Economic activities may breakdown as a nationwide protest by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) looms, Nigerian NewsDirect report.
Parent body of labour groups in Nigeria, NLC, on Thursday disclosed it has concluded plans to mobilise workers for a nationwide protest.
The body, it was gathered, has been induced into the intending protest by unsavoury circumstances, among which are the over four months closure of public universities, following strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), worsening record of cost and scarcity of petroleum products, as well as hardship related to bad economic vicissitudes, eroding purchasing power.
The organised labour in its resolve identified the inability of the Federal Government to settle its differences with ASUU and three other four university-based unions that led to closure of public universities.
It would be recalled that ASUU had on February 14, 2022 announced a four-week warning strike, a development that has extended till now, following irreconcilable differences between the union and the government.
Three other University-based unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU); and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) – later joined the strike.
Following its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Thursday, the NLC resolved to embark on a nationwide strike two weeks from now, over what it believed as an adamant posture of the government to resolve its face-off with the university unions, among other administrative defaults in governance.
It was gathered the organised labour may take the protest ahead to a short-term strike, should the Government after convening the protest, fails to address the issues surrounding the protest, a development that may culminate into a full blown strike.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba at the NEC meeting on Thursday, said the one-day nationwide protest would be to compel the Federal Government to immediately resolve issues with the university unions in the education sector.
Wabba who decried the continued closure of public universities due to unresolved labour disputes between the Federal Government and the unions, lamented how efforts to meet the Government have failed.
He recalled that in the last decision, Congress went to the extent of writing to President Muhammadu Buhari and gave a 21-day notice for them to converge a very high-powered meeting.
“We demanded that the meeting should be chaired either by the Secretary of Government of the Federation (SGF) or the Chief of Staff to the President, for this issue to be resolved once and for all.
“That meeting was called, but from the reports that I have been receiving from all the unions in the education sector, we have found out that progress has not been made.
“The timeline of three weeks that was given to that committees for all reports to be turned in and for government to be able to make the decision, that has not taken place,” he added.
The NLC President, however, alleged that there was reluctance by the Federal Government in addressing the issues.
He said the decision to embark on the one-day national protest was imperative as children of the poor have continued to remain at home.
“Therefore, Central Working Committee has decided that there will be a one-day national protest. This is to call the attention of the government to resolve the issue immediately.
“We have also asked all our affiliates by the next one week to issue statements,” he said.
He also said that the Central Working Committee had observed that there was an increase in terms of social vices, which would be traced to the fact that those children had been at home for months and many problems had been made.
The strike by the University stakeholders had informed sub-committees set up by the government on renegotiation to address disagreement over payment platforms.
However, as expected, the sub-committees were unable to submit their reports before Wednesday as planned.
Recall the Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige had said that the committees were expected to submit their reports before Wednesday for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes, and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), had met on Thursday last week to assess the progress made so far on addressing the demands of the striking university workers.
The demands revolve around contentions on payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service by the unions.
The committees are reporting to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The Minister of Labour and Employment had in a statement on Sunday said that the meeting which had in attendance all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU.
He had said, “It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.”
Fuel Scarcity, cost of petroleum products
Another leg of the inducing factor informing the intending protest, Wabba decried, was the lingering scarcity and cost of petroleum products, with long queue discomfort across the country.
He lamented the Nigeria irreconcilable huge dependence on imported petroleum products for local consumption, amidst the rich depth endowment of oil resources.
According to Wabba, unbalanced structure of high dependence has brought about dire consequences on productivity, economy, and wellbeing of the citizens.
“For instance, diesel is now selling at more than N800 per liter. It is unfortunate that Nigeria despite being a major oil-producing country has continued to fail to refine her own crude oil.
“The result of this, is the net total of 100 percent importation of refined petroleum product are brought into Nigeria.
“The consequence is the heavy hemorrhage of our national coffers especially given our most important challenged which has also brought about the long queues in almost all the filling stations,” the NLC president lamented.
He also noted that the situation had affected the purchasing power of many Nigerians, while impacting businesses negatively with hardship forcing many out of operations, following rising cost.
Wabba decried the controversies surrounding fuel subsidy, mentioning that the only way out of same is to take the discourse beyond whether there is a subsidy or not, but to facilitate domestic production of petroleum products for local use.
Also, the organised labour further condemned the recent sack of over 3,000 teachers by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.