The lingering labor faction crisis in the country which respected Nigerians especially past notable labor leaders have been unable to attend effectively is a waiting time bomb that will be catastrophic if it eventually explodes. Currently it is an open fact that the parent Nigeria labor Congress, NLC, is now factionalized. A new labor union, the United Labor Congress, ULC, has emerged. It opted out from the main labor centre and has several affiliates. Chief among the partners are the all powerful, National union of petroleum and Natural gas workers, NUPENG, and the national union of electricity workers, two critical labour units, which are significant affiliates to any parent union whether the old or the new. The lists of the formidable partnership are however endless as more and more unions are reportedly wooed day -by –day by the promoters, Peter Ajaero and Igwe Agese who double as President and deputy president of the new body respectively. Though 18 industrial unions were reported to be physically present at the unveiling, the new labor centre is said to have more than 25 industrial unions and senior staff associations affiliated to it. Among the affiliates listed are ANAP Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, CANMPSSAN, Fitters Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, FISSAN, NUBIFIE, NUEE, NUPENG, National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees, NUSDE, Nigeria Union of Mine Workers, NUMW, Nigeria Union of Railway men, NUR, Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, SEWUN, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ISSSAN, Metal Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, MEPROSSAN, Precision, Electrical and Related Equipment Senior Staff Association, PRESESSA, and Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, ASURI. Before unveiling the new body last year, December, 17,2016, in Lagos, ULC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero had told the delegates that they were not contesting with anybody or faction, but were engaging in this new path because of the exigency of the moment
But Speaking during the inauguration, he promised to work with other progressive groups and organizations including unions to better the lots of workers and ordinary Nigerians. He added that “we are ready to fight for the interest of workers in line with the constitution of Nigeria.”
Corroborating his principal’s remarks, the deputy president of the new labor outfit, Igwe Achese said it was sad that workers have been abandoned to suffer without salaries across. He accused the states, including the Federal Government for the sufferings Nigerian workers were going through in the country. He said, “You ask where is labor when all these are going on and you will not get a convincing answer. I believe we have a responsibility to these workers. That is why we are here to celebrate the beginning of a new hope for workers.” comrade Achese further explained. Flowing from the concise remarks by the arrow heads, its cork sure that a new body has berthed. But the question is, why have a third labor centre, in addition to the Nigeria labor Congress, NLC,and the Trade Union Congress, TUC. Is it that the new group will be better off to fight for the welfare of workers the way they have sounded? What can then be the difference between the old NLC and the new group? The new ULC relies on the Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005, by the Federal Government headed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to come into existence. Though reports from the Registrar of Trade unions indicate that formalities to register the ULC were still ongoing, but again aligned with this background, are intrigues uncovered signifying the hand of the federal government in the making of the new outfit. Speaking on the issue, the secretary general of the Nigeria labor congress, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, accused the government of being the brain behind the Ajero faction, which has applied to be registered as a labor union. He said that it was the federal government’s hidden support for the new United Labor Congress, ULC, led by factional leaders, Joe Ajero, and Igwe Ajese that has given impetus to its formation. In truth we seem to agree that there is government hand in this new labor centre. In 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo perfected the plan to break the NLC by amending the trade union Act which resulted in the formation of two centers in the country today, NLC and TUC. Again this is not different from what is happening now, as the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government appears to repeating the 2005 feat of former president Olusgun Obasanjo to weaken any strong labor force through its ranks, it is though needless to ask at this juncture what this administration really wants, or desire to achieve by supporting a new labor centre, the reason is simple and not farfetched, get at labor leadership, break their ranks and create a centre which it can influence and promote anti workers laws and policies. Time and again it is noteworthy to drum it to government that gone are the days of anti government policies, democracy, rule of law and civility has brought so much enlightenment to the workers to know their rights and wrongs. For us, the interests of workers are better served under one unified centre, and not the other way round.
Factionalization of the NLC is not good for the country now, as in time past, the NLC stood as the defender of the people in the face of harsh government policies and no anti government movement in the country ever succeeded without the support of the NLC. So we plead with meaningful and respected Nigerians as well as past labor leaders to settle the rift between the factions because it is so unfortunate that the NLC which everybody, every government once feared will now become a toothless bulldog. Imagine the last fuel subsidy withdrawal protest, indiscriminate electricity tariff increase and many labor infractions by this government .For instance, NLC declared a strike action which the other faction declined to join. These are labor challenges of the moment, but regrettably government’s hidden desire to accomplish, a divided labor. However while the groups must continue to imbibe the generally accepted and age long slogan that ‘’united will stand, divided’ll fall’’, we urge both sides to set aside ego and allow common sense to prevail. This is because it is to the benefit of Nigerian workers to have a strong labor union and efforts of the three dramatis personae, Ayuba Wabba, Joe Ajero and Igwe Ajesse must strive to return the NLC to the its old glorious days. And the time is now.


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