By Victor Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA— THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, yesterday, declared indefinite strike starting from October 3 to force the federal government to address excruciating suffering and hardship across the country, occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy.
The resolution came, despite promises by the federal government to conclude wage award, which was a major demand by the labour leaders, to the two labour centres
In a joint communiqué after both Labour centres held separate emergency National Executive Council, NEC, meetings, leaders of the two bodies urged Nigerians to brace up for a long strike and use between yesterday and next Monday to stockpile foodstuff and other necessities.
Though the Trade Union Congress, TUC, did not participate in the two-day warning strike embarked upon by the NLC two weeks ago, it has, however, resolved to team up with the NLC on the indefinite strike.
The communiqué, jointly read by NLC and TUC Presidents, Joe Ajaero and Festus Osifo, respectively, at the Labour House, Abuja, directed state councils and affiliates of the two centres to step up mobilization of members and allies for total strike.
Total indefinite strike
They said the indefinite strike is a result of the perceived insensitivity of government to the plights of workers and other Nigerians, following the petrol subsidy removal and continuous demonstration of unwillingness and complete lack of initiative to address the fall-outs of the removal and other harsh economic policies.
According to the communiqué: “NLC and TUC in their various meetings deeply analyzed the current situation in the country, taking into cognizance the extensive hardships and deprivation afflicting our citizens across all states of the federation and unanimously condemned the apparent conscious lethargy and tardiness in handling the consequences of its Petrol Price hike on Nigerians.
‘No meaningful dialogue’
“The councils deliberated on the continued refusal of the Federal Government to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue within the ambit of good faith given the 21 days ultimatum and the subsequent successful two-day nationwide warning strike of the 5th and 6th of September and other meetings that were supposed to demonstrate the preparedness of Nigerian workers to push through their decision to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike if their demands were not met.”
The communiqué explained that “the NLC and TUC NEC-in-session observed that there is no disagreement between labour and government on the existence of massive suffering, impoverishment and hunger in the country as a result of the hike in the price of petrol which demands an urgent need for remedial action.
“The government has totally abdicated this responsibility and has shown gross unwillingness to act, abandoning Nigerian people and workers to excruciating poverty and affliction.
“The Federal Government has continued to grandstand and forestall all avenues to peaceful dialogue with organized labour on ways to save Nigerians from the huge hunger and suffering experienced across the nation as a result of the unconscionable hike in the price of petrol (PMS) by the government.
“The government has continued to demonstrate not just an unwillingness to mitigate the massive hardship in the country but also a complete lack of intention to take positive steps and empathy for the multi-dimensionally impoverished citizens of Nigeria.
“The Federal Government has, therefore, not met in any substantial way, the demands of Nigerian workers and peoples as previously canvassed in our mutually agreed roadmap to salvaging the economy and protecting workers and Nigerians from the monumental hardship.
“The grace period given by the two labour centres have expired.
The trade unions continue to face severe threats from the state via the brutal and suppressive power of the police and government.
“(The National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, continues to be illegally occupied by the government via the instrumentally of the police who have cloned the leadership of NURTW.
“The Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, continues to be illegally occupied by Lagos State government in total disregard to the courts and the statutes.
“The state, within the life of the ultimatum, via the Police has caused loss of lives and properties with untold injuries on Nigerian workers who were on their way to go back to their union’s national headquarters in Abuja.
“That the state has continued to blackmail and sponsor serious campaign of calumny against trade union leaders in the social media using its buying and coercive powers instead of making efforts to lift the burden on the masses.
“Consequently, the NLC and TUC NEC-in-Session resolved as follows:
lTo, in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria, take our destinies in our own hands and rescue our nation
lTo embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023.
lTo direct all workers in Nigeria to withdraw their services from their respective workplaces commencing from the 3rd of October.
lTo direct all affiliates and state councils to immediately start mobilizing accordingly for action to organize street protests and rallies until government responds positively to our demands
lTo enjoin all patriotic Nigerians to join hands across the nation to assist this government put the people back at the centre of its policies and programmes.’’
It will be recalled that the Minister of labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, said on Monday that the Federal Government will soon conclude wage award to workers, being one of the demands of the labour movement.
The Director, Press and Public Relations Unit of the ministry, Olajide Oshundun, had said in a statement: He (Lalong) maintained that industrial harmony remains key to the socio-economic development of any nation, and urged the union to work in synergy with the federal government in moving the country forward.
‘’Lalong noted that securing the release of the detained NURTW members was one of the demands of NLC at last week’s meeting between the Congress and ministers of labour and employment.
‘’He assured them that the processes leading to the fulfilment of the other requests of the NLC, especially wage award, were on course and would be concluded soon.
‘’The minister, therefore, called on the NLC not to embark on the planned strike and allow government work to resolve all pending issues.’’