Fuel subsidy protest: Security watch on NLC, TUC leaders

fuel subsidy

By Felix Durumbah, Andrew Orolua

There is a secret web of plans to ”do in” the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Joe Ajaero, his colleague in Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, and some labour leaders, Daily Times gathered at the weekend.

The plans are reportedly being hatched in the nation’s security agencies.

The development came as NLC accused Federal Government (FG) of insensitivity over the fuel price issue, insisting that Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), more popularly known as petrol, can be sold for as low as N150 a litre to Nigerians, with Executive will and true patriotic fervour.

NLC President, Ajaero, who spoke in a separate interview with Daily Times, explained that should FG adopt labour’s views on the fuel crisis, it will see petrol price plummet.

Daily Times was told that some elements in the FG felt ”highly embarrassed” by the labour leaders’ refusal, despite threats, to back down from organizing the Wednesday, August 2 nationwide protest against fuel subsidy removal and rising fuel prices without any palliatives –which turned out successful as many suffering Nigerians warmly embraced and freely participated in the industrial action.

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Sources said the particular officials were livid seeing media photographs of labour leaders in handshake with President Bola Tinubu in the evening of the protest, following presidential intervention in the industrial action.

The labour leaders had been invited by the President for talks over the former’s demands for executive action to end the harsh socio-economic consequences of the fuel price hike on the masses -demands which were partially secured as Tinubu announced, among others, that Port Harcourt refineries would recommence operation in December while the FG/Labour Committee on Negotiations on Subsidy Removal palliatives will begin sitting soon.

Perceived as a victory for labour, the subsequent withdrawal of the bid by the FG to get the National Industrial Court (NIC) to commit the labour leaders to a correctional facility for allegedly disobeying an order of the court not to protest or strike, was interpreted by these elements as ”one step too far and one concession too many for labour.”

Daily Times further gathered that subsequently a group moved in to hatch a plot to use the security agencies to hound the NLC and TUC leaders.

The group allegedly sees the rising public profile of the labour leaders as a possible future hindrance to ”other economic actions the administration will unleash on Nigerians and so seeks to intimidate, cage or even imprison them to pave the way for smooth execution of the alleged anti-people, anti-poor policies.”

Asked what form the plot was taking, the sources stated that, among others, fresh charges were allegedly being framed to ”rope them in, but it is not just court matter alone as they are fashioning a cocktail of sledgehammers that would cripple the nation’s labour movement.”

”Their cold calculation is that if labour leaders are allowed free rein as seen presently, even the many tax policies in the works to fill government coffers, will not work. They say labour leaders ask too many questions and wonder why they weren’t so active during the Buhari years. So, the option is to put them away to enable government policies ‘breathe’,” the sources said.

Telephone calls put through to the spokespersons of Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and Department of State Service (DSS), Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Olumuyiwa Adejobi and Dr. Peter Afunnaya, respectively were not returned as at the time of this report.

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