The Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Falana, has reacted to the planned strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), saying a firm action is needed to reverse the massive attacks on jobs in Kaduna State.
NLC had vowed to down tool on Monday to press home its demand to the general public, especially the Kaduna State Government which disengaged some civil servants.
In April, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai announced his intention to sack some workers in the state, citing fiscal reasons.
But Falana, who is also a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), backed NLC’s decision to embark on a five-day strike.
He also called on well-meaning Nigerians to provide support for the industrial action, which he described as essential.
“Firm action is needed to reverse the massive attacks on jobs and poverty-induced insecurity in Kaduna State,” he said via a statement issued on Sunday.
“Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and beyond (ASCAB) fully supports the call from the NLC for a five-day strike across Kaduna State in the week beginning 17th May. We call on all our affiliates and supporters to provide support for this essential strike.”
Read the full statement issued by Falana below:
Solidarity and Unity Against Retrenchments in Kaduna State
Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB) fully supports the call from the NLC for a five-day strike across Kaduna State in the week beginning 17th May. We call on all our affiliates and supporters to provide support for this essential strike. Firm action is needed to reverse the massive attacks on jobs and poverty-induced insecurity in Kaduna State.
The economy of Kaduna was traditionally built around textile factories and the public sector. In the decade before the current Governor came to power, the last four major textile factories were closed with many of the workers not receiving any terminal benefits (despite two of the factories being mainly owned by the Governments of the Northern states). Rather than seeking to address this economic decline, Governor Rufai has retrenched perhaps 60,000 public sector workers and many have not received their due payments.
Kaduna State is now a dangerous state in Nigeria to live, work or visit in terms of the regularity of bloodshed, kidnappings and killings by bandits and ethnoreligious inspired violence. The level of insecurity in Kaduna State today is a function of unprecedented, cruel anti-workers policy of the Kaduna State Government including repeated mass layoffs. The uncontrolled insecurity is therefore the ’harvest’ or product of the State’s anti-labour policies.
The downward spiral of lay-offs and increased insecurity
In 2016, over 13,000 workers considered to be ghost workers, were dismissed. The following year another 40,000 public sector workers were retrenched. Around half of these were teachers. The state arbitrarily pegged the pass mark for their competency test at an unprecedented 75 percent. Many of these teachers did not receive any redundancy money.
From April of this year, the State Government has been dismissing perhaps as many as another 17,000 workers. This includes 6,000 local government and primary health care workers who have all received their marching orders. The remaining 11,000 workers from the state ministries have been listed for dismissal on account of having spent 30 years and above in service and/or being on level 14 and above.
Pensioners who have earned pensions for between 5 and 10 years and have ‘refused to die’ are no longer to be paid. The State Government maintains that their children should take care of them. The Governor claims that these policies are necessary due to declining revenues, but this is far from the truth.
The State has plenty of money – ‘borrows’ from workers. Kaduna State Government has significantly increased its internally generated revenue (IGR) over the last five years. IGR has increased by about 16% a year in real terms (after taking into account inflation). So IGR is now about half the total income of the state despite the fact that the monthly FAAC allocations are now increasing again as crude oil prices have recovered from the Covid-19 dip.
In fact actual spending on wages and salaries in 2019 (the last available audited accounts) was about a third the level that was spent on capital. In addition, the monies owed in salaries, pensions etc grew massively in 2019. At the end of the year, 40% of the state debt was borrowed from workers’ wages. Similarly, N132 bn of the N152 bn capital spent by the state during 2019 was borrowed from wages! That is nearly 90% of capital spending by the state was financed from unpaid salaries, pensions etc. The State may be borrowing from China, the World Bank etc to fund urban renewal, but the state is also illegally ‘borrowing’ from its workers to fund almost all of its capital expenditure. They are then rewarded with repeated waves of retrenchments. The mass retrenchments and ‘borrowings’ from wages have almost certainly had a detrimental effect on security in the state. It cannot be a coincidence that the state with the highest level of sackings also has one of the worst insecurity records. Loss of income and livelihoods makes people desperate. Several reports previously demonstrated the direct link between loss of textile employment and a rise in criminality and drug-taking.
A modern state needs satisfied workers. A modern state can only be built by a well-motivated workforce. Decent health and education services can only be provided by nurses and teachers who have confidence in the Government, know they will be paid at the end of the month, are not living in
fear of losing their jobs and believe that they will receive their pensions when due as they retire. Governor El-Rufai seems to have fully accepted the ethos of Neoliberalism. The State Government believes the rich and business people have to be handsomely rewarded and incentivised to ‘invest’ in the state. In contrast, the workers have to be paid the lowest possible salaries, beaten into submission and periodically terrorised by mass sackings.
ASCAB supports the strike action to stop retrenchments. ASCAB believes that the strike action is necessary to force Governor El-Rufai to stop his policy of retrenchments and job losses. We welcome the work that the trade unions have undertaken to embark on the strike action. We call on all trade unionists in Kaduna to ensure the success of the strike actions. ASCAB calls on all our supporters, all trade unions and unionists across Nigeria to support the strike action in Kaduna State. We contend that halting job losses would be a major contribution to reducing insecurity across the state.
Support the strike in Kaduna from 17th May!
Say no to retrenchments!!
Retrenchments breed insecurity!!!
Femi Falana, SAN
Interim National Chair, ASCAB.