises. They said they were protesting sundry issues that started from the privatisation of PHCN.
Their grievances included the “unlawful” sack of their members from the defunct PHCN by the new owners, non-payment of severance packages to workers who had worked up to 10 years as casual workers and the issuance of exorbitant electricity bills.
The protesters, in full glare of soldiers who had been guarding the office, mobile policemen and Department of State Security (DSS) operatives, sang solidarity songs for hours.
They carried placards reading: “Recall sacked workers now”; “Labour says no to casualisation of workers”; “We worked for 10 years in electricity industry without engagement. What is our fate”; “No to the anti-union stance of the investors” and “No progress can come with Darlington in charge”, among others.
Oyo NLC Chairman Comrade Bashir Olanrewaju said the NLC was joining “victimised” NUEE members to fight against labour slavery, victimisation, and public extortion by the government and power investors.
Olanrewaju said: “The government and those they sold PHCN to have not fulfilled many of the agreements reached with workers before and after the privatisation. We have come here today as the second phase. We have come here before. We have had several meetings but they have never fulfilled many of their promises. We are here today to inform the public that workers are being exploited by their nation.
“They sacked workers without paying them a kobo, saying they were casuals, whereas casualisation is illegal in Nigeria. The government said those who were retrenched would get their salaries on time but uptil now many of them have not been paid anything.
“Also, they have prevented Nigerians from unionising. The investors have banned unions. This is against the right to freedom of association in the 1999 Constitution. They said after they have finished sharing our commonwealth among themselves, that it would bring an end to crazy bills in Nigeria. Uptil now, they are still bringing crazy bills and many areas in are without electricity.”
After a brief argument with security agencies who attempted to dislodge the protesters, Olanrewaju warned that any attempt by the security men to apply force would lead to the union extending the protest.
Reacting to IBEDC workers, who were watching the protesters from their office windows, NUEE Southwest Vice-President Comrade Niyi Akinola said: “Those of you looking at us are selfish. You think of yourselves alone. You forget that the same may happen to you. Anyway, we would be here to fight for you when they eventually sack you.”
NLC warned that if nothing positive is heard from the government after the protest, the union would organise the May Day rally at the same place.
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