Nigerian workers have marked the 67th Anniversary of the Iva Valley Massacre of coal miners in Enugu State.
The rally began at the New Market Roundabout, Enugu, where a commemorative sculpture of the massacred coal miners stands.
On November 18, 1949, the British Police opened fire on coal striking coal miners, killing 21 and wounding 51 in one of the most brutal acts of the British colonial administration in Nigeria.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr Ayuba Wabba who led the rally on Friday, said that it was the blood of the massacred coal miners that laid the foundation for collective bargaining for Nigerian workers.
“They were callously mowed down for demanding for better conditions of service in their workplace. Among other issues, the miners had demanded the upgrading of hewers to artisans and payment of housing and travel allowances,’’ he said.
According to him, this standard labour’s demand was met with the sacking of 50 workers and attempt to back these demands with a work to rule action resulted in the shooting of miners by the British police led by Captain S.F. Philip.
Workers’ agitation strengthened
“The massacre of the miners strengthened the agitation for better conditions of service by workers, which had begun in 1945 with the general strike that grounded the country for 45 days and led to the formation of the National Emergency Committee (NEC) to coordinate a national response to this national calamity in the wake of mass protests in several cities,’’ the NLC President explained.
“Today, as we remember them, let us know that it was because of their sacrifices and struggle that workers are enjoying a better condition of service,’’ Mr Wabba said, calling on workers to reconnect with their leaders in all their struggle.
Catalyst for independence
Iva Valley massacre provided the needed filip to the nationalist leaders in their struggle for Nigeria’s in dependence.
Mr Wabba said; “While the 1945 general strike laid the basis for Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule, the Iva Valley massacre did not only broaden the scope of that campaign by underscoring the inevitability of working class revolutionary participation but gave a radical dimension that culminated in propelling the attainment of sovereignty for the nation in 1960.”
According to him, the conditions that led to Iva Valley massacre still prevails in Nigeria.
“The working class which had contributed a lot to the attainment of political independence of Nigeria, fought against military rule and supported the so-called change agenda is continuously being persecuted and made to bear the brunt of misrule, corruption and mismanagement of our commonwealth by the ruling class with the tacit support of international collaborators in charge of global capital,” he stated.
The chairman of the Enugu State Council of the NLC, Mr Virginus Nwobodo also spoke at the rally.
The workers also took the rally to the Government House, Enugu where they presented a letter to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Workers from Imo and Ebonyi States also joined in the rally.