By Our Reporters
LAGOS—Commercial activities in some states of the federation were grounded, yesterday, following the strike declared by organised labour to press home demand for a new minimum wage.
This came as the Federal Government, yesterday, warned that the strike will affect payment of salaries, even as it met the leadership of organised labour in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to know what led to the ongoing warning strike that paralysed socio-economic activities in different parts of the country.
While the strike was total in states such as Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Kebbi, Ogun, Oyo, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Yobe, Niger, Jigawa, Benue and Kogi, there was partial compliance in others.
In Lagos, while civil servants and other public workers complied, there was partial compliance by the private sector,
Most of the business units of Eko Distribution Company, Eko DISCO and Ikeja Distribution Company, Ikeja DISCO, were shut by members of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE.
Some banks that opened for business in Ikeja area of Lagos were forced to close shop by labour leaders, including the President of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, Mrs Onyinkan Olasanoye, as they monitored and enforced compliance.
However, activities at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, continued yesterday as the stock market further dipped by 61 base points, bps, on sustained profit taking.
Executive Vice Chairman , High Cap Securities Limited, Mr. David Adonri, said: ‘’The strike does not affect trading on the Exchange. Strike does not affect stock market, except during public holidays. It is an organised market that does not have labour union.’’
However, activity level was, however, mixed as as volume fell 10.4 per cent to 154.3 million units, while value traded rose 33.0 per cent to N2.7bn.
The monitoring team of the strike, led by a Vice President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Amechi Asugwuni, went round most government agencies at Alausa Secretariat to enforce the strike.
Consequently, the secretariat was shut down, as labour leaders drove workers at the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency LASEPA, out of the premises of the parastatal.
Some motor parks, including those at Iyana-Ipaja, were shut down, while commuters were stranded in most bus stops.
Also, all the courts were locked up by officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, while lawyers and litigants, who came to the courts, were turned back at the gate by security guards keeping watch over the court premises.
Asugwuni said he was satisfied with the level of compliance with the strike by workers in Lagos, saying, “we are going round to enforce the strike and we will do everything legitimate to ensure that it stands.”
Similarly, Olasanoye said: “We are humane enough but now that government refused to give us their figure on the new minimum wage, that is why we commenced this strike.”
In Abuja, civil servants stayed of the federal secretariat in full compliance to the strike, as activities in some banks, government offices, post offices, public schools and other essential services were grounded
At Bwari Council, many customers were disappointed that their banks did not allow them access.
However, ATM services in the town were functional but the queues were long because customers could not gain access to the banks.
Also the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Headquarters was not completely shut as senior staff of the board were seen entering the premises.
However, Bwari Area Council Secretariat was closed as few staff and security operatives were outside chatting away.
Courts locked in Abuja
Courts and other justice related institutions within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, were yesterday shut down by officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, in compliance with the strike.
Locked out of their offices by the striking workers, included the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN; President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judges of both the Federal High Court and the FCT High Court, as well as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Justices of the Supreme Court, Judges, lawyers and litigants were equally denied entry into any court within the FCT.
Aside the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, other places currently locked down by the protesting workers were the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Industrial Court, the Code of Conduct Bureau & Tribunal, the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and the National Human Rights Commission.
In Edo State, activities at the Benin Airport, the state secretariat complex, banks and government offices were grounded.
At the time of filing this report, only one plane from Abuja was allowed to land at the Benin Airport.
Ogun and Delta
Also in Ogun State, commercial activities were paralysed in all public schools, banks and other government establishments.
Schools were to resume yesterday after the long vacation, but the gates of the schools were shut against the students.
Scores of students who thronged the schools in the morning for resumption were disappointed as they were turned back home.
Also, banks and government offices across the state were shut in compliance with the directive by the Nigeria Labour Congress. It was also total compliance in Delta State, as workers stayed away from their duty posts.
The Federal and state Secretariats, Ministries, parastatals and other government departments were under lock and key at Asaba, the State capital and other parts of the state.
Similarly, the situation was not different in other parts of the state as banks, public schools and local government workers complied with the industrial action.
In Cross Rivers State, business activities including schools, banks as well as
government parastatals were also shut.
It was the same in Adamawa where civil servants in the Federal and State government ministries, parastatals and agencies were shutdown.
Banks and other financial institutions were equally closed, except the ATM services.
In Oyo State, it was full compliance as workers including staff of the University of Ibadan, stayed away, lecturers also stayed away from the lecture rooms in compliance.
Commercial banks, government offices and schools in Kebbi State were shut.
It was also the same situation in Yobe state as workers fully complied. All the ministries and parastatals in the state were under locked and keys
Also, in Ebonyi State, workers joined the nationwide strike and crippled public and other business offices.
In Bayelsa State, civil servants stayed away from their duty posts in compliance with the directive. Also, it was total compliance in Niger State, as civil servants in the state stayed away from their offices. All public schools in the state were also closed down but most of the private schools however opened for classes.
Though the Minna General Hospital was seen open, only skeletal services were going on as the doctors, nurses and other relevant workers refused to report for duty.
However, all the commercial banks were seen attending to their customers.
There was also full compliance in Jigawa and Benue states.
However, there was partial compliance in Anambra State as public schools, government–owned hospitals and many banks were open for business, while the state secretariat was virtually empty.
