by Kunle Wizeman Ajayi
“We cannot continue to allow the retrenchment of workers at this particular time of economic recession when salaries are not even enough to live well. Losses of job lead to hooliganism; armed robbery; and many other crimes. Living conditions become worsened. This is why we have started picketing since yesterday morning here at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) over management’s intentions to sack one thousand workers. And this is in continuation of the five thousand sacked in 2012…Both APC and PDP are saying they want to employ more workers and reduce the mass unemployment in the country. But how can that be done when a commission is sacking thousands of workers?”
These were the words of Comrade Akeem Kazeem, the TUC Lagos Council Chair when speaking to Socialist Worker at the picket line on May 13. The picketing is the Lagos segment of a nationwide mass action against the “intending sack” of one thousand workers by NIMC as announced by its Director-General, Chris Onyemanem recently.
“About 17 letters are already on ground, but we are saying NO and that it is the DG that is supposed to be sacked,” the TUC Secretary asserted.
He further told Socialist Worker that the TUC has employed all legal means to dialogue with the commission especially as there are numerous issues of anti-worker activities by the commission’s management which are against human and labour rights.
Workers at the picketing line displayed placards that carried slogans like:
“CHRIS ONYEMENAM, DG NIMC SACKED 5OOO WORKERS AND NOW ANOTHER 1000!”
“SACK DG ONYEMENAM, NOT INNOCENT CIVIL SERVANTS. DG NIMC MUST GO!”
“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, STOP SACKING WORKERS!”
“ONYEMENAM IS ANTI-WORKER, SACK HIM NOW!”
The inscriptions on the placards were further corroborated when one of the protesting workers told us that “since 2007 when we were appointed, there have not been promotions.” Another said that “for 3 to 4 years now, we have not gone on leave until we fought for it this year.”
The DG, Chris Onyemenam has been employing several oppressive tactics in directing the affairs of the commission. One of this is that the earlier sacked 5000 workers never got any terminal emolument after their disengagement. Their mass protests to the National Assembly and the interventions made by the parliamentarians have been fruitless. “He successfully manipulated the parliamentarians to his side against workers by promising them employment slots,” one of the 2012 sacked workers told Socialist Worker.
The DG is said to be employing divide-and-rule measures by using ethnicity and favouritism in promoting and employing workers while massively sacking and victimising those who dare oppose his draconian ways of governing the commission. The DG is said to have been due to leave the position after having completed two terms of 8 years as approved by the federal constitution. Now he is on his ninth year as DG. “This is unconstitutional, and Onyemenam has overstayed his time” a worker said.
Socialist Workers League (SWL) commends the TUC for the nationwide picketing. The high-handedness of the bosses must be strongly resisted at all times. This will boost worker’s confidence to stand up against anti-workers actions like sacking; non-promotion; casualization and homophobia.
Hundreds of members of TUC affiliate unions like the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) and Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), as well as Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) which is affiliated to the NLC were on ground to enforce the barricade which was largely successful just as is witnessed “all over the country.”
At the end of the day’s picketing, which was by 3pm, Comrade Kazeem commended the workers for their steadfastness and unity in action. He said that workers will win as the commission’s management is already calling for talks. He however said that the picketing will continue if the management fails to comply with all demands. Comrade Akamo, Deputy Secretary General of the ASCSN further corroborated this, charging that victory is certain as there is no going back.
Meanwhile, answering questions from Socialist Worker over the growing “issue of casualization and sackings all over the country;” the TUC Chair said such anti-worker actions “will be resisted by TUC and NLC and we’ll support any of our affiliate unions fighting!”