30 June 2005
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) wholly and unequivocally condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilian members of staff of the Ministry of Defence by Air Force officers at their Ikeja base.
The workers were arrested while mobilising their colleagues for a proposed strike over non-payment of their benefits.
This unwholesome and dastardly action of the military is a flagrant abuse of the fundamental human rights of workers to fight for a better welfare and improved working condition as a workers union through strike, peaceful protest and other legitimate means recognized by the laws of the land. Besides, they even have rights to stage protest in solidarity with workers of other unions that might have been compelled to embark on strike or protest for same or other reasons, let alone what directly concern them.
It is not only unconstitutional but also against all moral ethics to victimize workers for protesting the non-payment of their benefits which they worked for, and as such, deserve to be paid for the services.
In fact, the workers deserved not only to be paid but that must also be done as at when due. This is become more imperative in the face of the fact the salaries and allowances paid to workers are peanut when compared with the increasing cost of living and the fact that like every Nigerian, they have to provide their electricity, water, health care, children education, etc.
Workers in the defence sector including military personnel should not be seen as immune from embarking on strikes, protests and clamour for improved welfare because they patronize the same markets as other members of the larger society.
It would be recalled that the minimal reforms being enjoyed by the Police today was due to the strike action embarked upon by some junior ranking officers in the force few years ago. As a policy, the ruling elite will never improve the welfare and working conditions of workers unless they are forced to do so by the workers themselves through strikes and protests.
The CDWR hereby calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Uche Awuzie the Coordinator of Civilian Staff Trade Union in the Ministry of Defense, and several others who are presently in detention at the Air Force Base, Ikeja Lagos.
We also call on the labour movement, pro-labour organizations and pro-masses political parties to urgently intervene in the matter in defence of the fundamental rights of the beleaguered workers.