Petrol stations were also open and it was difficult for anybody to believe that there was strike in the state.
However, the three Federal Government colleges at Nise, Awka and Onitsha were closed and students were asked to remain in their hostels as schools would not open till Monday.
It was also partial compliance in Plateau State, where some places of work and schools shut down, others were seen going about their normal businesses. Though the monitoring team from the union went into town monitoring compliance and locking gates of any organization opening for duties, private businesses and commercial motorists went about their businesses with some respondents saying they were not even aware of any strike.
It was also partial compliance in Abia State.
There was full compliance in Kwara and Kogi states as workers stayed away from their offices.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, public servants, including council workers were not at their duty posts.
Meanwhile, leaders of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, yesterday, directed members across the country to fully comply with the strike directive.
General Secretary of the union, Issa Aremu, said despite the challenges facing the textile sector, it was imperative for members to comply with the strike directive as it was a call to duty by workers.
He said: “Despite the depressed state of the textile industry, workers in Chellco Kaduna, UNT Lagos and other factories, yesterday, joined their counterparts in other parts of the country to observe the nationwide strike action as mandated by the Nigeria Labour Congress over the issue of new National Minimum Wage.
‘’The strike was avoidable in the first place if there had been appropriate official communication on continuous negotiation as opposed to closed discussions without an agreement. The warning strike might, however, not be prolonged if government immediately resume discussion. We salute all our members and other industrial unions for the solidarity.”
FG summons labour leaders
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, summoned the leadership of organised labour to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to know what led to the ongoing warning strike that paralysed socio-economic activities in different parts of the country.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, said the meeting was called to exactly know what stalled the ongoing negotiation on minimum wage and not specifically for the amount the government was proposing.
According to him, “the purpose of this meeting is to know what led to the strike.’’
He noted that from his interaction with the labour leaders, “it is the process of arriving at a figure that got stalled.”
National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who led the delegation of labour leaders, said they had fruitful deliberations with the Chief of Staff, adding that the discussion will be taken to the necessary organs of labour.
Wabba, who refused to mention when the strike would be called off, assured that members of the delegation will meet again immediately to know the next step to take, in line with labour norms.
Wabba said: “The Chief of Staff tried to give us detail of government’s position which we will have to go and convey to our members and then we can revert back to him.
“This is how far we have gone but clearly, I think we have tried to share details of the information that pertain to the issue of the National Minimum Wage and how the ongoing negotiation was stalled and also the best way to get out of it.
‘’Government has given us their words which we will also go and communicate to our members and revert back to government.”
On when to suspend the strike, he said: “The strike, as you are aware, is called by a larger organ, until we get their mandate before we can make any pronouncement on the strike.
“All the discussions we had, we will communicate to our members and, therefore, it is the outcome of our meeting with our members that we will also communicate to government.”
Prodded further on how soon the strike would be called off, Wabba said: “That is what I am saying. I said all the discussions and details we have had here will also be communicated. We are also here on representative capacity even as leaders, they also lead us.
“So whatever discussions we have and whatever details we have and the plea and also the position of government and the efforts they have made will be communicated appropriately to those organs and whatever decision we have, which effectively is also about how to put an end to the entire process, we will also try to communicate to government.
“We will try to do that as soon as possible. As we get out of here, we put our heads together and try to see how to get our organs informed.”
But some members of the delegation told Vanguard that the strike will not be called off immediately, claiming that the government had the time to discuss with the labour but chose to be lukewarm.
“The Chief of Staff was begging us to call off the strike but it is not possible now. If we do it, our members will lynch us,” a member of delegation said.
Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had on Wednesday said the four member sub-committee which was mandated to have a holistic review on the Minimum Wage could not conclude on Tuesday as planned because some of the key members were part of the President’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA in New York.
FG salaries to be delayed if…
Reacting to the strike yesterday, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, said it would affect early payment of federal government staff salaries, if it was not called off.
He spoke at the Treasury House, in Abuja, where workers had locked the gate in compliance with the nationwide strike to press for higher minimum wage.
The AGF said: ‘’I must explain that salary payment involves a number of processes that do not begin and end with the OAGF. There are other critical stakeholders like the Cash Management Department in Ministry of Finance and others who are supposed to do their beat before we can finalise.
“On coming to the office this mornin, we met the gates of the office locked and wondered how we can keep this promise if we are being locked out of the office.
‘’After speaking with the local arm of the Labour in the office on the need to pay salaries, they conceded to allow me and some of my staff in but the gates are still locked.
‘’I, therefore, appeal to labour to open our gates so that we can have unhindered access to meet their needs.
“We are all working for the same system and we should do nothing that could threaten the economy and lead to the collapse of the same system.”
The AGF further appealed to the national leadership of Labour to reconsider their stand on the on-going strike, saying the Federal Government was more than ever committed to meeting the welfare of Nigerian workers.
Idris, therefore, urged Labour to trust Mr. President and return to the path of discussion, and negotiation, as the President has demonstrated enough commitment by setting up the tripartite committee.
The committee, which is headed by Ms Amal Pepple, is saddled with the responsibility of consulting widely with stakeholders, with a view to coming up with a realistic and acceptable minimum wage.