By Victor Young
United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, has threatened to throw Rivers State into total blackout and fuel scarcity, among other threats, over the arrest, arraignment and detention of two Caverton Helicopters pilots and 10 oil workers by the state government.
Recall that Rivers State had, on Tuesday, arrested two pilots of Caverton Helicopters and the 10 passengers (oil workers) the airline brought to Rivers State— arraigned and detained till May 19, for allegedly breaching an executive order of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
ULC, in a statement by its President, Joe Ajaero, while condemning the arrest and incarceration of Nigerian workers discharging their lawful duties in Rivers State, demanded their immediate release by the Rivers State government to avoid confrontation with organised labour.
The statement read in part: “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 workers 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.
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“We had, at the beginning of this battle against the pandemic, alerted governments at all levels of the danger of the actions of their agents in the field, who have continued harassing our members that are carrying out their lawful duties in our effort to collectively defeat the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We had informed Nigerians that reports reaching us suggest increased threat to the lives and liberties of our members in many parts of the country by overzealous security agents of the state.
“Our cries perhaps were not heeded and may have allowed the drama taking place in Rivers State to unfold. We do not understand the idea behind the arrest and prosecution of aircraft pilots and workers of the oil and gas sector by the government of Rivers State.
“These workers were not on their own frolic, but were on assignment for their employers and were also fortunately in their duty posts when arrested by the agents of the state government.
“ULC, therefore, demands the immediate and unconditional release of these workers and the pilots. This will go a long way in showing Nigerians that the state government is not pursuing other agenda and is not anti-workers and truly anti-labour.
“This is given the fact that the Rivers State secretariat of a sister labour centre has been under lock and key by the state government for the last few months without proper explanation.
“In any case, we want the state governor to personally ensure that justice is immediately done where it concerns these pilots and workers, who are the members of the United Labour Congress, ULC, of Nigeria.
“The governor must personally demonstrate that he is not anti-labour and did not approve the actions of his agents.
“He must show courage by correcting the anomaly, unless he is telling Nigerians that it would be better that the hospitals do not operate, the filling stations do not operate, the tanker drivers do not transport products, and our generators do not run, our aircraft and airports do not operate and, of course, that electricity to our homes are not supplied, since refusal to release them criminalises the provision of these services by Nigerian workers across the nation.
“We are not that other labour centre and do not have any grouse with the state government and would appreciate if this apparent error is corrected immediately.
“We want to assure the state government of our commitment to our affiliates and their members and our determination to articulate, protect and project their interests wherever and whenever needed.
“Any circumstance that threatens or jeopardises these interests compels us as a responsible labour centre to rise up.”
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