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Labour mobilises for protest, tanker drivers strike triggers fuel queues

The organised Labour on Monday began mobilising its members for a nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28 over the cost of living crisis in the country.

By Jeremy Rivi Published 2 months ago 7 min read
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Okechukwu Nnodim, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole and Dare Olawin

The organised Labour on Monday began mobilising its members for a nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28 over the cost of living crisis in the country.

Sources in the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress told our correspondents that the National Executive Council met via Zoom on Friday, February 16, to review the resolution of the National Action Council of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress via-a-vis organised labour agreement with the Federal Government.

Rising from the crucial meeting, the labour unions, sources said, agreed to demand the implementation of the agreement with the Federal Government without further delay.

“The NLC at its Zoom meeting held on Friday, February 16, 2024, resolved in line with the resolution of NAC of NLC and that of the TUC, which demands that the agreement between the leadership of the two labour centres and government be implemented without further delay,” a source told The PUNCH.

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The Federal Government’s failure to fulfil its promises after the 14-day ultimatum by Labour, according to sources, will be met with two-day nationwide protest already slated for February 27 and 28.

The Head of Information of the NLC, Benson Upah, who confirmed the resolution of the meeting, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the NLC affiliates were being mobilised for the protest just as state chapters of the congress vowed to join the nationwide demonstration.

Upah told one of our correspondents that the protest would be held as planned and agreed at the meeting.

Asked if the union would shelve the protest, he responded, “Why would we back down? Has anything changed to warrant that? For your information, we are mobilising in earnest,” he added.

A memo obtained by one of our correspondents and dated February 18, 2024, also confirmed the meeting and the resolution reached.

Signed by General Secretary of the National Union of Public Service Reportorial, Secretarial, Data Processors, and Allied Workers Union, Duro Adebisi, and titled, ‘Mobilisation for Nationwide Protest’ the memo read, “I write in reference to the subject matter above to inform you that the NEC of Nigeria Labour Congress at its Zoom meeting held on Friday, February 16, 2024 resolved in line with the resolution of NAC of NLC and that of the TUC, which demands that the agreement between the leadership of the two labour centres and government be implemented without further delay. But that if otherwise, after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum, which will elapse on 22nd February 2024, affiliates should direct its members across the board for a two-day nationwide protest on 27th and 28th February 2024, respectively.

“Comrades, arising from the paragraph above, the National Secretariat of our union is hereby requesting your council to start mobilising our members in collaboration with your state/federal NLC to ensure/encourage our active participation in the said action (s).”

As labour unions mobilised their members for the nationwide protest, there were fuel queues in Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, and Ogun states, as well as Abuja, on Monday following the strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners.

On Friday, The PUNCH reported that the country might witness another round of fuel scarcity as NARTO vowed to stop lifting petroleum products beginning from Monday (yesterday) due to the high cost of operations.

NARTO strike

NARTO members raised concern over the high cost of diesel required to power their trucks to transport petroleum products across the country.

The Federal Government had ordered oil marketers to negotiate with NARTO to avert tanker drivers’ planned suspension of operations.

It was learnt that oil marketers and the officials of NARTO met about six times between Saturday and Sunday following the declaration of the petroleum products’ transporters to halt operations.

As the Federal Government battled to end the tanker drivers’ strike, the NLC on Monday vowed not to back down on the planned protests.

The NLC’s National President, Joe Ajaero, said last week that the protest would begin a week after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum it issued to the federal government, which will expire on February 23.

The organised labour lamented that millions of Nigerian workers were facing hunger, erosion of purchasing power, and insecurity due to reforms that drove up inflation.

Ajaero, who spoke during a briefing with journalists in Abuja, noted that the decision followed an emergency National Executive Council meeting on the state of the economy and matters related to insecurity in the country.

Though the NLC and its Trade Union Congress counterpart commenced negotiation with the government for a new minimum wage for workers on Monday, the outcome of which it said must reflect the realities on the ground, which include the high costs of living, inflation, naira devaluation, and the general economic shocks, the NLC leadership vowed that the protests would go on as planned.

Also, the state chapters of the NLC expressed their readiness to participate in the protest, which is expected to ground commercial and economic activities across the country.

The Kano State NLC Chairman, Kabir Inuwa, in an interview with The PUNCH, affirmed the workers’ willingness to participate in the rally as directed by the union’s national leadership.

Similarly, the Zamfara State chapter of the congress explained that its members would participate in the demonstration.

The acting secretary of the union, Ahmed Abubakar, said the members were waiting for the directive from the national body to participate in the protests.

The leadership of the NLC in Bayelsa State also said the workers in the state were ready for a showdown.

The state Chairman of the NLC, Simon Barnabas, stated that the members had been sensitised about the rally.

Asked if workers in Osun State would join the national protests, the state TUC Chairman, Abimbola Fasasi, said the leadership of the labour movement was ready for the challenge.

Fasasi, who said the oath taken by the labour unions was to fight for the rights of their members, also noted, “We are good to go anytime, any day. It is part of the deal and the oath we took to fight for our rights, especially the people we lead. We will do it.”

In compliance with the directive, the Delta State chapter of the NLC said it had started mustering its members for the protests.

Delta NLC

The NLC Chairman, Delta State, Goodluck Ofobruku, confirmed the preparations for the event.

However, his TUC counterpart, Mr Martin Bolum, said, “We have not been communicated to; we are still waiting. If they communicate with us, we know what to do.”

Among others, the Federal Government agreed to pay N35,000 wage award to workers until a new minimum wage is agreed on.

Responding to the insistence of labour to press ahead with its protest, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, in an interview with The PUNCH, urged the leadership of organised Labour to exercise restraint, stating that the government has started implementing many of the 16-point demands they agreed on.

As the pains of the food crisis bite harder, on Monday, youths disrupted commercial activities in parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, in protest over the situation in the country.

The protest, which started at the popular Mokola Roundabout, spread to Adamasingba, Ekotedo, Onireke, Sango, Bodija, Agbowo, and Ojoo, as the security agencies deployed in the areas to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

The incident caused a traffic gridlock on the ever-busy roads to Ojoo, Adamasingba and Bodija areas.

The protesters were seen carrying placards complaining about the spiralling current cost of living, the fluctuating prices of food items, economic hardship and the urgent need for the government to take pragmatic steps towards making food affordable.

Their mantra, ‘Ebi n pa wa’ (we are hungry) charged the atmosphere.

Some of the inscriptions read, ‘Mr President, this is not the hope you promised,’ ‘This is shege,’ ‘Is this the renewed hope that you promised?’ ‘End hardship,’ ‘We want peace’ and so on.

The youth moved from Mokola to the vicinity of the University of Ibadan at Agbowo while security agencies comprising the police, Nigerian Army, Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps trailed behind them to forestall violence.

A protester who declined to be named said, ‘’We have been caught unawares by the Nigerian economy. I graduated from a tertiary institution about three years ago, yet without a job.’’

Another protester, who identified himself as Goodboy, said, “I want to sincerely tell you that many Nigerians are hungry and some of us youths who are in our prime are the worst hit.’’ copywrite newspunch

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Jeremy Rivi

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  • Jeremy Rivi (Author)2 months ago

    That is what the need

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