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48 HOURS TO MASS RALLIES:Oshiomhole under security watch

Posted by By Victor Ahiuma-Young on 2004/08/22 | Views: 648 |

48 HOURS TO MASS RALLIES:Oshiomhole under security watch


Barely 48 hours to the rallies planned for Tuesday in the 36 state capitals and the Federal Capital, Abuja by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), to abort the Labour reform bill, Congress President, Adams Oshiomhole and some notable Labour leaders appear to have been put under surveillance by security agents.

•'It's too late to stop us'

Barely 48 hours to the rallies planned for Tuesday in the 36 state capitals and the Federal Capital, Abuja by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), to abort the Labour reform bill, Congress President, Adams Oshiomhole and some notable Labour leaders appear to have been put under surveillance by security agents.

But the Labour leaders who stepped up their mobilisation efforts at the weekend declared that it was too late to halt the protest proposed against the Labour reform bill which is expected to be tabled fo

The nationwide rallies have apparently been planned to coincide with the bill's second reading in the parliament as Labour leaders are scheduled to visit the National Assembly during the rally in Abuja to present a document on their position to the leadership.

The controversial executive bill forwarded to the National Assembly by President Olusegun Obasanjo last month has been described as a grand move to weaken the Labour movement in Nigeria as well as scrap the NLC.

No fewer than five officials of NLC and leaders of industrial unions affiliated to the Congress reported that strange faces and vehicles had been following them since notice about the rallies was served penultimate week.
The Labour leaders explained that information available to them indicated that security operatives were not only planning to frustrate the Lagos part of the rallies, they were mobilising to ensure that Labour leaders based in the former Federal Capital were prevented from getting to Abuja for the rally slated for the National Assembly.

The head of Lagos office of the NLC, Comrade Denja Yaqub, and the president of one of the unions affiliated to the Congress who preferred not to have his name published told Sunday Vanguard that arrest, intimidation and harassment of Labour leaders or other Nigerians would not prevent the people from expressing their opinions as guaranteed in the constitution.
Yaqub who is also in charge of organisation in NLC, while elaborating on the surveillance on the Labour leaders, alleged that some men from the State Security Services (SSS) called to invite him to their (SSS) headquarters last week but did not meet him in office.

He explained: "The fact that they are looking for me and other labour leaders does not stop me from doing my job anyway. Tuesday, August 17, they still came to the NLC office in Lagos to ask after me".

"I believe they are still interested in picking me up. But for whatever it is, I am not hiding, I am doing my job. Arrest or no arrest, Nigeria must move forward and Nigerians must express their opinions as guaranteed in the constitution. It is not just the NLC affairs, there are so many Nigerians who are much more patriotic, who are much more committed to this project. When you begin to pick us one after the other, you will never be able to pick everybody. As you pick one, there will be another. So, we are not afraid of arrest and all that. I demanded for formal invitation, they have not sent any," the Labour leader stated.

The president of the industrial union who spoke to Sunday Vanguard but did not want his name in print said the backlash from security agents arising from the proposed rallies was not new to many Labour leaders.

He stated: "This thing is not new to some of us. We are used to it and it does not bother us any longer. One can only die once. If we can survive under the military anyway, I see no reason why we cannot live beyond this government. It is not only me they have been monitoring. They are equally following the union’s general secretary. Though this thing has been on and off since 2002, it started again immediately after we made public our desire to hold rallies across the country to let Nigerians know the implications of the Labour bill now before the National Assembly to the survival of this democracy and to a large extent Nigeria as a corporate nation. Wherever I go, I see strange faces and vehicles following me."

"Well, that cannot deter us. Maybe they want to stop us from taking our case to the National Assembly as we planned to do on Tuesday. They cannot stop Nigerians from condemning what is bad. This is not just NLC matter or Labour matter. It touches on the very foundation of the nation's democratic experiment and basic tenets of democratic culture, which is freedom of association and opinion".

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