Rivers Strike Threat: Labour Leaders Absent As Industrial Court Adjourns Suit To Sept 18

Alleged Bribery: Witness Testifies As Rickey Tarfa’s Trial Continues
File photo

 

The National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned till Friday, September 18, to hear all applications relating to the Rivers State Government’s suit seeking the interpretation of the provisions of the Trade Unions Act.

The court is sitting as a vacation court to hear the suit.

The Rivers State Govt had filed the suit to challenge the threat by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to embark on a strike action starting from Monday, September 7.

The government listed the two unions, their presidents, Comrade Ayuba Waba and Quadri Olaleye, as well as the Rivers state chairpersons, Beatrice Itubo and Austin Jonah as defendants in the suit.

The defendants were not present in court, but the Rivers State Attorney General, Professor Zaccheus Adangor who represented the state government told the court that all the defendants have been duly served with the originating processes and the motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction, along with last week’s enrolled order of interim injunction restraining the defendants from going on strike, which have all been published in two national newspapers of September the 3rd as directed by the court.

Read Also: Organised Labour Suspends Planned Protest In Rivers State

He also told the judge about an out-of court-agreement reached Monday night after a closed-door meeting with Governor Nyesom Wike which resulted in organised labour calling off their planned protest against the Rivers State Government on Tuesday,

Vacation judge, Justice Nelson Ogbunaya discountenanced the information and asked the AG to focus on the suit especially as the defendants who would have corroborated the information were not in court.

Justice Ogbunaya also noted that the 14-day period for the defendants to respond and put in their appearance will expire on September 17.

He, therefore, adjourned further hearings to September 18.

This is the second legal action of the Rivers state government against organised labour.

Judgment in the first case against a previous plan of the state NLC to go on strike in March will be delivered on September 29 at the Port Harcourt division of the court.

Organised Labour Suspends Planned Protest In Rivers State

 

Organised labour in Rivers State has suspended its planned protest after reaching an agreement with the state government.

After a meeting which lasted for several hours with the state government on Monday, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba, said that the issues raised have been addressed and the protest scheduled for Tuesday has also been suspended.

The Organised labour made up of NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) raised pending issues with the state government, centred on the new minimum wage, payment of outstanding health workers salaries, unsealing of the NLC secretariat among other concerns.

“Organised labour agreed to immediately suspend the planned protest scheduled for Tuesday 8 September 2020,” Mr Wabba said.

The NLC President noted that the State Government has agreed to pay the approved N30,000 new national minimum wage, after months of unresolved negotiations.

“Parties have agreed to sign the agreement on the implementation of the new national minimum wage and consequential adjustment.”

RELATED: Rivers Govt Warns Organised Labour Against Disobeying Court Order

An official of the Rivers Stae government signing the agreement with the Organised Labour on Monday, September 7, 2020

Unsealing Of NLC Rivers Secretariat

Mr Wabba stated further that the NLC secretariat which was sealed up in February 2020 by the state government will be reopened.

The seal up caused an uproar after security operatives arrived the place and sealed up the premises used by labour unions in the state.

“The NLC secretariat which was sealed for the correction of the structural defect will immediately be unsealed while the government continues with the correction work if any,” The NLC President averred.

Other issues raised, like the remittance of check-off dues, according to the NLC President, will be immediately restored.

“The Rivers State government shall immediately restore the remittance of check-off dues and pay all outstanding arrears to the respective trade unions.

“Rivers State government commits to the payment of salaries withheld from health workers due to the 2017 strike action,” he stated.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: It Costs N400,000 To Treat Each Patient, Says El-Rufai

Mr Wabba added that both parties have also agreed to set up a tripartite committee to discuss and resolve all outstanding labour issues, including the adjustment of pensions in line with the constitution and [payment of pensions and gratuity.

He also stated that the parties have resolved to take steps in ending all ongoing litigations in relation to the dispute in those matters.

The NLC President said that following the agreement, no worker will be victimised based on the roles played in the industrial dispute with the Rivers State Government.

Labour Leaders Have Gone Underground In Rivers State – NUPENG

 

National President of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Williams Akporeha, on Monday said labour leaders in Rivers state have gone underground for fear of harassment by the state government.

Akporeha made the remarks during an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

He was responding to questions about why workers decided to embark on a mass protest in the state on Tuesday.

“The issues are numerous, ranging from the non-implementation of the minimum wage in Rivers, nonpayment of pensioners for several years, the sealing-up of NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) Secretariat in Rivers state for the past six months,” Akporeha said.

