The United Labour Congress (ULC) has condemned the arrest and incarceration of workers in Rivers State, contrary to the Federal Government’s directive on the movement of workers in critical sectors across the country.
A statement signed by the union President Joe Ajaero, said “We condemn in very strong terms the arrest and incarceration of Nigerian workers discharging their lawful duties in Rivers State. That Pilots and Oil and Gas worker’s despite being on essential service and at the frontline of the nation’s battle against COVID-19 pandemic would be languishing in jail at this time is most unfortunate and horrendous. If this does not negate and defeat this effort, nothing else would.
” These hardworking men were properly cleared by the relevant Aviation authorities and appropriately instructed by their Employers – Caverton helicopters and the Oil and Gas Company moving their workers to fill gaps in their operations in Rivers state as our investigations have shown in these past days.
” The Pilots and others were arrested nearly in the afternoon, rushed to a Magistrate Court that was hurriedly convened despite the COVID-Lockdown of all Courts by the CJN, charges read and the case adjourned to May 2020 while remanding them in Prison custody that is already congested.
” It becomes clear that the script and magic behind this unusual efficiency by the nation’s judiciary may have been written by individuals who care less about the Rights and Liberties of other fellow citizens and who may have been out to achieve objectives that are less than honorable using the workers as pawns.”
ULC said Rivers State government acted beyond its powers. The nation’s airspace is in the Exclusive List in the constitution and can only be controlled by the Federal Government. The workers arrested in the place of work makes it an Industrial Relations matter thus a Labour matter which is also in the Exclusive List under the purview of the federal government.
“What these foregoing portends is that the state government may have acted without due caution thus allowing itself to be misled into jumping into territories that are clearly not theirs.
“ULC, therefore, demands the immediate and unconditional release of the workers and the pilots.
“The electricity workers, oil and gas workers and the aviation workers, to mention but a few, are some of our members on essential services within the COVID-19 engagement framework as declared by the Federal Government.
” Unless the government of Rivers is claiming superiority over the federal government directive on this, we urge respect for these categories of workers. They must be allowed to discharge their duties unfettered and this is not a very difficult thing to demand of Rivers state government and indeed other governments that may be thinking of doing the same.
“This is not the time to make threats but we must protect our members all over the nation if these harassment and intimidation continue. We will be left with no option than to withdraw our members from their duty posts pending when their lives, rights and freedom are guaranteed by the various governments.
“This we shall do without recourse to any process as it impinges on the lives of these workers and will amount to negligence if we allow them to continue being exposed to abuse and violations as they go about serving the nation and rendering services so that we can successfully defeat COVID-19 pandemic.
“If our demand is not immediately heeded, we want to put the state government on notice that we shall not accept the hiding of anyone under the cover of the COVID-19 to abridge the rights of citizens as such, we shall embark on actions that will shut down Rivers state now and after the Lockdown under the code name ‘’PINDOWN RIVERS,” he said.