Nigeria: Occupation of Power Holding Company by armed forces against workers’ rights

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) condemns the occupation of the installations of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by armed soldiers



The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) condemns the occupation of the installations of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by armed soldiers dictatorially deployed by President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of the last suspended 3-day general strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to compel the government to implement the agreement for a N18, 000 minimum wage. This undue militarization of civilian environment is anti-worker and a throw-back to the god-awful era of military absolutism. It is a bad omen for this current civil rule.

Some of the installations still occupied since November 10 are: (1) Ikeja West Transmission, Lagos, (2) Ayede Transmission, Mokola Service Centre and Eleyele Injection Substation, all located in Ibadan, (3) Benin Transmission, (4) Ganmo Transmission, Ilorin, (5) Sagamu Transmission, (6) Kumbotso Transmission, Kano, (7) Mando Transmission, Kaduna, (8) Gwiwa and Marina Bus Units, both located in Sokoto, (9) Ikom Bus Unit, Cross River. Kainji Power Station initially had 4 soldiers before the strike, but since the strike, the armed soldiers have been doubled.

This occupation has almost turned the PHCN installations into concentration camps as workers work at gunpoint. Jonathan has gone to this anti-democratic level out of desperation to secure the PHCN for profit-first vampires whom he wants to sell, at give-away price, the nation’s patrimony at the expense of workers and poor. It is reminiscent of a military junta desperate to muzzle workers and ordinary people into submitting to anti-poor policies.

PHCN workers have been subjected to this harsh and deadly working environment prone to "accidental discharge of bullet" and jackboot harassment as a result of their vehement opposition to the planned privatization of the public power company.

We hold strongly that workers have democratic rights to oppose anti-poor policies and demand a better deal from the government. Besides, the PHCN workers have not committed any crime for joining a nationwide strike meant to compel the government to meet Labour’s demand for a better pay in the face of increasingly high cost of living occasioned by the anti-poor neo-liberal policies of the government.

CDWR hereby demands that Jonathan government should immediately and unconditionally withdraw all soldiers from all PHCN facilities and tender an unreserved apology to the workers.

We also call on the leadership of NLC and TUC to intervene with solidarity actions with the aim of defending the rights of PHCN workers. The Labour leadership should not treat such attack with levity because the government will use such anti-workers tactics in other sectors to intimidate workers from joining subsequent nationwide strikes or actions or use it to break future strike. Besides, the recent resort to military option to address the Niger Delta problem which had proved in the past as a total failure and necessitated the amnesty programme, has further shown the embrace of gunboat approach by Jonathan government as a solution to social and economic issues. The failure of amnesty, for instance, as shown by return to the creeks by some militants is borne out of the failure or inability of the government to confront fundamentally the root causes of the Niger Delta crisis like lack of infrastructure, youth unemployment and poverty beyond media razzmatazz and lip service. Now is the time for the labour movement to fight all actions of the government geared towards crippling militarization of the country and whipping workers to submission! Labour should call for immediate withdrawal of the military personnel at PHCN facility and actively support the struggle against privatization of PHCN and other public utilities.

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November 2010