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Apprehension as labour begins warning strike, court rules on presidential election

By Odita Sunday, Collins Olayinka, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Gloria Nwafor (Lagos) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
05 September 2023   |   5:15 am
Amid the cloud of uncertainties arising from today’s grounding of the economy with the two-day warning strike by the Organised Labour and tomorrow’s judgment to be delivered by the Presidential Election Petition Court ...

Presidential Election Petition Court

• DSS alleges sabotage, violent protests nationwide
• Tinubu holds emergency meeting with service chiefs ahead of trip to India
• FG appeals for more time as union directs bank workers to join strike
• NLC boycotts meeting with Labour Minister
• TUC gives Tinubu one week to address wage awards
• NANS warns DSS against clampdown on students protesting harsh policies

Amid the cloud of uncertainties arising from today’s grounding of the economy with the two-day warning strike by the Organised Labour and tomorrow’s judgment to be delivered by the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), security chiefs were yesterday summoned to an emergency meeting with President Bola Tinubu.

The meeting, which held behind closed doors, also came after a security report was released by the Department of State Security (DSS) revealing a plot by some elements to stage violent protests in order to discredit the Federal Government and security agencies over sundry socio-economic matters.
This was the first security meeting that the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Badaru, and the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Mattawale, would attend since their inauguration as members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last week Monday.
The security chiefs did not disclose what was discussed at the meeting, and also did not talk about the fresh directives they got from the President, ahead of his trip to attend the G-20 leaders summit in India.
The meeting also had in attendance the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Taoreed Lagbaja; his Navy counterpart, Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla; and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar.
According to the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, “Intelligence reports have indicated that the plotters of the violent protests include certain politicians who are desperately mobilising unsuspecting student leaders, ethnic-based associations, youth and disgruntled groups for the planned action.
“The Service has identified ring leaders of the plot, as well as sustained monitoring around them in order to deter them from plunging the country into anarchy. In view of this development, university Vice-Chancellors and heads of tertiary institutions are advised to discourage their students from engaging in acts capable of derailing public peace.” 

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday, shunned the meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, stating that the government’s move was to frustrate its effort to embark on the two-day nationwide warning strike today.
This is just as the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has given President Tinubu one week to make a categorical statement on wage awards, tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, to cushion the pains and anguish they are going through.
The TUC, in a statement signed by its president, Festus Osifo, and General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, said the modalities of accessing the intervention fund that was recently announced as palliatives to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) should be spelt out and implemented immediately.
A top official of the NLC, who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Guardian that the meeting, which was scheduled for 3p.m. was at the last minute boycotted by Labour, stating that the Congress believed the meeting was summoned to frustrate its efforts.
“There is no reason; we just decided to boycott the meeting. They should have apprehended the matter. Why would they wait until we declare an action? We believe the meeting was summoned to frustrate our efforts. This is not the time for appeal; this is the time for action.
“What Nigerians are asking is for the government to look at the agreement and implement all. Will they appeal with their mouths? They have to show leadership and show Nigerians what they have done. Appeal of the government is not bankable; it does not take away the burden on Nigerians. Have we not had patience for three months?

“A government that knew it just came in started by imposing suffering on the people. If it knew it just came in, should that be the first thing it does, in such a style of action that was not well thought out? He should have studied the situation better before taking precipitated action that would unleash burden on the people and you say you just came in. That is not patriotic. You can’t just come in and the first thing is to cause problems for the masses, then when we were talking you decided to award yourselves money without awarding the people who are suffering,” he lamented.
The TUC said after a National Executive Council (NEC), held on Sunday, that it took cursory note of government’s interventions culminating in approval of the sum of N5 billion to each state as palliative, but that the sum is grossly insufficient to ameliorate the sufferings that Nigerians are passing through.
It said the Federal Government must intensify discussions with labour unions on palliatives and alternatives as earlier promised and also deploy a high-powered monitoring team to ensure that the palliatives get to the right people.
Labour Minister at a press conference yesterday, in Abuja, appealed to NLC to shelve its warning strike. Lalong said the administration has taken steps to cushion the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy, which are being implemented by the three tiers of government.
He said the call for suspension of the strike became necessary to forestall a breakdown of industrial peace, which would no doubt reverse some of the gains already made by the government.
He said while some of the policies are being planned and fine-tuned, others are being rolled out as measures to bring temporary relief to Nigerians and in the coming weeks, additional measures would be announced, having consulted with the leadership of labour and key stakeholders.
“The issue of the review of minimum wage, which was promised by the President will also receive attention to ensure that the Nigerian worker is not adversely affected by the challenges of the moment.
“In the long run, the government of President Tinubu will put in place measures that will empower the people as well as create jobs and prosperity,” he appealed.  He also promised that the conflict between the police and leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) would be looked into without delay.
The National Union Of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), in a statement yesterday announced that all banks will be shut down for the two-day warning strike.
According to the NUBIFIE statement, the notice is in line with NLC resolution to embark on a two-day strike, which was made after the National Executive Council meeting (NEC) of August 31.
“In line with the communique issued after the NLC NEC meeting, all affiliates should direct all its members to commence two days withdrawal of services from Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The directive is imperative to get the needed attention of government and warn it of its new found love of meddling in the internal affairs of unions rather than address the punishing economic circumstances we find ourselves in. We hereby direct all our organs to comply with this directive by ensuring all our members stay off duties for the two days.”
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), yesterday, warned the DSS against clamping down on students planning to protest harsh economic policies of the government. According to a release by the National Public Relations Officer of NANS, Yisa Temitope Giwa, the secret police may want to deprive Nigerian students of their right to protest.
“We read with utter displeasure a statement issued by the DSS alleging a plot by some politicians to mobilize student leaders for protest as regards the terrible socio-economic conditions the country has been plunged into.”
Giwa said a protest is internationally recognised and domesticated with the provision of Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which provides for the right to peaceful assembly and association. He said students and citizens must be free at all times to protest whatever they might tag mis-governance of the affairs of the country.
Also, the National Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has called on government, both at the national and sub-national levels, to respect the Provisions of Convention 087 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which guarantees the freedom of association and protection of the rights to organise for workers and employers.
The association made the call in a letter signed by its Director General, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, to the Minister of Labour and Employment. It expressed concerns that despite Nigeria being the current chairman of the ILO Governing Body, national and sub-national governments have continued to violate the Provisions of the Convention and even Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The association also expressed its strong reservation that NLC, a constituent of the ILO, has continued to face different onslaughts from some state governments and their agents regarding the rights of workers to carry out the Provisions of the Convention.
“May we affirm, most respectably, that the Articles of Convention 087 (especially Articles 1, 2, 3, and 4, among others) explicitly guarantee the rights of Workers and Employers to exercise these rights without interference from the government.
This position was also strongly affirmed at the last National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) meeting held from July 12–14, 2023, at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
 “While we might have ideological differences with Organised Labour, we, however, align absolutely on the need for government at all levels to respect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the said Convention, which has been ratified by Nigeria, to maintain a peaceful industrial harmony in the country,” the association stated.
It therefore called on the Minister to address the ‘anomaly’, which it argued can bring the nation into disrepute on the global stage and cause disruption in its industrial relations practice.