By Kester Omu
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and MTN Nigeria, have condemned in strong words the action of the Nigeria Labour Congress, which led to the destruction of MTN properties in Lagos yesterday.
The Nigeria Labour Congress had stormed the office of MTN Nigeria yesterday on the ground that the telecom company deliberately refused its staff to be involved in the activities of the trade union.
But ALTON, an umbrella body of telecommunication companies in Nigeria in a statement signed by its Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo described the picketing of the offices and disruption of operations of MTN by the Nigeria Labour Congress as very unfortunate development.
ATCON submits that the members of ATCON, of which MTN in this instance are law-abiding organizations who are committed to best practices in all areas, including labour related matters. “As responsible corporate citizens, our members have always provided platforms for their employees to associate freely in accordance with the law and the constitution. Employees of our members are able to join or form associations and unions if they so desire,” the statement said.
It however, argued that the practice is that membership of any associations and unions are voluntary, and that in line with fundamental human rights regarding freedom of association as guaranteed by the constitution, individuals must not be compelled to join an association or union if they do not choose to do so.
The statement reads: “Damage to any Telecom Facilities will lead to the disruption of critical national security and economic services which will expose innocent citizens to great danger, as attempts have been made to disrupt the network operations of some of our members through the shutdown and vandalisation of critical network facilities. The implication of such disruption will lead to severe poor quality of services with attendant national security implications and far reaching implications on other services that are dependent on the telecommunications industry.
“We hereby strongly request government and its law enforcement agencies to intervene expeditiously, otherwise we will advise our members to consider preventive shut down in order to avoid further damage to network facilities. 10. We trust parties will respect each other’s constitutional rights in the interest of our nation Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, reacting to the development, Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive, MTN Nigeria in a statement released yesterday said, “Today’s violence and the needless destruction of property is deeply saddening. As always, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives and have sustained injuries.
The allegations by NLC stating that MTN Nigeria has refused to allow its employees participate in Union activities have been refuted, “We do not prevent our employees from associating amongst themselves as they deem fit and owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations. MTN supports the freedom of association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.”
Tobe also added that “All workers have rights that should be protected. We work hard to not only ensure that this is done, but also to ensure that our company is a Great Place to Work. We will continue to champion our peoples’ rights, whether they are part of a union or not and work hard to minimise disruptions in service to our customers.”
The statement narrated how MTN Nigeria had been involved in protracted talks with the trade union to reach an amicable decision, all to no avail, saying Monday July 9, 2018, officials of the labour congress were at the MTN offices to picket, but MTN in its civil manner, invited the officials into the Headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos, in order to reach unified decisions and prevent any form of violence or incivility.
However, the protest became violent and disorganized in different locations as property within MTN premises were vandalized. Doors and gates were destroyed and alleged officials of NLC breached the fences to gain forced entry into the premises. In Ikoyi, MTN flag was lowered and the NLC flag was hoisted in its place.
Numerous staff of the company were injured in the process of the protests and many assumed the roles of human shields over their colleagues, protecting them from the angry protesters.