Thursday, September 21, 2023
HomeAFRICANLC Defies Truce, Continues Nationwide Demonstrations Over Worsening Conditions| Nigeria

NLC Defies Truce, Continues Nationwide Demonstrations Over Worsening Conditions| Nigeria

  1.  Rumor of reconsidering fifth columnists’ protest handiwork – Labour
  2. Gbajabiamila: We are hopeful that Labour will not protest
  3. Ajaero lists demands before protests can be suspended
  4. No room for violent protests, IGP warns NLC and TUC
  5. Police disperse demonstrators in Kano in preparation for a protest
  6. Northern CSOs pull out of the strike, another coalition warns against a repeat of #EndSARS
  7. Lukman accuses NLC of playing politics with fuel subsidy Oil production is threatened as employees demonstrate unpaid wages and benefits.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) will proceed with its planned protest against the recent fuel price increase, the tuition fee increase in public schools, and the withheld salaries of lecturers and workers in universities today, despite court injunctions and protracted negotiation meetings.

Some speculated that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) would, as usual, back down at the last minute, especially after canceling two planned strikes this year: in March against the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) currency swap and in June against the removal of fuel subsidies.

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On the heels of yesterday’s rescheduled meeting between the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives and Organised Labour, comprising the National Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, there were rumors that the labor leaders would reconsider their planned nationwide protest.

Festus Osifo, the president of the TUC, stated that while President Bola Tinubu’s palliative measures were welcome, they were not comprehensive and that while the government requested that the protest be shelved, Organised Labour would consult with the members they represent to determine the next course of action by the end of the day.

Femi Gbajabiamila, the president’s chief of staff, concurred with Osifo, describing Organised Labour as a listening organization that would not proceed with its planned protests after hearing President Tinubu’s national broadcast on Monday.

He stated, “Essentially, we outlined the President’s plan and intervention, as you all heard in his broadcast.” We made it obvious that this was the initial rollout of Mr. President’s initiatives, and the conversations will continue as we move forward. Therefore, we are optimistic that they will do the proper thing and refrain from protesting on Wednesday.”

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However, in a prompt response, the NLC denied rumors that it was reconsidering the nationwide protest, which it claimed was orchestrated by fifth columnists. It insisted that the Congress and its members were fully mobilized across the country despite all distractions and that nothing has changed.

Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC, stated that Congress neither reconsidered nor suspended the nationwide demonstration. In a statement that he personally signed, Ajaero detailed the demands of Congress, which included the immediate implementation in good faith of the resolution signed by Congress, the government, and the TUC.

It demanded an immediate reversal of all anti-poverty government policies, including the recent increases in fuel prices, education fees, and the Value-Added Tax (VAT).

Ajaero stated that the NLC’s demands also include the repair of local refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna, as well as the release of eight months of salaries withheld from university professors and employees.

He stated that the government should recognize and support the work of the presidential steering committee and its subcommittees, as well as cease inhumane government actions and policies.

In a phone interview with The Guardian, Emmanuel Ugboaja, general secretary of the NLC, stated, “The protest begins tomorrow (today). Nothing should be reconsidered. The individual who cited me must be an idiot. Today, I have not spoken with the media. All of the tactics are designed to cause confusion.

I declare that the action has begun. Nothing, not even today’s meeting with the government, has altered the fact that we are fully mobilized across the nation.

We will not reconsider. Fifth columnists are responsible for this action. They are employed by the government. There was nothing at today’s meeting that would convince us to change our minds. The nationwide protest has neither been reconsidered nor halted. Nigerians should disregard any contradictory information.

We are committed, resolute, and have made last-minute preparations to ensure that the nationwide mass protest occurs and is effective, and nothing will stop us until the government meets all of our demands.”

Chris Onyeka, assistant general secretary of the NLC, responded when asked if the TUC was still a part of the solidarity: “We are all moving forward.

TUC remains an autonomous labor organization with the ability to determine the type of action they desire. Whether they wish to join us or not, we were all present at the meeting. We are strolling and conversing together.”

As planned, the nationwide protest will commence at 7:30 a.m. in Abuja and across the federation’s states. According to the NLC’s Head of Information, Benson Upah, workers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will assemble at the Unity Fountain in Abuja to launch the protest, while the state chapters will launch their protests simultaneously.

The international community is watching to see how the Federal Government treats its citizens, he said, adding that all NLC constituent unions believed their state branches had mobilized their members and were already participating in the protest.

“Security agencies have been notified and are anticipated to provide security for Nigerians during the demonstration. The indications we are receiving are that Nigerians are prepared to take to the streets to express their feelings and outrage over the country’s difficult economic situation,” he added.

While the Federal Government pleaded with Organized Labour to suspend the protest on Tuesday, stating that it is doing everything possible to address the hardship caused by the removal of the petrol subsidy, Organized Labour stated that the palliatives announced by the President in his radio address are insufficient to alleviate the suffering in the country.

Joining other state councils’ preparations for today’s protest, Funmi Sessi, Chairperson of NLC, Lagos Council, stated that members will assemble at Ikeja under the bridge at 7:00 a.m. and then proceed to the Governor’s Office to deliver the letter containing their demands.

She lamented the distress of the masses as a result of the government’s anti-people policies. “It is time to tell power the truth. We can no longer endure the suffering. Government must act immediately.”

