THE Nigeria Labour Congress has criticized the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, over what it described as the harassment, arrest and detention of workers who were protesting the government’s policy to hand over public schools to individual in the guise of public, private partnership.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said in letter to the Governor that the right of workers to peaceful protest over a perceived wrong was guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, Labour laws, the International Labour Organisation Convention to which Nigeria was signatory, and Human Right Laws and could not be violated by the government.
Wabba stated that the move by the state government to sell off the public schools without the consent of the people amounted to a betrayal of trust and the ideals for which the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo stood.
The Labour leader pointed out that the Federal Government rejected the move by certain elements in the society to foist a similar policy on the unity schools.
He said that the government’ s policy to auction the schools was immoral and unjust as it would deprive children from poor homes access to education as provided for by the 1999 constitution.
He argued that the schools which were built with ‘the blood and sweat of the people had been of immense benefit to many including the governor and members of his cabinet
Wabba called on the state governor to release unconditionally all the protesting workers who were detained and taken to court as a result of the protest.
He stressed that criminalizing Labour issues was inimical to the nation’s industrial relation’s conflict resolution process .
“We wish to express our dismay at the harassment, arrest and detention of our members for peacefully protesting against government’s policy of giving away public schools to individuals or organisations in the guise of Public-Private Partnership.
“Please do permit us to state that the right to peaceful protest against a wrong is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Labour Laws, ILO Conventions to which Nigeria is signatory, and Human Rights Laws and cannot be abridged by government.
“We hold the view that the public schools which the Government of Oyo State has put up for sale without due process or the consent of the people is not only ultra vires, it constitutes a betrayal of the people and the ideals for which Chief Awolowo stood.
“These public schools were built with the blood and sweat of the people and not a few, including Your Excellency and members of your cabinet, were grand beneficiaries of this public school system.
“To auction out these schools, lock, stock and barrel, to the highest bidders offends moral decency and social justice as it denies generations of the children of the poor access to education guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“History, we dare say, will be reluctant to forgive you, if you impose it on the people using garrison powers.” The statement read in part.
Wabba who called for an amicable resolution of the dispute ‘in the interest of justice and industrial harmony’ said that the leadership of the NLC would not hesitate to embark on a national action in support of its members in Oyo State if the government refused.