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Stop intimidation of NLC leadership – HURIWA tells Tinubu



Mr President, salary hike won’t resolve the present hunger
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A group, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), on Thursday told President Bola Tinubu to stop intimidation of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The group raised alarm that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a democratically elected and a properly constituted President, has allowed his Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, to continue to deploy ‘verbal militancy’ and sabre rattling to attack citizens with divergent positions to that of President Tinubu’s government. The Rights group, therefore, urgently asked the president to rein in Onanuga before he does irreparable damage to the constitutional democracy and freedoms that Nigerians worked so hard to put in place.

Accusing Bayo Onanuga of acting as the ‘communications militant’ and not just an ‘attack dog’ of President Tinubu’s government, HURIWA condemned the open threats made by Onanuga last Sunday against the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress when he arrogantly warned the Nigeria Labour Congress not to embark on its two-day nationwide protest against the rising cost of living in the country.

Also, the police warned against disruption of commercial activities during the protest, which coincided with the warning made by Bayo Onanuga which established a working partnership between the President’s communications strategist and armed security forces.

The Rights group said it wasn’t, therefore, strange when suspected armed hoodlums were allegedly hurriedly brought into the Federal Capital Territory to infiltrate the NLC protest and disrupt peace, law and order were it not that the NLC got actionable intelligence and averted what would’ve been bloody.

HURIWA lamented that the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, and the police handed down the warnings and described the planned peaceful protests by NLC as a “breach of the law” and an “illegal undertaking.’’

The National Coordinator of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement on Friday cited Bayo Onanuga as saying, a day before the first day of protest, “The attorney-general has written the NLC’s lawyer that the protest is illegal. So, they are breaching a court order if they want to go on with the protest.

“We are not aware of any plans to disrupt the protest, but what we can confirm is that they (NLC) are breaching an extant rule by a competent court that they should not go on protest. The protest, itself, is illegal. So, the NLC should bear that in mind.”

The Rights group regretted that the NLC said the day-two nationwide protest over hunger and economic hardship was suspended due to alleged threats on the leadership of the Congress. Joe Ajaero, NLC President, said this at a news conference on Wednesday in Abuja.

HURIWA recalled that the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NLC had called for a two- day nationwide protest against the crisis of survival and hardship in Nigeria to be held between Feb. 27 and Feb. 28.

Sadly, after the first day of the peaceful protest, NEC of the Congress suspended day-two of the protest.

Citing a report that quoted the NLC President, Ajaero, the NLC asserted that it is important that members of the public are made aware of the grievous threats against the leadership of the NLC. This is aimed at intimidating and harassing us into abandoning our choice of democratic expressions through the nationwide protests.

“We have been threatened with all manners of consequences that will be meted out to us if we went ahead with the protest. We were not, however, deterred as lifting the heavy yoke of suffering upon Nigerian workers and masses left us with no other choice than to press on,” he said


HURIWA said that the NLC president narrated that during the Tuesday rally in Abuja, they received hard evidence of the importation of agent provocateurs just as the NLC president said the agent provocateurs were mobilised to the protest routes and grounds to cause violence and unleash mayhem against peacefully assembled and protesting Nigerians.

The NLC president also said: “God is, however, always a step ahead of the enemies of workers and Nigerian people.

“That was also one of the reasons we had to restructure the second day of the nationwide protest.

“As we address this Press briefing, all the major routes to our Headquarters here in Abuja have become militarised.”

Ajaero said that this level of intimidation was designed to suffocate and muzzle the voices of the citizens so that we can surrender the civic space to retrogressive forces of the society.

Reacting to the NLC allegations of threats from agents of the President Tinubu’s government, HURIWA in the statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, specifically stated that the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, should be investigated over the serious threats that compelled the NLC to suspend the second day of mass protests against economic hardships in Nigeria.

HURIWA stated that: “Even to the uninitiated and those without thinking faculties, the evidence-based threats against the NLC were made jointly by the President Tinubu’s information and communication strategist Bayo Onanuga and the police and so it is inevitable that these two persons: Onanuga and the police should be held accountable for using unlawful intimidation and threats to frustrate the free exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights by the Labour activists”.

HURIWA concluded thus: “We view this increasing verbal militancy by Mr. Onanuga and the alleged procurement of armed Lagos hoodlums to physically attack protesters, are very dangerous threats against constitutional democracy.

“The president must call these persons to order before their actions will precipitate a mass revolution in Nigeria because if government officials are suspected of employing unlawful means to stop citizens from protesting peacefully against economic hardships, it is therefore inevitable that government is sending open invitation to anarchy and lawlessness on the part of the oppressed hoi poloi because he who stops peaceful change, is calling for violent revolution. The earlier the better that Onanuga’s unguarded verbal militancy and sabre rattling are checked.”

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