Defence & Security

Group calls for arrest, prosecution of electricity workers, alleges terrorism

By Paul Michael

A group, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) has called on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to as a matter of urgency arrest members of the National Union of Electricity Employees for what it called “Acts of Terrorism”.

CASER, in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Frank Tietie, said it is criminal by the provisions of Section 31 (6) of the Trade Unions Act for workers in the essential services sector to embark on strike actions.

Recall that the electricity workers had on 17th August 2022 embarked on strike in protest against a compulsory promotion interview for principal managers, unpaid entitlement, among other issues.

CASER said the failure of successive administrations to deal with essential workers embarking on strike for selfish reasons led to the present worsening and highly embarrassing situation where electricity workers had to go on strike.

CASER, which has been calling for proper legal action against trade unions in Nigeria which embarks on illegal strike actions, especially in the essential services sectors of health and education, said the action of the electricity workers amounted to terrorism.

“Irrespective of the propriety or genuineness of the demands of any Nigerian workers union, they are barred by Nigerian law from embarking on strike actions if they are engaged in the provision of essential services.

“There is a reason why the National Assembly of Nigeria in 2005 outlawed strikes in the essential services sector. It is not unconnected with the fragility of the Nigerian society and other related problems which are fundamental to the well-being of the Nigerian people.

“Thus, in that short period for which power generation and distribution were wholly shut down in Nigeria, the electricity union succeeded in inflicting untold hardships on Nigerians and caused losses in the billions of Naira to Nigerian businesses. This is unacceptable!” CASER stated.

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The group added, “What the electricity workers who went on strike have failed to realise is that their strike action on the 17th of August, 2022 amounted to an act of terrorism against the Nigerian State and that they are therefore liable to be punished with life imprisonment on conviction according to the combined provisions of Section 1 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (as Amended).”

It said the electricity workers cannot be excused by the exception in subsection 3 of the above section of the Terrorism Act, “as they embarked on the strike for coercion.”

“What the electricity workers have done is not different from acts by a terrorist group such as Boko Haram.

Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

“Therefore, it is only appropriate to institute criminal proceedings against them to serve as deterrence to other unions in the essential services sector that may contemplate any illegal strikes.

“If electricity workers can embark on strikes, then members of the Nigerian Police and military- Army, Navy and Airforce can also embark on strike actions. Such a situation is unimaginable. That is why the law prohibits such strike actions.

“Therefore, dear Honourable Attorney General, your failure to enforce the legal standards as to illegal strikes as in the tradition of past administrations which, for reasons of lack of political will, failed to act in the public interest, will lead to the further expansion of the reign of impunity which has been the bane of Nigeria’s fragile democracy,” CASER noted.

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