From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Former Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside has called on Governor Nyesom Wike to negotiate with the organized labour in Rivers state to avert avoidable controversies and industrial action.
Recalled that Rivers State government and organized labour have been at loggerheads over the labour claims on governor’s alleged neglect of workers in the state in terms of promotion, payment of new minimum wage, pensioners’ dues, arrears of salaries and hounding of labour leaders in the state.
Dr Peterside, who spoke in a statement yesterday, wondered why “Governor Wike’s administration was treating workers with so much levity and disdain, giving the fact his government will rely on these same workers to achieve its programmes”.
He tasked the governor to look into the concerns of the workers, who he says deserve to be remunerated like their counterparts nationwide following the passage of new minimum wage into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Wike should come down from his high horse and listen to the genuine concerns of the workers, who have worked and deserve to benefit from their sweat. What will it cost the governor to negotiate with workers who are Rivers people and who contribute to the state’s purse? A serious Governor should know that workers are the engine room of governance.
“It is a shame that Wike is now running around courts to stop the organized labour from demanding for their rights. This is the same governor that went round begging the workers to support his re-election bid barely a year ago, what manner of a governor does this to his own people?
“Our senior citizens who have spent the best part of their life working for the state and who retired from the civil service have not been paid their gratuities and pension since Wike became governor in 2015, just as not a single Rivers son or daughter has gotten bursary or scholarship from his administration.
“This same Wike has shut down both the Labour and Trade Union Congress Houses built by Rivers State government, his agents have also gone ahead to disrupt labour meeting at another location in Port Harcourt, yet he is not seeing that his actions are reckless and irresponsible. It is embarrassing that we have descended this low.
“Labour leaders in Rivers State are now living in fear under a democratic dispensation; this is simply a manifestation of a despot and ruthless leader who wants everybody to bow before him and sing his praises.
“However, let Wike know that Rivers people have never been cowed or conquered. The governor’s descent to authoritarianism will be challenged at the appropriate time; he can take that to the bank. The workers must remain steadfast in their agitation to get what are their rights and privileges,” he stated.
Earlier, the Rivers State Government had accused the State Chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC ) of colluding with its national leadership to force industrial action on workers in the State.
In a briefing with some journalists in Port Harcourt, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor said NLC is abandoning a subsisting court case reserved for judgement on September 29, 2020 to embark on its threatened current strike.
Prof. Adangor explained that on the March 16, 2020, the Organised Labour issued seven days’ notice for an indefinite strike but failed as scheduled for midnight March 23, 2020.
He said a suit was instituted by the Rivers State Government at the Port Harcourt Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria seeking interpretation to the enabling laws relating to the strike.
According to him, the originating summons was heard and instead of NLC to await the judgment that is reserved for September 29, 2020, they are calling for another strike.