READ ALSO: Rivers Govt Warns Organised Labour Against Disobeying Court Order

“Several appeals have been made to the Governor that the path he is treading is not good for an industrial, harmonious relationship; but all that seems to have fallen on deaf ears; And as union too, once all those efforts fail, the next thing is to cry out.

“The case of Rivers has become so serious because of the anti-labour stance of the Governor. He has also gone about harassing labour leaders in the state. No labour leader seems to be safe. Everybody is operating from underground as we speak. And we felt this is democracy. If any Governor is embarking on dictatorship against the labour movement, that should not be accepted.”

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Paulinus Nsirim, who had also been invited to Sunrise Daily, was unable to make it.

No National Protest

The Rivers State Government on Saturday accused the NLC of instigating workers into industrial action, despite a court order against such.

However, the NLC has said it is not aware of any court injunction and will go on with its mass protest on Tuesday, Akporeha said.

NUPENG is an affiliate of the NLC.

“The mass protest, which is a peaceful one, is meant to bring to the attention of the state government of Rivers and the terror and authoritarian stand of the Governor over labour issues in that state,” Akporeha said.

“Our role is to give solidarity and that is why we have called on all our members in Rivers to come out for that peaceful protest on Tuesday.”

Mr Akporeha said his association is not involved in any nationwide strike, in light of rumours of an action over increased fuel and electricity tariffs.

“We are only involved on a solidarity peaceful mass protest in Rivers state; that’s our mandate for now,” he said.

“The peaceful mass protest will go ahead, and we are calling on all our members in the downstream and upstream, especially in the depot areas and filling station workers, to all come out en mass to join in solidarity to save Rivers state workers.”

Court Declares Rivers APC Caretaker Committee Illegal

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

The High Court in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital has declared a former member of the House of Representatives for Phalga Constituency, Mr Igo Aguma, as the chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state.

The court also declared the Isaac Ogbogbulam-led five man caretaker committee chairman constituted by the National Working Committee of the APC, as illegal.

The presiding judge, Justice George Omereji held that the caretaker committee was only constituted to conduct congresses on September 2019, but their tenure was not renewed.

Justice Omereji also held that the national working committee of the APC constituted the caretaker committee without liaising with the statutory members who, according to him, were empowered by the party constitution as state executive committee members.

While the counsel to the claimant welcomed the verdict, describing it as the true position of the law, the counsel to the APC and its national chairman say they will appeal the judgment on the two matters decided by Justice Omereji.

Port Harcourt Hospital Reopens Weeks After COVID-19 Case Was Detected

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A hospital in Portharcourt, the Rivers State capital, has resumed operations weeks after it shut down following its detection of a COVID-19 case.

This was disclosed in a statement issued on Monday by the medical Director Dr Martins Nde.

In the statement, the MD thanked God for the protection of all its staff and the opportunity to save lives despite the attendant risks associated with the services.

Recounting how it all started, Nde explained that on the 20th of April, 2020 a patient was admitted to the hospital with a normal body temperature of 36.7oc.
The patient was said to have been diagnosed with signs, symptoms, and laboratory results consistent with resistant malaria and was later discharged on April 21, 2020.

According to Nde, it was later discovered that the state Ministry of Health and NCDC tested the said patient to be positive to COVID -19 on the 28th of April, 2020.

Thereafter, the hospital’s management responded to the development and compelled all staff who had come in contact with the said patient, to undergo medical protocols by submitting themselves for testing, and proceeding on a 14-day monitored self-isolation.

The MD has, however, stated that all staff have been confirmed to be negative to COVID-19 by the NCDC.

He also thanked the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the NCDC, for their rapid decontamination of the hospital on the 29th of April, 2020, and for all measures taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

Meanwhile, he has restated the commitment of the hospital to saving lives and providing efficient and effective professional medical services.

Police Assure NDDC Of Adequate Security, Warn Trouble Makers

 

The police in Rivers State have assured the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), of providing adequate security to enable it deliver on its mandate to the people of the region.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Joseph Mukan, gave the assurance during a  visit at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt on Friday while warning those plotting evil against the commission to desist forthwith.

The Commissioner was received by the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang and the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh.

During the visit, he said: “Policing Rivers State will be incomplete without securing NDDC. I want to assure the Commission that in spite of the threats we saw in the media two weeks ago, the intention of the evil ones to burn down the Commission’s headquarters can never succeed.

“We have put machinery in place as directed by the Inspector General of Police to ensure that the Commission is secured. The IG has given me the marching orders to beef up the security architecture in NDDC.

