By Mumini Abdulkareem and Mike Adeyemi
Labour unions in Kwara State have accused the state government of sponsoring thugs to attack and intimidate their members over their decision to commence strike in the state following the failure to reach agreement over the minimum wage issue.
The thugs believed to be sponsored by the government, reportedly attacked the secretariat of the Nigerian Labour Congress and some labour officers who were monitoring the level of compliance of the strike action which has entered its third day on Thursday.
This development is coming on the backdrop of accusation by activists and public commentators indicting the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration over the issue adding that failure to either condemn or speak on the activities of the thugs amounts to tacit approval of their action.
Speaking on the issue during a briefing with National Pilot in his office, Isa Ore, the Kwara State chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress who confirmed the development further accused the Special Assistant to the Governor on Domestic Affairs, Obasanjo Alashe, popularly known as SOJ, of leading some thugs to carry out the destruction at the labour secretariat.
According to him, ‘the thugs were over 12 in numbers and they invaded the NLC secretariat during the early hours of Tuesday with dangerous weapons.’
“They came in numbers and they were led by one S.O.J. They vandalized the entrance gate and took away our banners and broke one of our doors on Tuesday.
‘‘On Wednesday, I got a report from my men who were on the field to assess the level of compliance that they were again attacked by the hoodlums while at the office of Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS).
“My treasurer and his vice were attacked and manhandled in the presence of security officials at the scene,” Ore said.
He however, told National Pilot that the union had reported the case to the office of Director of Security Service (DSS), but no action whatsoever has been taken.
Ore added that whatever the level of intimidation from any quarters, the Kwara NLC will not succumb to any act of distraction as it is fight to finish until the government akin to the demand of the workers in the state.
’‘‘This issue has gone beyond the labour and government, it is now between labour and political thugs of the government’, Ore later noted while speaking with newsmen.
The Kwara State chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ezekiel Adegoke for his part also accused the government of unleashing thugs at the union leaders adding that ‘‘The government that we voted in is now using thugs to chase us. Its not their fault. My take to the thugs is that the government will also dumped them after they have been used’’.
In the words of the Kwara State chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Olu Adewara ‘‘This has never happened this way (in the history of the state), that thugs will be set at union leaders. They came to all the gates (we) mounted with strong weapons with their ferocious looks ready to attack (us).
Efforts to get the reaction of the Governor’s aide, Alashe and the Commissioner for Communication, Harriet Afolabi-Oshatimehim over the issue proved abortive on Thursday as they refused to pick several calls put across to them.
Also, text messages sent to both of them for their responses where still been awaited before this story was published.
Meanwhile, activists and public commentators in Ilorin have accused the Governor and his government of giving tacit approval to the waves of attacks on the labour leaders over the strike issue.
Speaking on a Radio Programme, Lagbo Oselu on Sobi FM, Comrade Musa Aliyu, a public affairs commentator said the failure of the government to condemn the attack amounted to tacit approval of the action of the thugs against the labour leaders.
While also speaking with National Pilot on the issue, another popular radio commentator and civil right activists, Comrade Shola Muse confirmed that the position of Musa Aliyu was shared by the three of them invited for the programme.
By Mumini Abdulkareem and Mike Adeyemi