Fuel Price Hike: States Strategise As Labour Insists On Protest, Strike

Workers during a protest (FILE PHOTO)

A head of the August 2 nationwide protest against fuel price hike, organised labour have asked workers to be prepared to down tools.

Daily Trust recalls that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had on July 26 issued a seven-day ultimatum to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to immediately reverse all “anti-poor” people policies especially the astronomical hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol.

The NLC, in a communique jointly signed and issued by its President, Joe Ajaero; and the General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, at the end of its Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting, threatened to embark on a nationwide protest starting from Wednesday, August 2, 2023 should the federal government failed to do the needful.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Ondo, Clement Fatuase, said the labour movement in the state was ready for the nationwide planned strike.

Clement explained that labour leaders in the state would converge today  to strategise ahead of the strike.

“We are having a strategic meeting by today (Monday) and by then we would roll out all our plans but what I know is that the present situation in the country is so charged.

“It’s so charged that nearly everybody has picked up the Boy Scout motto; Be Prepared. We are ready. Everyone is affected and maybe you’re not but we are prepared,” Clement said.

The State TUC Chairman argued that the planned strike, although, might not solve the present demands of the Nigerian masses but it has become important since it’s the only language the Nigerian government seems to understand.

Several efforts by Daily Trust to reach the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state proved abortive.

A message sent by our reporter to the State NLC Chairman, Victor Amoko, to inquire about the preparedness of its members for the nationwide strike was still unreplied as of press time.

The protest will be mother of all – NLC Borno

The Borno State NLC Chairman, Yusuf Inuwa, also said they would be joining the strike.

He told Daily Trust that all mechanisms had been put in place considering the popularity of insecurity in the state.

He said, “Yes, we are ready. It is going to be the mother of all. We can’t wait to see until Wednesday. I just held a meeting with our state officials and we have agreed to join the proposed protest this Wednesday.

“Also, looking at recent insecurity situations in metropolitan and Jere councils, we have put in place solid plan to avoid any hoodlums to hijack it and unleash mayhem. We are inviting press and other to join us.” he said.

His Bauchi State counterpart, Dauda M Shuaibu, also said there was no going back.

“The plan protest is no compromise issue and everyone will be involved and is binding on all affiliates. The issue is an instruction and all members and their affiliates will embarked on the mass protest not only Bauchi.”

Shuaibu said that the preparations for the exercise would start today.

“God’s willing Monday (today) we are holding a State Administrative Council Meeting which comprises the state elected officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress and subsequently sermon the State Executive Council meeting which consist of all Chairman and Secretary of all NLC affiliate where Committees will be setup for preparation and mobilization particularly on security, venue and other necessary arrangements for the protest.”

Shuaibu noted that following the National Executive Council Meeting of NLC in Anuja where a communique was released instructing all state NLC leadership and their affiliates to commenced mobilization for readiness for the mass protest against removal of subsidy which caused rapid hike of pump price of fuel across the country.

Also speaking on the issue, the Kwara State NLC chairman, Alhaji Murtala Saheed Olayinka, told our correspondent on Sunday that they will join the protest.

He said the union would hold a meeting with the relevant members on Monday (tomorrow) to map out modalities on how the programme would go.

“Although the state government has started doing something with regards to cushioning the effect of the fuel subsidy removal, we have no choice than to follow the national directive on the issue.

“But because of the tense situation in the country, we have to do it in such a way that it will not be hijacked by hoodlums who might take advantage to cause chaos and destruction. We will deliberate on its tomorrow and define how it will go,” he added.

Oyo NLC orders members to boycott work

The Oyo State chapter of NLC has directed workers in the state to assemble in the government secretariat today to compel the governor to speak with them before the nationwide strike.

Speaking with journalists at the end of an emergency meeting, NLC chairman in the state, Kayode Martins, said the union would no longer have conversations with any intermediary over the demands of workers and pensioners in the state.

Martins asked all workers in the state not to resume at their various offices on Monday, but converge at the state government secretariat by 7:30 am to force the governor to speak with them directly.