“We will be proactive in tackling the security challenges facing the NDDC. We will not wait for any negative thing to happen before we start acting. Our machinery is already on ground and I can assure you that the evil plans of the enemy to destroy the NDDC will fail.

“The IG sees the NDDC as very strategic and will do everything necessary to ensure that the good services you are giving to the people of the Niger Delta is not hindered.”

In response, Prof Pondei thanked the police commissioner for cooperating with the NDDC, noting that the bond between the commission and the police would be further strengthened.

He stated that the NDDC was resolute in ensuring that it rendered quality service to the people of the region in line with its mandate.

“We have a cordial working relationship with the security agencies, because without security, we will not be able to intervene as expected in developing the Niger Delta region.

“The police continues to provide security and other logistic services to the Commission. We are very grateful for this cordial relationship and hope that it will continue and be made stronger,” he said.

Pondei also noted that the visit of the Police Commissioner was timely considering a recent publication, threatening arson on the Commission.

“This is something that we cannot take lightly. We know that it has to do with the on-going forensic audit and we are working with the police to make sure that nothing untoward happens to the NDDC,” he said.

We Locked Down Obio/Akpor And Port Harcourt To Protect Rivers, Says Wike

 

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has declared that the lockdown of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas was not targeted at suffering the people, but aimed at protecting Rivers people from coronavirus.

Speaking during a live phone-in programme on Rhythm FM Port Harcourt on Wednesday, Governor Wike said all measures put in place by his administration have been to check the spread of coronavirus.

He said: “We have to lockdown Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas in the interest of our people. While individuals feel it, the State Government is also affected because it loses revenue. But lives must be protected.”

Governor Wike urged Rivers people to continue to pray for the success of the State Government at this crucial time.

He said: “We need continuous prayers to succeed. We have handed this state to God. We can only do much, but God will save our people. “

Governor Wike said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that agriculture and health are key. He said the State Government will work towards further growth in that direction.

“Agriculture is key. We must support our farmers and Fishermen to produce more,” he said.

The Governor said: “Everyone should support the State Government to tackle COVID-19. This is not a period of criticism.

“This is a period where all of us must come together, irrespective of political parties to stop the spread of the virus.

“I thank Rivers people for their support. It has been amazing. I am not moved by the unfounded criticism of a few. I am concerned about the protection of the vast majority of Rivers people, because I have their mandate.”

READ ALSO: Chartered Plane Conveying Nigerians To Lagos From Dubai To Arrive At 7pm Today

Governor Wike urged churches to fellowship online and pray for the State within the period. He said that basically, the State Government is taking precautionary measures to protect Rivers people.

He advised Rivers people to make sacrifices at this period. He said food can never be enough, but the State Government will sustain its delivery of Palliatives.

While commending the State Palliatives Committee, Governor Wike said more foodstuffs will be distributed to Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and the other local government areas.

Responding to a question, Governor Wike said that the Federal Government is yet to disburse any fund to the Rivers State Government in relation to the fight against coronavirus.

He said that the State Government rejected the 1800 bags of rice supplied because they have since expired.

On when the lockdown will be lifted, Governor Wike said the State Security Council will regularly meet to review the situation and take a decision.

He said that in order to check the sabotage of the lockdown, his administration has employed 300 operatives to assist in the enforcement of the lockdown.

The Governor reiterated that his administration has remained committed to supporting Federal Government Agencies with finance and logistics. He blamed the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital management for playing unnecessary politics at this critical time.

Responding to a question by a caller, Governor Wike said that there was no conflict with Shell Petroleum Development Company. He said he is always in communication with the Managing Director of Shell .

Commenting on those allowed to move during the lockdown, he said that those on essential duties must carry their identification and must be on duty.

He said that the State Government is just getting its laboratory, because it takes the involvement of the Federal Government for the machines to be acquired.

He said that his administration will not allow the influx of people into the State.

Governor Wike said there is no reason to play politics with the pandemic, because it is not a respecter of persons.

He pointed out that in Bayelsa State , Timipre Sylva who promoted the candidacy of APC’s David Lyon, attracted a Hospital of Infectious diseases to his state.

“Timipre brought Lyon, who won an election, but was sacked by the Supreme Court. But Sylva went ahead to attract a specialist hospital to Bayelsa despite political differences.

“This pandemic has nothing to do with whether or not you supported President Buhari . Politics should be set aside. Knowing that our economy is dependent on oil, Rivers State be the first place for intervention.

“My first priority is to protect the lives of Rivers people. We haven’t locked down the towns before. This is not for anyone to suffer. I am appealing to our people to bear. If we don’t do anything now, our people will suffer.

