The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Wednesday condemned in strong terms the recent military assault on players of Taraba Football Club recently by some soldiers attached to Taraba State Government House during a peaceful protest carried out by the players over non-payment of their 11 months salaries and match bonuses.
The football club is a member of Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria, APFON, an affiliate of TUC.
We are taken aback by this incredulous development. Many of those players are married with children and other dependants too. Like all other workers, the players are worthy of their wages. It is therefore important that the Governor of the state recognises that he is not doing the players any favour by paying them for services duly rendered. There is absolutely no reason why those innocent players should be recompensed with grievous bodily harm, especially in a democratic setting and right at the doorstep of the Governor.
It is instructive to state that the duty of the military is to protect the nation’s territorial integrity and intervene to stem any unabated crisis in the land. It is not to assault innocent workers who are demanding for their fundamental human rights from their employer. The flagrant display of utter impunity and insensitivity on the part of Taraba State Government is therefore totally inexcusable.
Political leadership in the country should know that Nigerians voted for the present administration because they crave positive change. Thus any attempt to gag the voice of popular and non-violent dissent to maladministration and neglect by the elected few represents a dangerous precedent that must not be condoned. The Nigerian people, especially workers of all categories and classes, reserve the right to express their grievances and complaints as and when the need arises without fear of molestation from any quarter. A peaceful protest such as the one embarked on by the unarmed footballers should ordinarily have been supervised by a protective cordon of men of the Nigerian Police Force and not harassed by a bunch of poorly-oriented battle-ready, blood-thirsty, unpatriotic, citizen-brutalising soldiers.
We demand that the Taraba State Governor immediately pays the players their salaries and allowances. Appropriate financial compensation for bodily harm and harassment must also be paid to the players, while all medical bills for the treatment of the injured amongst them must be promptly underwritten by the government. Lastly we call on the Chief of Army Staff to ensure that all the erring soldiers who descended so low as to physically assault the players are fished out and dismissed from service lest they do more damage to the image of the military. Our soldiers must be taught to comport themselves as reasonable, law-abiding gentlemen of arms not blind trigger-happy thugs turned against the people they swore to protect.
Nigerian workers watch to see our demands on this issue met within the next few days, hoping that we shall not be compelled to speak again or employ farther-reaching measures to attain justice for the players of Taraba FC.