12 January 2012, Sweetcrude, ENUGU- FOR attempting to enforce the nationwide strike ordered by organised labour against removal of fuel subsidy, a labour leader in Enugu State, Comrade Festus Ozoeze, has been arrested by the police, tried by a mobile court and remanded at Enugu prisons.
State chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Igbokwe Chukwuma, who confirmed the arrest and incarceration of Ozoeze, condemned the action, saying the information got to them very late on Tuesday.
Governor Sullivan Chime was said to have ordered the setting up of a special court to try any worker and members of organised labour found to have violated his order banning public assemblies, meetings and procession in the state.
Ozoeze, who is the Vice Chairman of Amalgamated Workers Union in Enugu State Water Corporation, was reportedly arrested, tried by one Magistrate Mba who presided over the tribunal set up by the state government at the premises of the Police CID and sent to Enugu prisons for alleged conspiracy and breach of public peace.
Enugu State Head of Service, Mr. Dennis Eze, who led some government officials to unlock some government offices padlocked by labour leaders, reportedly petitioned Ozoeze alongside Chairman of the Water Corporation, Comrade Timothy Ojielo, and state chairman of his union, Comrade Chris Elibe, accusing them of violating the governor’s order. The labour leaders were said to have been declared wanted by the police.
Comrade Chukwuma, the State chairman of TUC, said of the development: “We discussed it in our meeting and we are going to follow it up; we learnt he was arrested and tried within the state police CID and sent to prison; this is something we cannot take.
“We have met and decided to see the Attorney-General to register our protest; we are also in touch with the labour headquarters. So immediately after meeting with the Attorney-General we will take a position on that.”
Giving reasons organised labour in the state failed to hold the planned anti-fuel subsidy removal protest since Monday, Comrade Igbokwe said: “Since Monday, we’ve been on it; we woke up Monday morning to see that government had issued a proclamation banning gathering and protest in Enugu State.
“We looked at it as something very unfair; we tried to move like other states but policemen had been stationed in front of our secretariat, which is our meeting point and you see they have remained here all these days.
“Actually today we wanted to go to the streets again but we were restricted, we were even pushed; so we are saying that this is very unfair; what is happening in other states should happen in Enugu State.
“This is a national issue, it is not a State issue and Enugu State workers have not been associated with violence of any kind in all our demonstrations.”
Also speaking, state chairman of the NLC, Comrade Nze Chumaife, said the strike was still on in the state but lamented that “the police again tried to stop us and we challenged them and we have refused to be intimidated. We did what we can to show Nigerians that we are against removal of oil subsidy.”
“The civil society, students, unemployed youths, okada riders were all with us, and we thank God we were able to demonstrate our protest a little today. Prices of good have gone up, people are suffering, price of fuel has gone up to N200; and we have told our workers to disregard the propaganda by government that they should come to work; we can’t go to work, we are still saying no to removal of subsidy and that’s what we have done today,” the NLC Chairman said.