By Jide Ajani & Victor Ahiuma-Young
Last minute moves by the Federal Governemnt to avert nationwide strike on the heels of the removal of subsidy on petrol apparently failed as Labour insisited, yesterday, that the strike commences tomorrow.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the government went before the wrong court to procure an injunction to stop the strike.
The National Industrial Court (NIC) had, on Friday, granted an exparte application brought on behalf of government by the Attorney- General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), praying the court to restrain the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on masss protests/strike action beginning from tomorrow.
In his ruling , the NIC president, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, restrained the defendants from embarking on street protests. rallies or any other action that may be inimical to the nation’s economic affairs pending the determination of the motion on notice.
The court therefore adjourned till January 12 for hearing of the motion on notice…
The NLC while mobilising its affiliates, yetserday, for the strike to start tomorrow described the NIC injuction as a vain action by “some backroom boys and girls who claims they have given injunction to stop the strike.”
NLC Acting General Secretary Comrade Owei Lakemfa told Sunday Vanguard that the planned strike action which the Federal Government took to the NIC was not the typical matter “of an employer of labour and an employee”, to be handled by the court.
Owei stated,” That is not the case here. The NLC is not an employee of the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN.
“Nigerians are not all employees of the FGN.
“The issue at stake, which is the return to the N65 pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, is not an industrial dispute between Nigerians and NLC on the one hand and the FGN on the other hand.
“This matter is strictly between the masses of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration”.
He went on: “The position of the NLC has always been clear on this matter and the Jonathan administration has become so used to lying and deceiving Nigerians such that it does not even know when it is deceiving itself.
“Firstly, this same government told NLC and Nigerians that it was consulting and that the removal of subsidy would not start so soon but it removed it suddenly.
“This was the same government which suggested that the removal may come up sometime in April this year but suddenly removed the subsidy on the very first day of the year in a rather rude manner.
“Worse minders of this administration went on the internet claiming to be privy to a meeting between the NLC and the FGN where it was agreed by labour that subsidy should go.
Nothing like that ever happened. The new level this administration has even sunken to is that it went about using some people to send telephone texts round yesterday (Friday) claiming that it has reverted to N65 for the price of PMS and, therefore, the strike by labour has been called off. That, too, is a big lie. Nothing has been called off.
“Some touts were also sent to the NLC headquarters in the name of picketing on Friday but all these would not deter the NLC from going ahead with the strike on Monday (tomorrow).
“Nigerians elected this government; this government did not elect Nigerians. Sovereignty belongs to the people”.
Meanwhile, Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO,says it has taken over the coordination of the nationwide strike and mass protest beginning tomorrow to
force the Federal Government to revert the pump price of petrol to the old price of N65 per litre.
At a briefing in Lagos, the group, made up of labour and civil society groups, released the action plan on how the strike would be prosecuted and warned that anybody caught trying tobreak the strike would be treated as a saboteur. Joint secretary of LASCO and secretary of Joint Action Front, umbrella body for pro-labour civil society groups, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, said the strike would be enforced at work places, market places and others and advised Nigerians who are not part of those enforcing the strike to stay off the road to avoid molestation.
He warned that LASCO would not tolerate a situation whereby any filling station would open at night during the action, saying such filling station would be prone to attack, even as he advised security operatives to be on the side of the Nigerian people.
Reeling the details of the action plan, Aremu said the strike would be enforced throughout the week, from Monday to Friday. “OnMonday, the strike will be enforced at workplaces, market places, major roads and link roads. There will be protests in the neighborhoods and the protests will go on simultaneously on major roads and streets across the country,” he said.
According to him, there is one central protest commencement point and four zonal points in Lagos to ensure effective coverage of the city. He directed those that want to be part of the protests to go to any focal points close them in Yaba, Iyana-Ipaja, Acme Road, Ikorodu Road and LASU. On Tuesday, he said, enforcement, rallies and zonal protests would hold with a repeat of street protests. The scenario, he stated, continues on Thursday, and Friday, stressing that Monday and Wednesday would be for major protests.
Aremu said all filling stations must remain shut and only medical personnel on essential duties and journalists would be allowed to move freely. He assured that members of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, would be offering free services to Nigerians in the struggle.
He advised Nigerians who do not want to participate in the massprotests to stay indoors in their interest, warning that those caught outside would be treated as saboteurs.
FCT Police deploys 15,000 men Yesterday, the Federal Capital Territory police command indicated its readiness to comply with the ruling of the NIC restraining labour from embarking on protest against the removal of fuel subsidy, as soon as it gets details of the court o r d e r .
The command has deployed 15,000 men to monitor protesters in the FCT tomorrow.
In an unmistakable show of force, fully armed and sternlooking policemen were seen parading the streets of Abuja yesterday, moving around strategic locations in the city.
Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, the FCT commissioner of police, Michael Zuokumor, said though his command was yet to receive details of the court restraining order, all parties in the issue are bound to interpret and obey the court order when it is served.
Meanwhile, late last night, President Jonathan made a national broadcast promising to slash salaries of political office holders in the executive arm, along with other palliative measurws to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal. When contacted after President Jonathan’s speech, Mr. Owei Lakemfa insisted that nothing had chnaged, that the promises made by the President would not stop the NLC from going ahead with the planned strike tomorrow.