Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has vowed to make President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, and other labour leaders to be charged under a military era Miscellaneous Offences Act.
The decree, which came into effect on 31 December 1983 prescribes a 21 year-jail term or life sentence for anyone who shuts down public infrastructure, such as electricity supply.
Section 9 of the law prescribes life jail for anyone who unlawfully disconnects, removes, damages, tampers, meddles with or in any way whatsoever interferes with any plant, works, cables, wire or assembly of wires designed or used for transforming or converting electricity.
Section 10 prescribes a 21 year jail term for any person who unlawfully disconnects, removes, damages, tampers, meddles with or in any way whatsoever interferes with any electric fittings, meters or other appliances used for generating, transforming, converting, conveyancing, supplying or selling electricity.
Since Kaduna was plunged into darkness for four days, El-Rufai had Section 10 of the Miscellaneous Act in mind when he spoke on Wednesday at the 23rd Annual Tax Conference organised by the The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) in Kaduna on Wednesday.
He insisted that the labour leaders are “criminals.”
He said the actions of the labour union under the auspices of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which prevented businesses like banks, petrol stations and others from opening is criminal, illegal and the government will deal with “the criminals.”
The Governor pointed out that his government was not against the right of workers to embark on strike, but such workers must walk out of their work place and allow it to function without them.
While he emphasised that workers or their unions do not have the right to stop any business or government establishment from opening, El-Rufai said those responsible for such were liable to be convicted on the Miscellaneous Offences Act, which attracts a minimum penalty of 21 years imprisonment.
He then apologised to the gathering on any inconvenience suffered due to the strike.
All those that have broken the law to the fullest extent will never come back to the state again by the time we are done with them.
Are efforts to prevent legitimate business to open, there are efforts to prevent banks from opening and also preventing petrol stations from dispensing fuel, this is totally criminal and illegal and we are going to take action.
We are making efforts to provide security for all businesses that will wish to remain open.
We are not against the right to strike, you are free to strike, but walk away from your institution and allow it to function without you.
You have no right to stop any business from remaining open and we are going to take very strict measures against people that have tried to do that.
What this strike is about is to answer fundamental questions, the first of which is this; should an employer, keep person of poor education, inadequate skills, qualifications and bad work attitude in employment, whether he likes it or not? Our answer in Kaduna state is in the negative.
We, as the employer, are in a contract of employment with the employee and if he is not up to scratch, we will let him go and that is included in our contact of service.
The second question is this, is the right to protest or to withdraw your services of an employee equivalent to the right to destroy the institution in which you work; shut it down or attack public infrastructure?
Our position is very clear, law is very clear, you can walk out, you can strike, but you cannot shut anything down.
Public infrastructure is a public asset belonging to the federation which belongs to all the people in Nigeria and you have no right to shut it down and if you do, you are liable to be convicted on either the Miscellaneous Offences Act which attracts a minimum penalty of 21 years imprisonment.
I want to assure you that we will break the strike and deal with the criminals, prosecute all those that have broken the law to the fullest extent and I assure you that they will never come back to the state again by the time we are done with them.