El-Rufai vs NLC: Kaduna Governor comes under scrutiny in aftermath of faceoff with Labour


The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai has increasingly being in the news lately, as Nigerians continue to scrutinise his claims of being a democrat.

Though Kaduna has always been in the news largely due to insecurity that pervades the State, resulting in mass abduction of students and killings especially in the Southern part of the State, the events of last week, seem to have more than ever, put the former FCT Minister under the spotlight.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had mobilized workers in Kaduna State for a five-day warning strike to protest the mass sacking of workers by the el-Rufai administration, especially the planned sacking of seven thousand workers from the state’s local government areas workforce.

Though planned by labour to be a total strike that will completely lock down both social and economic activities in the State, Governor el-Rufai did not know how effective and crippling the strike could be until it took off.

True to labour’s plan, Kaduna was shut down! Electricity was gone, banking stopped, transportation both by air and rail halted while workers from every other sector, including health and education stayed away from work, both in the private and public institutions.

Alarmed by the crippling effect of the strike, Governor el-Rufai, though pretending to be unruffled, tagged the NLC and its leaders economic saboteurs and declaring them wanted. He went a step further to order the blanket sack of all nurses in the state from grade level 13 downwards and also threatened to sack lecturers of the state university if they failed to show up for work, among other workers in the state.

For many Nigerians, el-Rufai was simply power-drunk and behaving like an emperor over a conquered territory in a democracy. His actions and utterances before and during the strike, many believed, brought to the fore, his real nature and disposition to governance, wondering how a governor can unilaterally declare leaders of the NLC, especially its President, Ayuba Wabba wanted, and declaring that he would be tried under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) was especially piqued by the attack on the protesting workers by hoodlums, who wielded weapons to disrupt a peaceful protest embarked upon by the workers.

SERAP, in a statement on Tuesday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called for an immediate end to the growing crackdown on the protesting workers.

“Kaduna authorities must respect the human rights of Nigerian workers, and ensure the safety and security of the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress.

“Declaring NLC leaders ‘wanted’ simply for peacefully exercising their human rights is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations.

“Authorities ought to protect workers from attacks by thugs. Allowing thugs to disrupt peaceful protest by workers is illegal and unconstitutional.

“Using thugs to attack peaceful protesters is a crime against humanity. Authorities need to find out who was responsible for the assaults and punish them appropriately.

“Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai should immediately reinstate Kaduna State University lecturers and nurses unlawfully dismissed for allegedly joining the strike in the State.

“We’ll hold Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Kaduna authorities to account for the blatant violations of human rights.

“We’ll see in court if the lecturers and nurses are not immediately reinstated.

“We urge the UN human rights special rapporteurs to put pressure on Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Kaduna State to immediately end brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters.”

For the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, the Kaduna State Governor does not have the power he purported to have exercised in declaring labour leaders wanted.

Odinkalu further stated that the actions and inability of the Governor to govern Kaduna peacefully, has shown that he cannot rule Nigeria, adding that el-Rufai has failed in his primary responsibility of protecting the people of Kaduna, declaring that he has been operating as a lawless entity.

He said: “The law that deals with economic sabotage is a federal law, state governors don’t enforce federal laws except they have the permission of the Federal Attorney General to do so.

“Secondly, governors don’t have the power to declare people wanted, only security agents can do that. Thirdly, in most cases, to declare people wanted, you need court authorization. The courts have been on strike for almost two months.

“It takes a lawless person to take laws into their hands and declare people wanted. The NLC president is in Kaduna and he is not hiding.

“El-Rufai is not the military, he cannot rule by edict. He cannot operate as a lawless entity. He is endangering Kaduna and the entire country.

“The real tragedy is that he has the ambition to rule Nigeria. El-Rufai cannot manage this country. Woes beget Nigeria if El-Rufai has the opportunity to rule this country.

“His occupying public office should end in Kaduna State. We are going to make sure that his presidential ambition fails.”

Also, in his reaction, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, mocked el-Rufai, describing as laughable declaring the labour leaders wanted and saying he would try them under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

According to Falana, Wabba and other labour leaders have the right under the Nigerian Constitution and the Trade Union Act to participate in the peaceful warning strike and mass protests.

Declaring that the Governor lacks the power to declare any alleged offender wanted under the Act or any other law whatsoever, Falana called on the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to ignore El-Rufai’s declaration as it is not tenable in law.

In his reaction, a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, faulted Governor el-Rufai for not engaging labour constructively before things degenerated. He also frowned at the attacks on workers and called on other labour unions in the country to join hands with labour in order to show the people of Kaduna solidarity.

He said: “Now that it is turning violent, this is the time for other associated labour unions to get involved to show solidarity to the labour people in Kaduna such that the government will now be forced to engage labour in a manner that is constructive.

“Sending thugs to start harassing labour unions’ leaders and their members is completely unacceptable. It shows that we are not actually in the 21st century. As leaders, sometimes we have to take responsibilities, we also have to show restraint in the face of provocation, that is what leadership is all about.

“We should not be behaving like thugs or sending thugs to go and dispatch people who are protesting, especially when it is not violent.”

For the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Governor el-Rufai is nothing but an anarchist for allegedly sending thugs after protesting workers.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by the National President of the MHWU, Dr Biobelemoye Josiah, the union called for the reinstatement of the sacked nurses and a public apology to labour. It also called on the people of Kaduna State to note that day, Tuesday as a black day in the history of the State so as to deny Governor el-Rufai any further opportunity to hold an elective post.

The union said: “So, for Mal. El-Rufai to sack workers whose only offence is that they chose to serve their fatherland faithfully and diligently with all man-made inconveniences is most unfortunate. We are, therefore, angered that even in the face of this deprivation, we are being provoked and humiliated.

“Let it be known to members of the public that peaceful picketing is guaranteed under section 43 of Trade Union ACT CAP T14 LFN 2004. This position of the law has been affirmed severally by the superior courts of record up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“We particularly call on all workers and citizens of Kaduna State to tag Tuesday, 18th May, 2021 as a sad day for democracy and a day of mourning when an elected governor threw away the constitution he swore to uphold and embraced thuggery.

“We call on the entire citizens of Kaduna State to particularly remember this day so that when this same man comes calling to beg for votes to go to the retirement home of former governors – the senate or for any other elective position, he should be rejected outrightly as there is no room for anarchist in a democratic society.”

From several reactions, Nigerians tend to agree that the Kaduna State Governor has behaved more like a dictator than he has shown any democratic qualities. For many, even his handling of the security situation puts him out as a man set only in his ways that cannot be bothered by anything else.

A Lagos based Public Affairs Commentator, Chidi John, believes that whatever traits the governor has shown during the now suspended warning strike, has always been his nature since his days as the FCT Minister. According to John, el-Rufai has always shown his tendencies for dictatorship, just as he believes only his own views are right!

“Governor el-Rufai has remained constant, he has not changed. What has only happened is that he has come full circle by showing his true colours. He has displayed his person, which many of us have always known, especially those who followed his activities during his days at the FCT.

“Nigerians must also remember that in 2008, the Nigerian Senate declared him unfit to hold public office, but somehow, the same man is in his second term as governor and even aspiring to be President. Imagine if he is President and labour or even ASUU decides to go on strike and shut down the country the way Oshiomhole did as NLC President under former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. Imagine the kind of flow of blood we would have. Imagine how the prisons will be filled to the brim. Imagine the highhandedness he will display. But for some of us, it will not be new, he has always been like that,”, John said.

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