“The population of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas is high. If it hits us, we will have serious problems. The action is to help our people,” he said.

The Governor added that when the state starts mass testing, the number of those who will text positive will be high.

He emphasised that the Rivers State has not received any assistance from the Federal Government in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Governor reminded Rivers people that coronavirus spiked because the Federal Government failed to close the border and airspace on time.

He recalled that even Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that the late Border and airspace Closure was the responsible to the explosion of Coronavirus.

He said: “We are taking a proactive measure. We set up border Closure, but we have been sabotaged by security agencies “.

He said that no Government will take tough measures without considering the welfare of the people.

Governor Wike said that the phone-in programme was an opportunity to interact with Rivers people who gave him the mandate to protect them.

He said that the entire world is affected by the pandemic, hence the need to be proactive at all times.

Female Police Officer Shot Dead By Sergeant In Rivers

 

A female police officer has been killed by her colleague in Rivers state.

The lady, Lovender Elekwachi, a sergeant who was serving at Eneka Division and was posted to the Eneka roundabout on traffic duties was shot by her a certain Sergeant Bitrus Osaiah on Thursday.

Rivers Police Command in a statement noted that Osaiah who was attached to the Operations Department of the Command has been disarmed and arrested.

READ ALSO: Alleged Sodomy: Security Operatives Rescue Police Officer, Partner From Mob Attack

According to the communique, Osaiah who was attached to the Rivers State Task Force on Decongestion, is undergoing ‘orderly room trial’.

Two other members of the Task Force have also been arrested and are being questioned.

Also the Hilux vehicle belonging to the Task Force has been impounded and the corpse of the female sergeant has been deposited in the mortuary.

The Commissioner of Police, CP Joseph G. Mukan, has ordered investigations into the matter with a view to unraveling the circumstances that led to her death.

He appealed for calm, pending the outcome of the investigation, promising that the interest of justice must be served in the circumstance.

They Have Broken No Law, PENGASSAN Reacts To Arrest Of Exxon Mobil Workers In Rivers

Why We Suspended Nationwide Strike – PENGASSAN

 

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has reacted to the arrest of some of its members by Rivers State Government stressing they have broken no law.

The group in a statement by its Exxon Mobil branch on Friday called on all stakeholders to prevail on the Rivers State Government to immediately release the detained workers.

The statement, which was signed by both PENGASSAN Chairman and Secretary, Razaq Obe, and Kingsley Udoidua, noted that their workers are part of the essential workers exempted by the Federal Government from COVID-19 restriction, hence their arrest is illegal.

READ ALSO: Lockdown Order: Wike Announces Arrest, Quarantine of 22 Exxon Mobil Workers

“Recall the Federal Government of Nigeria exempted oil and gas workers on essential service from COVID-19 restrictions in Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos State and Ogun State.

“The same was mirrored in various communications from Rivers State government which have permitted unfettered movements of other IOCs’ essential service personnel and critical materials.

“We condemn the continued detention of the 21 members of our Union who stake everything to produce the oil the country depends on for survival. We call on all stakeholders to prevail on the government of Rivers State to end this most unpleasant drama. Our members have broken no law,” the statement read in part.

Narrating the incident leading to the arrest of the oil workers, the group in the statement claimed that the workers were forcefully detained and assaulted.

“At about 3:30pm on Thursday April 16, 2020, Rivers State Commissioner of Police with his team and a top Army commander intercepted the convoy (protected by the police) conveying 21 ExxonMobil personnel who are PENGASSAN members on their way to Intels, Port Harcourt, at Bori (Akwa Ibom/Rivers boundary).

“The commissioner rebuffed all explanations and forced them to move to Elekaya Stadium, Port Harcourt, where they have been detained, verbally assaulted and starved.

“The original pretext for sending them to the stadium was to test for COVID-19 but there was no such possibility at the location; it is a construction site. They rather served them papers to write statements,” the group added.

PENGASSAN in the statement also condemned Rivers State authorities for turning the global effort to tame COVID-19 to a tool of muscle-flexing and petty oppression of oilfield workers.

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike had earlie on Friday announced the arrest of 22 Exxon Mobil workers for coming into the state from Akwa Ibom state in violation of executive order restricting movement due to COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 Lockdown: Wike Reverses Position On Church Attendance For Easter

A file photo of Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike.
A file photo of Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike.

 

The Rivers State Government on Saturday cancelled the concession granted churches to hold Easter church services with their full congregations amid a coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Governor Nyesom Wike had urged Muslims in the state to observe Jumaat prayers on Friday and Christians to hold services with their full congregation on Easter Sunday.

