indefinite nationwide strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, to protest the new fuel price fixed at N145 per litre by the federal government last Wednesday largely failed at its kick-off yesterday. While there was total non-compliance in most states of the federation, others witnessed partial compliance which watchers argue would fizzle out in the next few days. In state capital where protests took place, our correspondents observed that it was more of rallies than protests. In all the above cases, schools, business houses including banks and related services operated without hindrance.
Though Labour stormed Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos in continuation of its mobilisation efforts, the action was not sustained as members sooner returned to their respective homes.
As had been published by Nigerian Pilot, factional reasons as well as inadequate mobilisation coupled with the recent order of Industrial Arbitration court stopping the strike largely contributed to workers defiance of NLC’s order. Besides, Nigerians spoken to said that the strike option was not the best to solve the country’s nagging economic woes.
To worsen labour’s position, the faction led by Joe Ajaero was not with the Ayuba Wabba-led faction on the strike, even as members of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, pulled out of the action. The latter announced their position after a joint meeting between Labour leaders and the Federal government representatives Tuesday night. Earlier electricity workers, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers, NUPENG and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN signified they will not be participating in the proposed strike.
Ayuba Wabba-led faction on Tuesday night walked out of a meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who led the government delegation, insisting on strike from yesterday.
Regardless of the foregoing, a handful of NLC members came out to protest against the hike in petrol price. The protest, which began at the headquarters of the NLC in central district of Abuja to the federal secretariat, saw unionists brandishing NLC flags as they marched through major streets of Abuja.
This was seen as protesters, numbering in thousands converge at the Labour House, Abuja for the planned protest with playcards with inscription such as “A lying government is a corrupt government’. ‘Kachicku must go. He is an agent of cabal of IMF’. ‘Government of all promises cancelled’ and so on.
The protest march which was orchestrated by Comrade Ayuba Wabba-led faction of the NLC began at about 9.am to the Federal Secretariat where he addressed the crowd. The march later ended at the Berger junction.
NLC President, Wabba stated that the Union has dialogued with government and tried everything possible to make them see the need to reduce the price of fuel which has brought about the increase in virtually all the commodities in the country instead the FG is rather adamant describing the new fuel price as sacrosanct and can never be changed.
Wabba also lamented on the plight faced by Nigerians since the increased was announced by the FG including the persistent fall of our currency to Dollars in the foreign exchange market noted that the government’s decision would further worsen the situation as the price would continue to be on the high side since the marketers are advised to source for the dollars in the parallel market.
”One of the reasons the price was because of the scarcity of dollars and the decline in value of naira to dollar because importers could not access dollars at the official rate so there were getting it at the black market rate. What our government is doing is to protect the importers and marketers and not that of the citizens.”
He lauded the fellow comrades for obeying the call despite the intimidations stressing that the strike would continue as long as the Government refused to see to the suffering of the citizens.
When asked about the Industrial Court’s injunction against the planned protest NLC president denied being aware the court order saying “We are not aware of any court ruling that has been served on NLC.
“We have not been served and I can say that as we are here, we have also informed them that we are not aware of any court ruling. “We have not been put on notice and we are not aware.”
Deputy President, NLC Comrade Peters Adeyemi expressed disappointment in the FG saying “We cannot trust this government, we have to take our destiny in our hands.” He recalled that the President never believed in subsidy.
NLC Secretary General, Comrade Peter Ozo-Ezon accused Edo state Governor, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole and other people of betraying the Union and the citizens in general after they used such platforms to get to where they are today.
“Edo state Governor, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole is a disgrace and a betrayal to the Union. Some people who claim to be leaders rode on the basis of our trust to prominence like Adams Oshiomhole has betrayed us.
Speaking with one of the NLC official on why the number of protesters does not really speak of the NLC protest we all know, Nuhu Yahaya, he said that today was to sensitize the people and by tomorrow enforcement will began.
Comr Wada Yahaya, a Civil Servant, when asked why he is not observing the strike said that “no labour is on strike. The court gave the order that Labour should not go on strike so as a law abiding citizen, I can never be part of this movement.”
He also expressed disappointment on the leadership of the NLC stating that, “When it concerns other sector labour does not speak out. When the electricity tariff was increased we expected the labour to react but there didn’t , they are here because it concerns fuel subsidy which only the few elites benefits from. Their actions are on-called for. We should allow government to do the right thing because this fuel subsidy is only to enrich few elites.
The protest in Abuja was joined by the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who also wielded placards that read: “ASUU rejects hike in pump price of petrol”.
Also in Lagos, the strike failed to gain the expected momentum. The Labour union and some civil societies marched towards Ikeja from the Yaba office of the NLC.
The protester, who were led by one of the NLC’s deputy president, said they are not disrupting movement by motorist and other road users and that they are only out to sensitise Nigerians on the hardship being foisted on them by the present government.
Apart from disturbances witnessed in the Fadeyi area of the state, people have been going about their normal activities.
Policemen and officials of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, dispersed NLC members who assembled at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja around 8am.
The protesters subsequently regrouped outside the airport and formed a barricade which prevented commercial vehicles from gaining access to the airport, compounding the traffic situation on the ever busy road.
Reports from Delta State said NLC members locked out workers at the main secretariat in Asaba and government owned institutions.
The strike failed in the northern states of Kaduna, Sokoto, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, katsina, Jigawa, Borno, Kano and Bayelsa as at Wednesday morning. There was however partial compliance in Gombe, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Osun and Cross River States.
Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode barred NLC from proceeding with the strike, citing the ruling of the National Industrial Court.
“It has become unlawful for any person or group to either disrupt free movement of people and vehicles or prevent normal business activities,” the governor said in a statement; adding, “parents should warn their children and wards, particularly the vulnerable ones, not to allow themselves to be used or manipulated.”