Striking Ogun State workers on Thursday alleged that thugs suspected to be loyal to Governor Ibikunle Amosun beat up public servants and labour union leaders as workers started their indefinite strike over unremitted cooperative union deductions and unfriendly labour practices.
It was gathered that some labour leaders and union members who had gathered at the secretariat of the state Nigeria Labour Congress around 8am on Thursday were attacked by the thugs.
One of those beaten, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The thugs came in a Toyota Camry and some others came on motorcycles; they descended on union leaders and some of us who had gathered at the secretariat, beating us blue, black.
“The thugs covered the number plate of the car, in order to shield the identity of the owner from being traced. This is sad.”
Another worker said, “They attacked our members at Laderin Estate, Kuto Roundabout and Oke Ilewo.”
The state NLC chairman, Akeem Ambali, who confirmed the attack on workers and labour leaders, said he had noticed some people trailing him since Monday after he addressed the press briefing where the strike was announced.
Ambali said two of the labour leaders and some members were attacked by the thugs, who the workers alleged were Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s loyalists.
He said, “This is the first time in the history of this state that workers will be attacked by the agents of the state. We have heard that some people have hired some thugs to attack us. But we thought it was all a rumour. But we were shocked this morning when some thugs came in a black Toyota Camry with number plate LND 555 BD to the place where the labour leaders were standing at Kuto roundabout.
“They attacked our members at Kuto, Oke Ilewo and Laderin Housing Estate.
“They beat up two labour leaders, Comrade Benco and Comrade Olayemi, among others.
“The NLC office has been sealed off by 30 armed men, but I have gathered that two cultists have been trailing me.
“My life is not safe and I have gone underground. My life is not safe with this government.”
But the Ogun State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2015 governorship election, Gboyega Isiaka, and the state chapter of the Labour Party have condemned the attack on labour leaders and protesting workers by suspected party thugs in Abeokuta.
Isiaka, who sympathised with the workers, warned against politicising a normal trade dispute and urged “the rampaging party thugs that thought they were helping the state government to exercise restraint.”
In a statement signed by the LP leaders, Abayomi Arabambi and Oginni Olaposi, they condemned the situation in which the workers were not allowed to exit the cooperative scheme while the deductions taken were not remitted.
Meanwhile, about 30 armed men of the Quick Response Squad and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps hurriedly took over the NLC state secretariat along Abiola Way, in the capital city.
Some security men also took over the two major entrances leading to the Governor’s office/secretariat to secure the complex.
But the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the police did not seal off the NLC secretariat but rather security men were dispatched there to maintain law and order.
In spite of the attack, the strike paralysed government activities, as workers stayed away from their duty posts.
When newsmen visited Oke Mosan Governor’s Office secretariat where the civil servants’ offices are located around 8.30am, the place was deserted.
Public primary and secondary schools in the state were also shut while activities at the state high courts and magistrates were also paralysed. Patients at the state-owned General Hospital, Ijaye, Abeokuta, have started moving out as many wards were deserted.
However, the state government has described the strike as illegal and threatened to invoke the ‘no work no pay’ rule for those who stayed away from their duty posts.
The Secretary to the State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa, while briefing journalists in his office on Thursday, said he was not aware that there was a strike.
Adeoluwa, who did not react to the allegation that workers’ cooperative deductions had not been remitted in the last 12 months or whether striking workers were being attacked, said the state government had not defaulted in its agreement with labour.
He said, “When they served us this notice, we were like what does these workers really want? It has been said in some quarters that it (the strike) is purely political. If there is a strike at all, it has no basis and no justification.
“All I will do now is to just appeal to the workers through you, I mean the little percentage who feel they have a case against the governmentý, that strike cannot be the solution and I want to challenge them to come out and state where we have defaulted from the agreement we had in March.”