Hours after the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) declared a total and indefinite strike action, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday, issued a seven-day nationwide strike notice, beginning with a protest on August 2, if the Federal Government does not reverse what it called anti-poor and anti-workers policies.
In the communiqué issued at the end of the Congress’ Central Working Committee (CWC) in Abuja, and signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero and General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, Labour lamented the crippling economic situation facing Nigerians and its attendant consequences of mass suffering, poverty and angst pervading workers, adding that they were clear results of the insensitive policies and actions of the present administration.
President Bola Tinubu, during his inaugural speech on May 29, removed fuel subsidy, which raised the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N185 to N500.
The action, The Guardian gathered, was strongly condemned by organised labour. However, with last week’s hike from N500 to over N600 per litre, indications have emerged that despite a court order which barred Labour from going on strike in June, the congress is activating its organs nationwide to mobilise for another round of protests, insisting that it could not fold its arms while Nigerians continue to suffer the effects of subsidy removal, which have led to untold hardship.
Last night, representatives of the Federal Government, led by the Special Adviser on Energy, Ms. Olu Verheijen, were locked in a fresh round of marathon meetings with labour leaders at the Presidential Villa.
PRESIDENT Tinubu, on Wednesday night, made a passionate appeal to the organised labour to give him more time to look into their grievances rather than embark on industrial action.
Abbas told State House correspondents that President Tinubu has pleaded that since he is new in office, he needs time to evaluate the issues that are being raised by workers, including doctors, over which he is yet to be briefed.
He said: “What he said is that he’s just coming on board. We should ask them and beg them to please give him a little more time. The things that they mentioned, he is completely unaware of them; he is yet to be briefed about all those issues. He also advised that we should channel those issues to the Chief of Staff to look at them one after the other. I believe in the next coming days, some concerted actions will be taken.”
The government’s team on palliatives and the NLC continued their talks on palliatives to cushion the effect of subsidy removal. The steering committee, which met briefly, focused on how stakeholders can fast track interventions that will bring relief, particularly around Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), mass transportation, cleaner energy, transportation, and reduce the impact of the cost of transportation.
Ajaero, while responding to questions, insisted that organised labour would go ahead with the planned protest on August 2nd.
Responding to the outcome of the meeting he said: “The outcome is very brief. We met based on the N520 increase and the committee that was set based on that and we agreed to work to realise the objectives that were set during that moment.”
Asked why the interventions were getting delayed, when Nigerians are facing excruciating pains, he said, “the two centres have made their position known and is before Nigerians, the TUC, the NLC, our position is known. And it’s public knowledge”
Also asked about how feasible was the proposed industrial action, he said: “I wouldn’t know, we are going ahead with the protest because we have to be emphatic on what we put in our communiqué, to say we’re commencing protests from August second.”
Despite the overtures, Ajaero said the Federal Government has refused to put in place safeguards to protect Nigerians from the harsh economic situation that its policies have inflicted on citizens, but rather decided to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians by offering N8,000 per family and offering lawmakers N70 billion.
He further alleged that the Federal Government has frustrated and abandoned its committee, which was a product of social dialogue between government and workers’ bodies.
The NLC chief said while the committee has not met, the government embarked on unilateral actions and programmes, which has destabilised the peace of mind of Nigerians.
According to him, “Since Mr. President’s ‘subsidy is gone forever’ speech on inauguration day, the peace of mind of Nigerians has gone; decent living has gone, increasing despair of unimaginable dimensions.
“The Federal Government has continued to treat Nigerians as slaves and a conquered people, which it treats with impunity without any concern on the consequences.”
“Government has continued to churn out without relenting policies designed to emasculate Nigerian workers and people via not just hike in PMS prices with its spiraling effect, but also increases in VAT, increases in school fees across all publicly-owned secondary and tertiary institutions of learning.”
The Congress resolved to lead and organise mass protest rallies across the nation to demonstrate outrage against the inhuman actions and policies of the government.
It consequently directed all affiliates and state councils to begin immediate mobilisation and closely work with associations, individuals and other entities, including the ones already on the streets to ensure that the government listens to the people.