“We insist on seeing the governor in order to speak with him directly without any intermediary. If he sees us, he will definitely address us,” Martins said.

Mass Protest in Delta

Chairman Delta State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Goodluck Ofobruku, said the mobilization of members for the protest was ongoing.

The Nigeria Labour Congress in Akwa Ibom State has indicated that it would join the strike proposed by the National body.

State NLC Chairman, Mr Sunny Jackson, confirmed this in a text message to our correspondent.

In a short message, he said, “We can’t wait to see that day because our Government is yet to be serious with workers palliatives”.

Also, the state Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in Benue, Levi Terna Akuma, told our correspondent in Makurdi that members of the NLC would be meeting today to deliberate on the matter.

“By tomorrow we are meeting, that’s when we will know the direction to follow because our state chairman (NLC) has just returned from the national meeting held in Abuja and we will discuss all that.

“What they told them in Abuja, they will relate it to us. So, that’s the level of our readiness now. Whatever labour directs us to do, that’s what our members will do. We will follow NLC directive,” he said.

Also, the state’s Chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Terungwa Igbe, averred that union members would embark on protest as directed by the national secretariat.

Masses taken for granted – Kogi vice chair

In his response, vice chairman of NLC Kogi State Council, Opaluwa Eleojo, said all the affiliates of NLC in the state had been fully mobilized.

“My Union, the National Union of Electricity Employees, has through a circular signed by the Ag. general secretary placed the members on notice.

“Full mobilization of members and affiliates has commenced and has reached an advanced stage.

“It is going to be the coalition of suffering masses of Nigeria whose welfare has been taken for granted by the ruling elite,” he said.

Labour can protest, go on strike, Falana tells FG

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), says the NLC and its affiliates can proceed on the August 2 strike and protest as planned, saying the exercise does not translate to contempt of court as averred by the federal government.

The legal luminary, who is the counsel to the organised labour, argued that no court in the land has issued a perpetual injunction restraining Nigerian workers from participating in peaceful rallies convened by the Nigeria Labour Congress.

It would be recalled that the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, who doubles as the Solicitor-General of the Federation, had a few days ago said the labour movement intended to disobey the ex parte order of the National Industrial Court restraining it from the action.

But Falana, in a clarification letter directed to the permanent secretary, faulted the claim that the organised labour would go in contempt of court by embarking on nationwide strike or protest against present fuel hike occasioned by subsidy removal.

The letter dated July 28, 2023 and signed by Sam Ogala of Falana’s Chamber, copies of which were made available to Labour correspondents at Labour House, Abuja on Sunday, noted that rights to peaceful protest had not been removed from the constitution.

The letter read in part, “Since the constitutional right of Nigerian workers to protest peacefully cannot by any stretch of imagination be classified as an Industrial action or strike of any nature, you ought not have threatened our client with contempt of court.

“The right to demonstrate and the right to protest on matters of public concern are rights which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and which they should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done.

“If as speculated by law enforcement agents that breach of the peace would occur our criminal code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and order so that the requirement of permit as a conditionality to holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.

The learned silk, however, called on the federal government and the IGP to provide adequate security for the protesters while the exercise would last.

LP opposes street protest 

Meanwhile, the Lamidi Apapa-led faction of the Labour Party (LP) has opposed the planned nationwide protest.

Abayomi Arabambi, the National Publicity Secretary of the faction, who spoke to newsmen in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said it “is capable of setting Nigerians against the Tinubu Administration for violent overthrow”.

He said, “Our party noted that the NLC president Comrade Joe Ajaero without facts baselessly accuse President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of showing enormous disdain and contempt for Nigerian people and workers by the declaration of war of attrition on Nigerian workers and masses without any care leaving them to the throes of hopelessness and helplessness.

“Labour party agreed with the NLC leadership only on all lawful demands but disagreed totally with a resolution calling for mass action.

“Calling on Nigerians wherever they may be to begin mobilization to take action on their own against a legitimate government even to the extent of directing associations, individuals and other entities including the ones already on the streets to ensure that government listens to the people is a treasonable felony offence.

“Workers can be called to embark on a strike by sitting at home until the government meets their demands,” he said.


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