Indefinite strike: FG makes moves as Labour vows to shut down airports, others Tuesday

 The Federal Government has invited organised labour to a meeting in a last-minute bid to stop the planned October 3, 2023 nationwide strike announced by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress on Tuesday.

The two unions had declared an indefinite strike with effect from Tuesday to protest the alleged failure of the FG to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers, but the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity assured Nigerians it would meet with the leadership of the unions before they shut down the economy.

The spokesperson for the labour ministry, Olajide Oshundun, said the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, would be centred on the pronouncements that would be made by President Bola Tinubu during his October 1 Independence Day broadcast.

Tinubu is expected to unveil the palliative package for workers in the customary presidential speech to commemorate Nigeria’s Independence Day.

Oshundun disclosed in an interview with one of our correspondents, that the two major demands from the unions had been presented to the government.

He further said that the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Simon Lalong, had met one of the NLC’s demands which was the release of the factional National President of the National Association of Road Transport Workers, Tajudeen Baruwa, from police custody.

Baruwa and 21 others, including three national officers of the union, had been detained by the police for alleged criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, public disturbance, and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

Oshundun noted that the second major demand was on the wage award for workers which the Labour centres said would help in mitigating the suffering occasioned by the removal of the petrol subsidy.

He said, “We will avert the strike. We got the news of their intention to go on strike. They need to be rest assured that there will be a pronouncement in the October 1 speech of Mr President for Nigerian workers.

‘’The ministry is working assiduously to meet with the second aspect of the demand which focuses on the wage award. We have already secured the release of the NURTW factional chairman.

‘’So we hope to invite them on Tuesday following the pronouncement of the president to see reasons for them to call off the strike.”

Justifying the decision to proceed on strike at the virtual meeting of the National Executive Committee of the NLC held on Tuesday afternoon, Ajaero said the FG had failed to reverse its anti-poor policies characterised by the removal of fuel subsidy earlier this year.

The NEC meeting had in attendance several union leaders, including the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke; the National President, Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Prof Theophilus Ndubaku; the National Treasurer of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Mercy Lanka; the General Secretary of the Nigeria Civil Service Union, Ibrahim Bomoi, and others.

The NLC leader told the over 90 participants at the meeting that the walkout would be carried out in collaboration with the TUC which had earlier failed to participate in the two-day strike declared by the NLC on September 5 and 6.

The TUC had said that it was not interested in embarking on any industrial action for now, preferring to give the FG a two-week grace while sustaining its ongoing dialogue with government officials.

 But Ajaero explained that the TUC had decided to participate in the strike following a meeting with the leadership of the congress led by its National President, Festus Osifo.

The TUC later endorsed the decision at a joint media briefing held by Ajaero and the TUC president in Abuja on Tuesday.

During the NLC NEC meeting which commenced at 12:32pm with an opening prayer and adoption of motions by representatives of the NLC state councils of Ebonyi and Borno states, Ajaero alleged plans by agents of the government to break the ranks of the congress.

The unionist also noted that there were plans to divide the ranks of the NLC leadership by individuals spreading rumours of a possible compromise by the congress’ leadership.

He stated, “Some people are saying that we have collected money. I have been here for a very long time and I have not encountered such. If anyone has any information, let them come forward and we will investigate.”

Speaking further, Ajaero informed the NEC-in-session of the plans to ground economic activities in the country from Tuesday.

Addressing journalists, Ajaero and Osifo said their unions decided “in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria to take our destinies in our own hands and rescue our nation.”

Ajaero carpeted the FG over what he described as its lackadaisical stance towards the demands raised by the unions since the subsidy removal policy took effect.

He accused the government of deliberate refusal to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue within the ambit of good faith during the 21-day ultimatum and the two-day nationwide warning strike.

The union leader explained that the national executive councils of the NLC and TUC in their various meetings deeply analysed the current situation in the country, taking into cognisance the hardships and deprivation afflicting the citizens across all the states of the federation.

He said both NECs unanimously condemned the government’s tardiness in handling the consequences of its petrol price hike on Nigerians.

Ajaero also noted that the NLC and the TUC NEC-in-session observed that there was no disagreement between Labour and government on the existence of the massive suffering, impoverishment and hunger in the country as a result of the hike in the price of petrol which he said required an urgent remedial action.

He accused the government of abdicating its responsibility and ‘’had shown gross unwillingness to act, thereby abandoning Nigerian people and workers to excruciating poverty and affliction.’’