•Mobilises for protests, street rallies, vow to ground nation
From Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Organised Labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have issued directives to their members and affiliate bodies to commence indefinite nationwide strike on Tuesday, October 3 over Federal Government’s delay to address their concerns following the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS).
NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, announced this after their joint emergency National Executive Council (NAC) meeting in Abuja, yesterday.
All affiliates and state councils have been directed to mobilise members for street protests and rallies until government responds positively to their demands
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Ajaero and Osifo said the government has totally abdicated its responsibility and shown gross unwillingness to act, abandoning Nigerian people and workers to excruciating poverty and affliction.
They also accused the government of continually forestalling all avenues to peaceful dialogue with organised labour on ways to save Nigerians from the huge hunger and suffering being experienced across the nation as a result of the hike in the price of petrol (PMS).
Ajaero and Osifo further said the government had continued to demonstrate an unwillingness to mitigate the massive hardship in the country as well as complete lack of intention to take positive steps and empathy for the multi-dimensionally impoverished citizens of Nigeria.
“The Federal Government has, therefore, not met in any substantial way, the demands of Nigerian workers and peoples as previously canvassed in our mutually agreed roadmap to salvage the economy and protect workers and Nigerians from the monumental hardships. The grace period given by the two labour centres has since expired.”
They alleged that trade unions have continued to face severe threats from the state via the brutal and suppressive power of the police and government.
“National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) continues to be illegally occupied by the government via the instrumentally of the police that have cloned the leadership of NURTW
“Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) continues to be illegally occupied by the Lagos State government in total disregard to the courts and the statutes
“That the state within the life of the ultimatum via the police has caused loss of lives and properties with untold injuries on Nigerian workers who were on their way to go back to their union’s national headquarters in Abuja.
“They further alleged blackmail and sponsored campaigns of calumny against trade union leaders in the social media using buying and coercive powers instead of making efforts to lift the burden on the masses.
“The labour centres consequently, declared that, “in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria to take our destinies in our own hands and rescue our nation.
“To embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, October 3, 2023.
“To direct all workers in Nigeria to withdraw their services from their respective workplaces commencing from October 3.
“To direct all affiliates and state councils to immediately start mobilising accordingly for action to organise street protests and rallies until the government responds positively to our demands
“To enjoin all patriotic Nigerians to join hands across the nation to assist this government put the people back at the centre of its policies and programmes.”
• It’ll compound bad situation –Reps
House of Representatives, yesterday, appealed to labour not to embark on strike.
Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, in his speech welcoming members back from their annual vacation, contended that a strike at this time would compound an already bad situation.
He said the country is faced with daunting economic challenges, which has led to rising cost of living, absence of ‘liveable wages’, as well as fluctuating foreign exchange rates among others. The speaker added that what is needed at this time is a visionary leadership with a commitment and capacity to tackle the challenges.
Nevertheless, Abbas stated that the House must rise to the challenge. According to him, while the executive is engaging the citizens and working out strategies to tackle the hardship in the country, legislative actions must be guided by a clear and robust vision aimed at supporting the executive in restoring the citizens on the path of prosperity.
“Our economic challenges remain as daunting as they were before the recession. The country is challenged on several economic fronts: cost of living crisis occasioned by high cost of energy, cost of food is skyrocketing daily, lack of liveable wages, the negative effects of the unpredictable and fluctuating foreign exchange rates, a disappearing middle class and a host of other issues.
“When people are hungry and despondent, what is needed is a leadership with a clear vision, a leadership that, on a daily basis, demonstrates its commitment and capacity to tackle the challenges at hand; a leadership that should be innovative in proffering short and long term solutions. That is what Nigerians need at this time and as representatives of the people, we must rise to the occasion.
“On account of these economic challenges, the organised labour, under the aegis of NLC seems to have lost patience with the painstaking effort of the government to plan and provide sustainable minimum wage and palliatives to citizens.
“The organised labour, it appears would embark on a nationwide strike by this midnight following the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum issued to the government. As the peoples’ representatives, we feel and equally share in the pains of our people at these very difficult times.
“However, I would like to appeal to NLC to consider the various actions being taken by the Federal Government to alleviate the current hardship faced by Nigerians. As promised earlier, this House remains committed to getting a survival wage to all Nigerian workers.
“The 10th House had assured Nigerians that we would be interfacing between the organised labour and the government to quickly work out a realistic new national minimum wage and such other palliatives to enable citizens cope with the economic impact of fuel subsidy removal, the downward fall of the naira to the dollar, skyrocketing cost of food and general high cost of living in the country.
“It is in our considered opinion that embarking on a nationwide strike at this point will only aggravate an already bad situation. I, therefore, urge the leadership of labour unions to give us the benefit of doubt and suspend any planned strike while we engage the executive,” the speaker said.
• Abbas bemoans security challenges
Furthermore, Abbas expressed concern that despite successes recorded by the security agencies in recent time, national security remains precarious.
The speaker, who condemned the killing of security personnel in different parts of the country and abduction of female students of the Federal University, Gusau in Zamfara State, noted that the best response by the parliament to security challenges in the country will be to deploy its legislative powers to ensure safety of life and property across the country.
“National security remains precarious even in the face of numerous successes recorded by our gallant security personnel. Only a few days ago, the nation was rocked by the gruesome murder of a joint team of security personnel in Ehime Mbano of Imo State.
“A similar sad incident happened in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State when scores of soldiers were ambushed and gruesomely murdered by terrorists. Sadly, some female students of the Federal University, Gusau were abducted by terrorists while there were reports of travellers being kidnapped on the Opi-Enugu Road. Furthermore, Superintendent Okpolonwo Agbashim, divisional police officer in Ahoada Local Government Area of Rivers State was brutally murdered by deadly cultists.”