Scores of workers, students, traders and concerned residents trooped out in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Monday to stage a protest against the hike in the pump price of petrol and other policies of the Federal Government.
The workers, who gathered at the Agodi Gate area, were led by a human rights activist, Femi Aborisade, who is the Vice Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond; the National Coordinator of All Workers’ Convergence, Andrew Emelieze, and other unionists.
The protesters, who were armed with placards condemning the Federal Government and its policies, said Nigerians had been further impoverished by the recent hike in the electricity tariff and petrol pump price.
They said corruption by government officials, among others, had made life unbearable for the masses while criticising lack of adequate funding for the education and health sectors.
Aborisade said ASCAB was against the agreement between the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and the Federal Government, saying labour leaders ought to have briefed workers before taking the decision.
Emelieze, who is a past Chairman of the TUC, described the leaders of the body and the NLC at the national level as traitors.
He said, “Although the NLC and the TUC suspended their strike action, we, in the ASCAB, AWC, NANS, Joint Action Front, artisans, traders and others decided to stage a protest against how the Federal Government is treating Nigerians. We also condemn the national NLC and TUC for betraying Nigerians at the last minute.”
Honour agreement with labour, Aremu urges FG
The Vice-President, Industrial Global Union, Issa Aremu, urged the Federal Government not to renege on the agreement it reached with the leadership of the labour unions, leading to the shelving of the planned strike by workers.
Aremu, while addressing some journalists in Ilorin, Kwara State, on Monday, commended the labour unions for suspending the planned strike.
He said, “I want to say on the whole it is a win-win agreement. It is commendable. I commend the leadership of the NLC, the TUC as well as all the affiliate members of the two unions, who engaged in this tortuous negotiation to have an agreement.
“The strike has only been suspended, which means it is not yet over until the issues are thrashed out. I will like to call on the government to know that labour had lived up to expectation on its side of the bargain by suspending the strike and protest; the government must also reciprocate by respecting its side of the agreement.”
Edo workers shun NLC, stage protest
Despite the suspension of strike by the organised labour, some NLC and TUC members on Monday took to the streets of Benin to kick against the recent increase in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
With slogans like ‘No to Electricity Hike’, ‘No to Fuel Hike’, and ‘Kill Corruption’, among others, the protesters, who assembled at downtown Ring Road, were led by a former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, and the state NLC Chairman, Mr Sunny Osayande.
They insisted on a total strike if the government refused to reverse the increment in two weeks.
Obayuwana said, “We say no to the increase in electricity tariff, fuel and VAT. We say no to privatisation where our wealth is given to a few persons. They are just buying time but before you know it, two weeks will come and go.”
Truce a welcome development, says APC
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress has commended the Federal Government and the organised labour for agreeing to a truce to avert the planned nationwide shutdown over increases in the pump price of petrol and a hike in electricity tariffs.
This was contained in a statement titled, ‘Shelved Strike: APC Hails FG, Organised Labour on Truce… Says it is Victory for Nigerian Masses…Commends Transmission of PIB to National Assembly’, signed by the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, in Abuja on Monday.
Nabena said, “The welcome and positive development is in line with the proven pro-people stance of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration, which has always put the welfare and interest of the masses first in policy decisions and implementation. Indeed, the shelved strike is a victory for the Nigerian masses.
“The Federal Government in temporarily suspending the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments by Discos to allow for an all-inclusive and independent review of the power sector operations is evident of the government’s pro-people stance.
“Again, to reduce the cost of petrol, the Federal Government and labour agreed on the urgency to rehabilitate the nation’s refineries and increase our local refining capacity so as to reduce the overdependence on costly importation of refined petroleum products.”
CSO kicks, says labour fell for FG’s tricks
A civil rights movement, the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, on Monday, described as betrayal the decision by organised labour to suspend its planned strike over deregulation and increase in electricity tariff.
The organisation said while it was not advocating a strike action for the fun of it, “we make no mistake about the fact that the Nigerian people need to send a strong message to the government that its strangulating policies are unacceptable.”
The Executive Director of CHRICED, Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, in a statement titled, ‘Capitulation by Labour: A clarion call for citizens to directly resist harsh policies’, said it had “carefully studied the excuses given by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria to shelve the general strike and protests, which had been slated to begin on Monday.
By John Alechenu, Friday Olokor, Olufemi Olaniyi, Adeyinka Adedipe and Tunde Oyekola