UPDATE ON LASPOTECH WORKERS STRUGGLE AND COURT CASE: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
On Monday 9 December 2019, LASPOTECH (Lagos State Polytechnic) workers were at the Magistrate Court, Ogba, Lagos where 10 leaders of the staff unions are standing trial on trumped-up charges including allegations of attempted murder.
In reality, the workers leaders are being hounded and persecuted for defending their strike against an attempt orchestrated by the authorities to break it using the subterfuge of an alleged UTME examination meant to take place on the campus during the period of the strike. Of course, the workers rejected this as the condition of their strike is that no academic, administrative or official activities of any kind would take place on the campus.
At the height of the strike, which lasted for months and was called over demands for improved pay and conditions and against the anti-worker policies of the authorities, the Rector could not access the campus. This was thanks to the solid unity of the three staff unions (ASUP, SSANIP and NASU). It was the defense of the strike that the State responded to by arresting the workers leaders and placing them on trial.
When the case was called on 9 December the prosecution, just as before, could not present its witness. This made the defense lawyer to address the court and agreed to allow for another adjournment but with the understanding that should the prosecution waste the time of the court and the defense by not presenting its witness at the next adjourned case hearing, the Magistrate should waste no time to strike out the case.
Just at this point, a lawyer who was holding watching brief for the complainant, stood up to address the court and, in his presentation, he made it clear that the court does not have jurisdiction over the case especially because out of the 5 trumped up charges, at least 2 border on attempted murder and the likes. According to him, they have written to seek DPP advice.
This presentation of the lawyer clearly exposed the agenda of the state: they want to either substitute or prefer new charges against the workers’ leaders and arraign them at a different court with a more pliant judge. This means their bail which currently guarantees them freedom may be revoked and they could be committed to prison detention once again. This would effectively keep them out of circulation and make it impossible for them to continue to organise their members politically while threatening to create a situation of disarray in the ranks of the unions especially at this time when a visitation panel is sitting on the cases of gross violations, attacks on workers’ rights, abuse of office and the likes committed by the Rector.
But the Magistrate was quite firm in her refusal to be intimidated to give up the case. She maintained that so far it is a case of attempt, her court has jurisdiction and would hear the case. She promptly adjourned the matter till 13th April 2020. This effectively checkmated the prosecution but it does not mean hurrah yet. This is because they can always seek out other means to actualize their agenda of re-committing the workers leaders to prison detention on the pretext of either substituting charges or re-arraigning them. To defeat this and other plans and take the struggle forward, workers have to remain unified and steadfast to the cause.
The intervention ended with a rally in front of the court which was addressed by leaders of ASUP, SSANIP, DSM/CDWR and the workers’ lawyer.