FG, Labour Adamant as Court Stops Strike
Despite an order by the National Industrial Court, NIC, on the Nigeria Labour Congress , NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, not to embark on the nationwide strike scheduled for Monday, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, the two unions insisted on the action yesterday, saying they were not aware of any order.
The court also restrained the unions, their officers, affiliates, privies or howsoever described from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or its affiliates or ordinary Nigerians from accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on September 28, 2020, or any other subsequent date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Trial vacation judge, Justice Ibrahim Galadima made the order sequel to an ex-parte application filed by the Incorported Trustees of Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association through their counsel, Sunusi Musa.
The Court also granted an order compelling the Inspector General of Police and the Director General Department of State Services to provide protection for the claimants and other Nigerian worker engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions, pending the hearing and determination of the case.
Nevertheless, Organized Labour and the Federal Government yesterday held on to their positions on the recent increase in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff at the meeting convened by government to find a way out of the strike scheduled to start on Monday.
While Labour insisted that government must reverse the increments to stave off strike, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, justified deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, which gave rise to the fuel price increase and why it should stand, insisting that deregulation of the petroleum sector was long overdue.
He also stressed the need for Nigerians to cooperate with government on the increase in electricity tariff, explaining that the decision was not to inflict pains on them.
Labour’s insistence on reversal of the increments came as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and President of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, were locked in hot verbal exchanges over the letter the union addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
However, the TUC President maintained the union’s previous position that government should revert to the old prices before any discussion could continue.
The meeting, which took place at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, had in attendance the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, the Minister of Power, the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, and some relevant agencies and parastatals.
Sources at the technical session which was behind closed doors told newsmen that labour did not changed its previous position that government should go back to the old prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
Also, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, yesterday asked the private sector unions to ensure total compliance once the nationwide strike commences by shutting down all production activities.
In his presentation, the TUC President, Olaleye, told Senator Ngige to withdraw the statement that his union was not right to write direct to President Muhammadu Buhari, arguing that as the President of the country, all the economic decisions end on his table.
Besides, Comrade Olaleye during his presentation insisted that the TUC stood on its earlier submission that the government should reverse the increases before there could be any discussion.
He said: “The most important thing to us today (yesterday) is that we are here, we are engaging with you. Like I mentioned in the last meeting we had here that if we have been having constructive engagement in the past, maybe we would have been able to solve some of these problems.
“But the government turned a deaf ear to us, even before the arrival of the world enemy, COVID-19. We have written to government suggesting alternative way to run the economy, but nobody ever listened.
“I can send to you many communications from the Labour movement suggesting solutions and now we have found ourselves in this situation but the truth of the matter is that Nigerians are suffering and it is our responsibility as Labour centres to fight for their rights, to protect their interests.
“N30,000 minimum wage was agreed last year and now there is increase in PMS price, increase in tariff of electricity, introduction of stamp duty and some other hardship on workers and their families . We live in a country where a worker is responsible for more than 12 people.
“At least eight from his family and the other four from the in-laws’ house. I wonder how N30,000 will be able to cater for all these but instead of government to look at a better way to increase our lot, we are the sacrificial animal to make the economy better for few people.
‘Nigeria belongs to few politicians’
“I heard when the minister mentioned that the country belongs to all of us, I as a person except you change my impression, I believe the country belongs to the few politicians that take decisions and make policies that are very hard for us to live in this country.
“If the country belongs to all of us, the question is why are people running out of this country, our youths are running out of this country despite all the dangerous obstacles on the road, many have lost their lives.”
“Can somebody runs out of his father’s house when nothing is pursuing him? So definitely the answer is not. Let’s make the country to belong to all of us so that we can be bona fide owners of our country.
“Democracy is all about the people, we voted a few people to represent us at the government level and when decisions and policies are to be formed, we are the first to be considered.
“The politicians have scrapped the middle class that we used to have, they have taken away our hope, it’s either you are rich in this country now or you are poor. No more middle class and these are the things we need people to look into if we actually want peace in the country.”