Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai yesterday raised the number of retrenched workers with the sack of all nurses below Grade Level 14.
El-Rufai, who is embroiled in a disagreement with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the earlier sack of over 45,000 workers, also threatened to dismiss the state university lecturers for being sympathetic to the ongoing five-day warning strike by Labour.
He also declared NLC President Ayuba Wabba and other union leaders wanted for what he called economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure.
But, Wabba dared the governor, saying:”We are here and waiting for them. The protest is not about him(El-Rufai) but about the welfare of the generality of workers.”
The Federal Government has, however, intervened to avoid further escalation of the crisis.
Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige made this known in Abuja.
Labour on Sunday night commenced the warning strike to get the El-Rufai government to reverse the mass retrenchment and prevent its planned further dismissal of 11, 000 more civil servants.
But the governor, who insisted in a statement that he would not make a U-turn on the sacked workers, said he had ordered an advertisement for applicants that will replace the nurses.
The statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, did not indicate the number of the affected nurses.
He was, however, explicit that three nurses at the Barau Teaching Hospital, who allegedly disconnected oxygen supply to a two-day-old in an incubator on Monday would be prosecuted.
El-Rufai, who described Wabba and the other union leaders as bandits, said it was heart-wrenching that the nurses could engage in sabotaging some of the state’s health facilities.
The statement titled: “KDSG will not tolerate criminal acts disguised as industrial action” reads in part: “Also, KDSG cannot ignore the illegal pressures brought to disrupt the operations of banks and other private business whose staff and customers do not have any industrial dispute with the state or any other government.
“KDSG regrets that some nurses have joined the unlawful strike and engaged in the sabotage of some of our health facilities. Nurses were implicated in the frocible discharge of patients in many health facilities.
“The Ministry of Health will dismiss all nurses below Grade Level 14 for going on an unlawful strike. Salaries that could have gone to them are to be given as extraordinary occupational allowances to the health workers who are at their duty posts to fill the gap of those absconding from duty.
“Any academic staff of KASU that does not report for work will be dismissed.
“KDSG views the actions of the NLC as equivalent to the actions of the bandits kidnapping and menacing our citizens.
“Bandits illegally use arms, but the NLC is deploying mob action for exactly the same ends: trying to hold hostage the freedoms, economic interests, livelihoods and resources of the people of Kaduna State. It is a vain expectation that this government will respond differently to sets of unlawful actions that have the same ends.”
Earlier, the governor had placed a bounty on Wabba and his colleagues in case they failed to report themselves to “the nearest police station” as directed by him.
Shortly after the threat by El-Rufai, the protest by labour that entered the second day almost turned bloody but for the quick response of security operatives who dispersed more than 50 thugs that threw stones and other dangerous weapons at Wabba and his co-protesters.
The incident happened at the NEPA Roundabout where the NLC boss addressed the protesting workers.
El-Rufai had in two separate posts on his Twitter handle@elrufai explained that Wabba and the Labour leaders were wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure. Their alleged actions, according to him, contravened the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
In the first post, the governor said: “Ayuba Wabba & others of @NLCHeadquarters declared wanted for economic sabotage & attacks on public infrastructure under Miscellaneous Offences Act.
“Anyone that knows where he is hiding should send a message to @MOJKaduna. KDSG. There will be a handsome reward!”
In the second tweet, he said that “…the reform of the size, cost & quality of over-bloated, inefficient & barely educated public service is at stake here.”
El-Rufai vowed that his government would “neither retreat nor concede to any thoughtless & corrupt political hacks ever.”
The governor, who later fielded questions from reporters insisted that Wabba and his colleagues must be arrested.
His words: “I am sure you all saw my Twitter handle post. They (labour leaders) have attacked facilities and engaged in economic sabotage. We will bring him to justice.
“We are looking for him (Wabba); he should report himself to the nearest police station or report to us. He will be prosecuted for economic sabotage.
“There is no ground for compromise. They have used their ultimate weapon and it will not change anything. It will not change our position.”
Wabba had earlier yesterday led the unionists from NLC Secretariat at Golf Course Road to NEPA Roundabout on Ahmadu Bello Way through Independence Way to Muhammadu Buhari Way.
But when they gathered at the Roundabout, the thugs who wielded matchets and sticks, threw stones and other dangerous items at them.
Police and other security personnel guarding the protesters were however able to repel the thugs with tear gas.
The NLC Chairman in the state, Ayuba Magaji, accused the El-Rufai government of being unnecessarily tough over an issue that could be settled through dialogue.
Magaji said that labour, on its part was committed to the principle of dialogue and social bargaining for the benefit of the disengaged workers.
He added: “We are not in a military regime; it is not an issue of stubbornness. We will protect the rights of workers to the latter.
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“The Kaduna State Government is playing tough on our actions. We have had military governments who are tough by nature but we sat down and dialogued with them and reached a logical conclusion.”