Men of the Nigerian Police Force yesterday disrupted the nationwide rally embarked upon by workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and arrested about 35 workers who were protesting in Benin, Lagos, Umuahia Abeokuta, Ogun State and Asaba, Delta State.
Consequently, the workers under the umbrella of the National Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE), has given the authorities 24 hours to release the detained members failing which they threatened to withdraw their services across the country.
The workers had commenced a nationwide rally yesterday to protest government’s planned privatisation of PHCN among others. However, shortly after the protesters took off at the Maryland Transmission Office in Lagos, they were stopped by the police who explained that they were instructed by the Inspector General of Police to stop the rally. THISDAY also leant that armed military personnel and police have been deployed to all PHCN installations and all NUEE zonal offices and National Secretariat across the country ostensibly to avert and forestall any protest.
However, the union in a statement issued yesterday described the action of government as a rape on democracy and gross abuse of human rights.
The statement signed by the union’s Assistant General Secretary, Comrade Isaac Babatunde explained that the workers’ protest was not in anyway intended to adversely affect the subsisting relative peace of the country noting that the protest had no element of strike or “Work –To-Rule- Action” attached.
The union therefore gave the authorities 24 hours to release detained members failing which it threatened to withdraw its services across the country.
The statement made available to THISDAY reads n part: “The action of the Government to cow down workers from protesting against what they consider unfair and inappropriate policy thrust of the Administration is a rape of democracy and gross abuse of human rights. We are aware, in this democratic setting the decree/law against public procession, gathering and rally has been abrogated. There also exist the freedom of speech, opinion and expression to the extent that it neither translates to infringing on others comfort nor rights.
“It is criminal, offensive, oppressive, intimidating and provocative for the Government to deplore troops to a relatively peaceful working environment filled with harmless, innocent workers to depict a “War Zone”! PHCN workers are not at arms against anybody or institutions.
“We wish to reiterate that our job description does not entail working with Armed Military officers and the Police. Their presence adds no value to our operations, therefore not wanted.
“We therefore demand their immediate withdrawals and the release of twenty (20) detained members at Abeokuta, Fifteen (15) others at Asaba and every other ones in other locations within the next twenty-four (24) hours, else we shall be forced to withdraw our services”.