Joint Action Front (JAF), led by Achike Chude, Dr. Dipo Fashina, and Abiodun Aremu, along with the Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), led by Femi Falana, and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), led by Baba Ayelabola, have declared their full support for the demonstration. The group resolved in a joint statement to participate in the protest until victory was gained.

Kayode Egbetokun, the interim Inspector-General of Police, has warned NLC and TUC members about the protest. Egbetokun warned that while he recognizes the right to nonviolent protest, the police will not permit violent demonstrations.

In a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, the IGP exhorted all parties involved to ensure the planned demonstrations are conducted peacefully in order to prevent them from being hijacked by miscreants, particularly in major cosmopolitan cities.

According to the statement, the IGP directed the Commissioners of Police and Supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police to engage in productive discussions with the leadership of the labor unions in order to cultivate understanding and find common ground regarding the protests.

“However, it is reiterated that any attempt by miscreants to exploit the situation for violent purposes, such as vandalism, gangsterism, and extortion, will be met with a firm, professional, and proportional legal response. The statement emphasized that the police will not tolerate any act that compromises the peace and safety of our nation.

As a warm-up for today’s protest, the police in Kano State yesterday dispersed a protest organized by some groups to express their displeasure over the removal of petroleum subsidies. The group, which reportedly arrived early in the morning, initiated the protest prior to the arrival of security personnel.

It was reported that protesters had convened at Gida-Murtala, close to the Kofar-Nassarawa road, as early as 7:00 a.m. However, when journalists arrived on the scene, policemen had already taken control of the protest site.

Also, yesterday, sixteen Northern-based CSOs under the auspices of the Coalition of Arewa Civil Society Organisations withdrew from the protest on the grounds that it will harm the fragile economy and exacerbate the plight of average citizens.

The CSOs stated, “After a critical analysis of the disadvantages and overall effects on the populace, we decided to withdraw immediately and asked the labor unions and Federal Government to instead engage in dialogue on mitigating measures.”

Chairman and Secretary of the Arewa Coalition, Ibraheem Suleman Dogo and Friday Luka Dalung, signed a joint statement announcing the decision to withdraw.

They added that the strike would paralyze the nation, as markets, schools, and hospitals would be compelled to close.

Another coalition of CSOs, including the Centre for Social and Economic Right, the Centre for 24th Century Issues, and the Humanity Services Project, among others, have urged the NLC to ensure that the protest is not commandeered by thugs like the #EndSARS demonstration in 2020.

At the town hall meeting in Ikeja, the coalition, led by Raziq Olokoba, the convener of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance, urged Nigerians to be patient and comprehend the economic hardships and inconveniences they are experiencing.

The coalition noted that, despite being painful, the removal of petroleum subsidies has resulted in some economic gains for the country, which will soon manifest.

The reduction of our daily gasoline consumption from 66 million liters to 40 million liters and the savings of approximately N1 trillion in just two months are among the benefits.

In the communiqué signed at the conclusion of the meeting, the coalition stated that Nigerians are committed to defending democracy by any means necessary for the benefit of the entire nation.

Dr. Salihu Lukman, former Director General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and former National Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Northwest, has accused the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) of politicizing the issue of the removal of petroleum subsidies in the country.

In a statement titled ‘Silver Bullet Politics and the Challenges of Democracy,’ Lukman urged the Joe Ajaero-led NLC to elevate above the narrow sentiment of playing to the gallery in regard to the removal of fuel subsidies.

Recognizing that there are voids in the government’s proposals to mitigate the effects of subsidy removal on the populace, he maintained that the NLC’s stance on the matter was unacceptable and would not bode well for our democracy.

He commended President Tinubu for recognizing the need to address the nation in light of the difficulties Nigerians have encountered since the removal of petroleum subsidies. “If anything, this proves that the President is not in denial and desires a responsive government,” he continued.

IN ANOTHER DEVELOPMENT, the employees’ welfare crisis and allegations of maladministration against the management of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) could threaten Nigeria’s daily crude oil production.

The employees, who protested unpaid wages in Abuja yesterday, warned that the Commission, supervised by Gbenga Komolafe, could be plunged into an industrial crisis if immediate action is not taken to resolve the issue of unpaid wages and emoluments.

Okechukwu Anya, chairman of the Commission’s branch of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), stated: “The Commission is facing severe allegations of staff welfare neglect and financial mismanagement from its employee union. The NUPRC is confronting an imminent industrial unrest crisis. Civil disobedience, a nonviolent form of protest, is being carried out by the Commission’s staff union in response to ongoing concerns regarding welfare dereliction and financial mismanagement.

Anya noted that despite a series of previous letters and meetings aimed at addressing the concerns, the situation has deteriorated, with the union expressing extreme discontent with the Commission’s management and alleged indifference to resolving the issues.

The union explained that its mandate is to work in partnership with management to improve the staff’s welfare and the organization’s overall development, adding that the union’s potential move towards civil disobedience demonstrates the employees’ desperation for a speedy resolution to the issues.

He stated that the protest is an appeal to the commission’s leadership to honor and uphold their commitment to the staff. The union’s list of contentious issues included unpaid pensions. In addition, it complained of inadequate working instruments.

It was noted that the absence of necessary tools impedes staff members’ ability to perform their duties and runs counter to the commission’s vision of becoming Africa’s foremost regulator.





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