The indefinite nationwide strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to protest fuel price hike announced by the Federal Government took off on a shaky note on Wednesday with partial compliance recorded in most of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and no compliance in a few states However, the leadership of the NLC has expressed confidence that the nationwide indefinite strike would achieve its purpose.
“The strike commenced this morning as I speak to you and as we progress on the indefinite strike, it will expand itself,” Vice President of the NLC, Amechi Asugwuni, said on an early morning television programme on Wednesday. Leaders of the Ayuba Wabba-faction of the NLC, which called the strike, and civil society coalition leaders staged a protest in Abuja, with the President of the Congress, in a speech, saying traumatized Nigerian masses cannot swallow ‘this poisonous economic pill’ of fuel price hike. He said that lack of security, sabotage, corruption and mismanagement, not necessarily subsidies, were the most serious problems of Nigeria’s oil sector. “Organised Labour believes that the President’s approach smirks cluelessness and incompetence in tackling identified problems.
Nigerians say No to ineptitude,” he said. According to him, Nigeria is the only OPEC country that imports refined petroleum products. “Nigeria has been held hostage: Nigeria should have refining capacity for exports to accumulate fiscal reserve,” he added. He reeled out the demands of Nigerians, represented by the Organized Labour, NLC and TUC, from the Federal Government as: Restoration of the pump price of PMS at N86 per litre; Reversal of the 45 percent electricity tariff increase in February 2016 and provision of pre-paid meters and stop estimated billings; Rehabilitation of our refineries in Port Harcourt (1& 2), Warri and Port Harcourt and their upgrading.
The other demands are: construction of new refineries using recovered oil loot; investigation of the activities of the NNPC with corrupt officials including those involved in subsidy scams brought to justice; reconstitution of the Boards of the NNPC and PPPRA. Strike in shaky start In many states, like Bauchi, Yobe, Kano, Adamawa, Jigawa and Bayelsa, normal activities were recorded on Wednesday, but in a few states Gombe and Plateau States where schools, banks and government offices were closed, the strike succeeded. In Abuja, all government offices, banks, schools and markets remained open with workers at their duty posts. Amid tight security, labour leaders, who marched from the federal secretariat, did not force people to comply with the strike order.
Strike is illegal – FG The Federal Government on Wednesday insisted that the indefinite strike embarked upon by the organised labour is illegal. Accordingly, it warned the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate bodies to be mindful of existing Continued from page 1 labour laws and the court injunction obtained by the Ministry of Justice stopping the strike action.
The NLC and the civil society groups have called out their members to the streets to protest the recent hike in pump price of petrol from N86.5 to N145 per litre by the Federal Government. But ahead of the strike scheduled to begin by midnight on Tuesday, the Federal Government, when it was obvious that labour would not back down on their demand for the reversal of the new pump price, hurriedly obtained a court injunction restraining labour from embarking on the action.
Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, reminded Comrade Ayuba Wabbaled NLC that, aside from the court injunction, the existing labour laws did not support the strike they had embarked upon. Specifically, Ngige pointed out that section 40 of the labour law prescribed that workers on essential services must give a notice of not less that 15 days to their employers before they could embark on an industrial action. According to him, the penalty for failure to observe that section of the law was N100,000 fine or six months in jail. He announced, however, that government was still amenable to amicable resolution of the dispute with labour and the civil society groups.
Ngige also disclosed that the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which is one of the demands by labour, would be reconstituted in the next two weeks. Nigeria is broke, says FG Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday, summed up reasons for the increase in the pump price of fuel by the Federal Government, saying that the country was broke and needed to raise money to keep the system afloat. Mohammed made the disclosure while briefing the State House Correspondents alongside his colleagues, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngigie at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said: “The current problem is not really about subsidy removal. It is about that Nigeria is broke. Pure and simple! “It is like somebody who has been earning N100, 000 a month and he is faced with a situation where his employer says henceforth you will be earning N10,000 a month. He would need to make some very painful decisions and some very painful adjustments. That is the situation with Nigeria today. Senate to interface with FG, NLC Also on Wednesday, the Senate Wednesday resolved to interface with the Federal Government and the organised labour on an early resolution of the industrial action by a faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the fuel price hike.
The upper chamber mandated its Committee on Labour to interface with both the Federal Government and the organised labour to ensure that issues that led to the strike are quickly resolved. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, announced this after about 30 minutes closed session. Ekweremadu said that the intervention of the Senate became necessary in order to find ways and means of resolving the issues that led to the strike to avoid inflicting untold hardships on Nigerians. Unions threaten Lagos Airport shutdown Unions in the aviation industry Wednesday joined factional wing of the NLC, acting under the aegis of Joint Action Front to disrupt vehicular and passenger activities around the Lagos Airport as part of the strike protest.
The unions are the National Union of Airport Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Association of Senior Services Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN). This was just as they threatened to shut down the Lagos Airport on Thursday, should government fail to reverse the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol. Adelegan Solomon, vicepresident of the NLC, made the threat while addressing protesters at the MMIA. Solomon, who is also the president of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUCPTRE), urged Nigerians to unanimously reject the hike in fuel price.
According to him, the N145 per litre announced by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) will further increase the suffering of ordinary Nigerians. He noted that Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) were members of AUCPTRE, adding that arrangements have been perfected to ground flight operations at the airport from Thursday. “Today, few planes have taken-off and landed on this airport but by tomorrow, no plane will land or take off. It is operation occupy Lagos State,” Solomon said.
Also speaking, Nasir Fagge, president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), said Nigerians must remain united against the ruling class. “We are convinced that what is going on now is a war of liberation,” he said. “We in ASUU believe that any change that does not lead to transformation is underdevelopment.”