But less than 24 hours to Easter Sunday, the state government rescinded its decision.

“This decision was taken after due consultations with eminent clergymen, well-meaning Nigerians and civil society groups,” state commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinus Nsirim, said in a statement.

“For the avoidance of doubt, churches should stick to the 50 persons per service to maintain social distancing,” the statement added.

On Friday, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu had urged all Christians in the country to maintain physical distancing and avoid large crowds.

“We need to pay a short term price for a long term goal and physical distancing is probably the most important tool,” he stressed.

 

COVID-19: Rivers Assembly Lawmakers Donate One Month Salary To Fight Pandemic

Rivers

 

Lawmakers at the Rivers State House of Assembly are supporting the state Government in tackling COVID-19 by donating one month salary.

Speaker of the House, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani told journalists in the state on Wednesday that the decision is a collective one, including 32 members of the 9th Assembly of Rivers State.

“In our last plenary, the house directed two of its standing committees (Committee on Health and Committee on Information) to interface with the Ministry of Health and other agencies responsible for the fight against Covid-19 pandemic in the State and to continue to update the House on the progress or otherwise.

READ ALSO: TY Danjuma Inaugurates Task Force For Victim Support Fund (VSF)

”Based on this directive and the feedback so far received from the Joint Committee on the proactive measures put in place by the State Government, we have resolved that one month salaries of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly members be deducted by the Rivers State Ministry of Finance and remitted to the Committee set up by his Excellency Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State to combat the Covid-19 Pandemic in the State.”

Chairman of the House Committee on Information and co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Covid-19, Enemi Alabo George also at the briefing said the move was a collective decision of the members of the House and done as a contribution to the welfare of the people of the state.

He added that the committee is impress with the proactive steps taken by the State Government in preventing the spread of the pandemic and also the preparation for management of cases should there be such eventualities.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health and Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Covid-19, Sam Ogeh appreciates the Ministry of Health for its swift response in preparing to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The state governor, Wike had earlier announced that all markets in the state be shut from Saturday, March 28.

This was after he confirmed index case of Coronavirus in the state.

The Governor also directed all Civil Servants from Grade Level 1 – 10 to remain at home from Friday, March 27 until further notice.

Coronavirus: Wike Closes All Borders, Bans Open Worship, Weddings And Burials

A file photo of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

 

In a move to check the spread of coronavirus to Rivers State, the State Government on Wednesday announced that air, sea and land routes into the state will be closed to traffic, beginning 6pm, Thursday, March 26, 2020.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike said in a broadcast on Wednesday, that the measure became necessary in view of recent developments.

He said: “It is with gratitude to God that I announce to you that our State would have been infected with coronavirus yesterday, but for the vigilance of security agents who, acting on a tip-off prevented an infected person from boarding a flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt.

“The infected person beat all security measures that were put in place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Abuja and was to sneak into Port Harcourt before security agents stopped her.

“Based on this alarming Information, the State Security Council met yesterday and reviewed measures already put in place and decided that there was urgent need to adopt stringent measures to protect those living and doing business in the state from the virus.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Governor Obaseki Goes Into Self-Isolation

According to Governor Wike, the council decided that with effect from 6pm on Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa will not be open to air traffic.

“While we may not have the right to stop flights from entering Port Harcourt, we cannot allow anybody coming from the airport to enter our State. We are confident that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other federal agencies will cooperate with us,” Wike said.

The Governor further stressed that all Land and Sea Borders will be closed.

He also stated that vehicular movements in an out of Rivers State have been banned. Adding that no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other State and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state.

Governor Wike said that the new measures will be in place until further notice.

He noted: “Let me reiterate that the situation we are facing requires drastic measures because coronavirus has ravaged many countries.

“Security Agencies have been empowered to strictly enforce this directive. There will be no room for sacred cows because the virus is no respecter of persons.

“May I once again call for the support and understanding of everyone living and doing business in Rivers State to help the relevant Government Agencies implement these measures to check the spread of coronavirus to the state.”

The Rivers State Governor added: “At this time in our national life, we must shun primordial sentiments and face the reality on the ground.

“I am confident that God being on our side, the temporary hardship we are facing today will come to an end very soon.”

Governor Wike recounted earlier measures taken by the Rivers State Government to tackle coronavirus, emphasising that they were still in force.
He said: “In that broadcast, I announced the setting up of Surveillance Posts at our land and sea borders, beginning from Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

“I also informed you that after due consultations with Religious Leaders, all forms of open worship including crusades and vigils were banned.

“Public Burials and weddings were prohibited, while public parks, night clubs and Cinemas were directed to close down.”