Popular Enugu labour leader, Comrade Osmond Ugwu who was sacked 12 years ago by the state government has been reinstated. Comrade Ugwu was dismissed from Service by the Enugu state government for leading a workers’ strike over the non-payment of minimum wage. In a letter sighted by the NOHR and signed by one Ambrose Nwodo on behalf of the government of Enugu state, the labour leader was reinstated and asked to resume the Civil Service of Enugu state. He was deployed to the Office of Head of Service to resume work on April 2022. However, Comrade Ugwu was reinstated to the position and rank he was at the time of his punitive dismissal in 2011 without payment of any outstanding salary or compensation.
Comrade Ugwu was previously sacked from work between 1999 and 2007 by the former administration of Chimaroke Nnamani who also subjected him to a series of torture and brutality including unlawful arrest, torture, and detention, as well as the use of the state radio station, the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) to instigate the public against him. He was later recalled to work following a Supreme Court decision that dismissed charges against him and other workers by the Enugu State Government in July 2007.
Comrade Ugwu was again dismissed from the Enugu state civil service in October 2011, by the former Enugu state governor Sullivan Chime over his stiff resistance to unjust labor policies and denial of workers’ basic entitlement and rights in Enugu state. As the leader of the Enugu state Workers Forum, workers embarked on consistent agitation and protests over unpaid wages among other demands. He resisted the intimidation and attacks by a combined team of security operatives and government-sponsored thugs.
He was subjected to a series of queries by the state government leading to a punitive transfer from Enugu state to the Enugu Liaison office in Lagos in 2010 Where he was denied basic entitlements like transport allowance and hotel accommodation for the first 28 days in office and the withholding of his salary as provided in the Civil Service Rules.
An Enugu-based labour activist who spoke to NOHR on condition of anonymity explained the background to Comrade Ugwu’s travails: “In Enugu state, the implementation of minimum wage law with a correct salary chart table became a very serious issue. The governor refused to implement the minimum wage law in Enugu state while the then leadership of the two Labour Centres of Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress failed to provide leadership for the state workers in the pursuit of the implementation of the minimum wage law in the state but instead entered into an unholy alliance with the government to compromise workers interest.
Following the discovery of the antics of the Labour bureaucracy in the state, the workers organized themselves, taking their destiny into their hands. In a rally in Enugu held at the Workers Freedom Square in August 2011 and attended by over 10,000 workers, we passed a vote of no confidence in the leadership of two Labour Centres, took our destiny into our hands, and formed ourselves into a labor platform called Workers Forum.
This mass action of workers led to the removal of the unjust and corrupt labor bureaucrats of NLC and TUC and our transformation into the Workers Forum or Workers Parliament. Comrade Ugwu was unanimously elected the leader and chairman of the Workers Forum. That day the SSG mobilized all the security arsenals to attack and disperse workers but met stiff resistance from the workers.
On August 17, 2011, a combined team of over 100 security men made up of police and men of DSS besieged Adoration Ministries at Christ the King Catholic Church to arrest Comrade Osmond Ugwu but were prevented by Rev Father Ejike Mbaka, a mammoth crowd of workers and members of the Church present that day. It is on record that the Workers Forum led to several success stories including granting of all our 16-point demands including the payment of over 8 months arrears of salaries and release of over 4 years of promotion of all the workers in the state including the teachers, and local government employees in 2011. “
Before his eventual sack, Comrade Ugwu was arrested in October 2011 and imprisoned for three months on what many human rights organizations believed were trumped-up charges. The arrest, which happened during a prayer meeting about ongoing labour negotiations in the southeastern city of Enugu, was sudden and brutal. “A large number of soldiers, police, and members of an anti-terrorist squad, all heavily armed, encircled us, with their arms raised as if on a battlefield,” said another labour leader.