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Rivers: Labour threatens strike over political crisis

by Maryam Olaniyi
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The Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress has threatened to take action over the political crisis rocking the state.

The congress said the crisis between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and state lawmakers loyal to the immediate past governor of the state and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, was adversely affecting workers in the state.

The state NLC Chairman, Alex Agwanwo, stated this after a joint labour meeting in Port Harcourt on Saturday.

Recall that two factions emerged in the state House of Assembly after the explosion that rocked the legislative complex on October 29, 2023, following moves to impeach the governor.

About 26 lawmakers in the state House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, said to be loyal to Wike recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

Five members of the Assembly loyal to the governor led by the factional Speaker, Edison Ehie, declared the seat of the defecting lawmakers vacant.

The crisis led to the demolition of the state House of Assembly complex on Wednesday on the orders of the state government, which claimed that it was no longer ideal for legislative duties following October’s attack on it by political thugs, which resulted in the damage of some sections.

A close aide to the governor said that the list of commissioners, special advisers and other key aides as well as their portfolios was handed over to Fubara by his predecessor.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Fubara had no input into the appointments as his predecessor was solely responsible for their selection and appointment.

The source said the resignation of some of the commissioners was a confirmation that they were not the governor’s choices, but were rather imposed by Wike, who installed Fubara as his successor.

The aide stated, “Yes, the resignation of the commissioners has shown that they were not appointed by the governor. They were never his nominees. The list of the commissioners and advisers was handed over to the governor by the former governor with instructions on portfolios and offices to occupy. Even security agents were handed over to the governor with clear instructions on where to post them.

“Is there a way the governor can appoint commissioners, advisers and others and they will be resigning this way? It is not possible. Don’t forget that we are just about seven months in office. Commissioners appointed by the governor won’t leave.”

Responding to the claim by the FCT minister that the governor and all elected officials in Rivers State did not buy nomination forms from their pockets, the source said, “Yes, the former governor was correct to say he bought the forms for everyone. But pray, with which money? You know the salary of a governor and you know the cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for the Peoples Democratic Party.

“Let those who want to go leave and the governor will assemble members of his team, and not moles planted to spy on the administration.”

As a result, nine of the commissioners have resigned their appointments and there are indications that more will follow this week.

But Agwanwo condemned the plot to distract the governor from delivering good governance to the people of the state and called on all those involved to maintain the peace.

He condemned the crisis, adding that workers were being affected negatively as the focus on the crisis was not allowing the government to focus on their welfare.

The NLC chairman said, “We categorically condemn the crisis in Rivers State and we call for immediate restoration of peace among all the political actors involved so that we can have peace and prosperity in the state.

“Honestly, this crisis is not helping us. When two elephants fight, the grasses suffer. As workers, we are feeling the impact.

“The state is tensed. Our members are beginning to complain about the uprising and how their welfare is now being affected.

“The N35,000 wage award has been implemented by the Federal Government, but the state workers are yet to benefit from it.

“We have been engaging the state governor on how to implement this, but due to this crisis, the governor has not been able to have time for us.

“He has been very busy. For us, this distraction must stop.”

Agwanwo noted that the hope of workers in the state to have a good festive season had been dashed as the political war had prevented the governor from giving attention to governance and the welfare of workers.

He added, “It (crisis) is affecting governance, because it has not given the governor time to concentrate on the issues of state. In this festive period, we had expected that workers would rejoice because we hoped that we would have been paid the 13th month salary, which has not happened in this state for years.

“This is what we wanted to discuss with the governor, but because of these distractions we have not been able to meet with the governor, who has proven that he is worker-friendly.

“If this crisis continues and the political actors will not allow peace to reign in this state, we will have no choice but to make efforts to protect the benefits of our members. We will take every step legally to make sure that we advance the course of our members.”

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