Saturday, 2nd December 2023

NLC, TUC close ranks, to begin indefinite strike October 3

By Gloria Nwafor (Lagos) and Adewale Momoh (Akure)
27 September 2023   |   4:15 am
Organised Labour, with one voice, yesterday vowed to shut down economic activities nationwide next Tuesday.

• Affiliates, state councils to organise nationwide protests, rallies
• Hardship: We’re tired of FG’s ‘coming soon’ promises, says TUC
• Afenifere: Nigeria becoming ungovernable amid economic, security challenges

Organised Labour, with one voice, yesterday vowed to shut down economic activities nationwide next Tuesday.

Unlike three weeks ago when the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) went on a two-day warning strike with a last-minute pullout from the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), this indefinite showdown has the blessings of the organised labour and their affiliates.

Beyond jointly pursuing this fourth industrial action since June when the petrol subsidy was removed, both labour centres have resolved their differences and are ready to press for common demands from the Federal Government in addressing their concerns and providing relief measures to Nigerians.

Addressing a joint press conference in Abuja, yesterday, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, said the National Executive Councils (NEC) of both congresses’ in their various meetings, analysed the current situation in the country, taking into cognisance the extensive hardships and deprivation afflicting citizens across all states of the federation, and unanimously condemned the apparent lethargy and tardiness in handling the consequences of petrol price hike on Nigerians.

Ajaero, who spoke on behalf of the labour centres, maintained that the councils deliberated on the continued refusal of the Federal Government to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue within the ambits of good faith given the 21 days ultimatum and the subsequent successful two-day nationwide warning strike of September 5 and 6, as well as other meetings that were supposed to demonstrate the preparedness of Nigerian workers to push through their decision to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike.

After analysing their observations, he said the NLC and TUC NEC-in-session resolved that in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate their resolve for a truly independent Nigeria, there was need to take their destinies in their hands and rescue the nation.

To this end, he said the labour centres would embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning at zero hours Tuesday, October 3.

He directed all workers in Nigeria to withdraw their services from their respective workplaces commencing from October 3. He further directed all affiliates and state councils to immediately start mobilising accordingly for action to organise street protests and rallies until the government responds positively to their demands.

The NLC president enjoined all patriotic Nigerians to join hands across the nation to assist the government in putting the people back at the centre of its policies and programmes.

While he noted that the grace period given by the two labour centres has expired, the NLC chief alleged that trade unions had continued to face severe threats from the state via the brutal and suppressive power of the police.

For instance, he mentioned that the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is being illegally occupied by the government through the instrumentality of the police, who have cloned the leadership of NURTW.

He also lamented that the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) had continued to be illegally occupied by the Lagos State government in total disregard of the courts and the statutes.

A source present at the meeting noted that some NLC members initially objected to the development of the body working together with TUC.

Recall that before now, NLC and TUC have been engaging the government on different issues. The NLC had first observed a two-day nationwide warning strike on September 5 and 6 to show its readiness for the indefinite strike later in the month, where it shunned the meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong. TUC, on its part, gave President Bola 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 also demanded payment of a new minimum wage of N200,000 monthly, tax exemption for some categories of workers, as well as setting up structures for the effective implementation of the palliatives from the Federal Government.

The TUC President, Osifo, said the union is tired of the promises by the Ministry of Labour to implement its demands soon. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, had previously assured workers that the government would soon conclude the issue of wage award.

The Minister also appealed to NLC not to embark on its planned indefinite strike, and allow the government to resolve all pending issues, but in an interview on Channels TV on Tuesday, Osifo said the union now wanted concrete actions.

He said: “In the last meeting we had with the Ministry of Labour, they told us the same thing that the president was out of the country and when he comes back they believe that he will make the pronouncement.

“But I saw it this morning that he said the pronouncement will come soon but again we are tired of ‘soon’, we want a definite pronouncement, we want a definite solution to these lingering issues. At the end of the day, we have been hearing dates, we have been hearing it will come today, tomorrow, or next tomorrow, we are relatively tired of promises, all we want is action. Nigerians are tired of meetings and promises, what we want is concrete action.”

MEANWHILE, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday expressed fear that Nigeria is on the brink of becoming ungovernable due to what it described as the deteriorating economy and security challenges plaguing the country.

According to the mainstream Yoruba group, the masses have been at the receiving end of the sudden removal of oil subsidies and have further been pauperized by other economic policies hastily pronounced by the President Tinubu-led administration.

The group, in a communiqué after the end of its monthly regular meeting held at Isanya-Ogbo, Ogun State, the country home of its leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, decried the spate of insecurity in the country following the recent killing of security operatives and the abduction of students.

While commending NLC for living up to its responsibilities, Afenifere bemoaned the government for telling the people to make sacrifices instead of trimming down the cost of governance.

The communiqué read: “Since the removal of oil subsidies and other economic policies hastily pronounced without planning for the collateral effects, the Nigerian masses have been abysmally pauperised. In reacting and calling for mass action in this regard, the NLC is living up to its historic responsibility.

“Afenifere restates its commitment to welfare economics as opposed to the neo-liberal economic policies currently being pushed. The government needs to open up to Nigerians, and those in power must come down from their ostentatious lifestyles.

“From the humongous number of 50 ministers to the intractable number of aides, it is unacceptable that the people are being called upon to make further sacrifices.

“Government is called upon to look into the plight of Nigerians and listen to the NLC to avert the looming strikes in the interests of the already-prosperous economy.

“Afenifere, as the people of Nigeria, is alarmed by the spate of insecurity in the country, where Nigerians are now mindlessly not sparing security agents in their numbers with rescuing military aircraft brought down with impunity in Niger State, scores of university students abducted in Zamfara and are still with their abductors and fate unknown. Military officers mowed down shamefully in Imo State.

“With hunger in their belly, Nigerians cannot sleep with their eyes closed. Nigeria is becoming increasingly ungovernable and evidently ungoverned, despite pretense. The restructuring of the Nigerian Federation is the way forward for her peace and continued corporate existence.”