NLC’ll call off proposed indefinite strike, if-official


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By Felix Durumbah, Ukpono Ukpong

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) appears not sold on yesterday’s promise by the National Economic Council (NEC) that President Bola Tinubu’s Independence Day broadcast will address the concerns of Labour, which is already mobilizing for a nationwide indefinite strike beginning Tuesday, 3 October.

Labour called the strike over what it saw as Federal Government (FG)’s insensitivity to the adverse effects of its (government’s) removal of fuel subsidy on workers and ordinary Nigerians. It took recourse to the strike option after the expiry last week of a 21-day ultimatum issued government.

The NEC, a constitutional organ, which is headed by the Vice President, and comprises the 36 State Governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other co-opted Government officials, has the mandate to advise the President concerning the economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the coordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various Governments of the Federation.

Addressing State House correspondents after yesterday’s NEC meeting at the Presidential Villa, Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, appealed for more time from NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to enable the FG address all their concerns.

Mutfwang said: “Council noted the notice by the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress to proceed on an indefinite strike from October 3 2023.

.”NEC actually expressed genuine concern about the situation in the country and appreciates the concern by Labour to have those issues addressed.

“That is why NEC is appealing for patience, is appealing for time to be able to address the concerns of Labour. We also believe that Mr. President will be addressing the nation on the first of October, and some of the concerns of Labour will be appropriately addressed in the President’s speech.”

Contacted by The Daily Times last night on the latter pronouncement by the NEC spokesman (Gov. Mutfwang), NLC said that from all indications, the FG was not serious about ameliorating the dire straits with which Nigerian workers and ordinary people had been overburdened by the fuel subsidy removal.

NLC Head of Information and Public Affairs, Mr. Benson Upah said Labour had its first contact with FG on the matter on 5 June this year, expressing disgust that since then, government had been foot-dragging on agreeing with Labour tangible measures to mitigate the geometrically rising poverty occasioned by the subsidy removal issue.

According to him, even during past meetings on the matter, FG failed to show any seriousness while the masses suffered tremendously from the aftermath of the subsidy removal.

To him, FG may not come up with anything tangible at this point.

Asked what it would take to call off the planned strike, Upah said: ”It will take strong political will by government to do that.”

Such will, he stressed, must accommodate all the demands of Labour on how to mitigate the suffering being experienced by workers and other persons.

On that basis, he stated, Labour can suspend the proposed strike.

Mutfwang , on his part, added: “Council noted further the implication of this strike on the economy and the nation and thus urge members to continue to engage with the leadership of their respective states and also appeal to them to shelve the action and continue the path of them with the Federal Government.

“NEC actually expressed genuine concern about the situation in the country and appreciates the concern by Labour to have those issues addressed.

Speaking further, he said that it was important for Organized Labour to de-centralise the dialogue to the state level, noting that there will be peculiarities as to the issues to be addressed concerning the demands of Labour.

His words: “So, whatever happens, Labour is represented in all the 36 states and FCT and NEC is appealing that discussion should continue at the state levels because there will be peculiarities as to the issues to be addressed concerning the demands of Labour and therefore dialogue is the way to go.

“The nation is at a very critical moment at this time. Some of the states, when they took over on May 29, the workers were on strike. Some of those issues have just been resolved for the workers to return to work and to ask them to go back immediately, it’s going to further damage the economy.

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“Therefore, while NEC is expressing genuine concerns about the situation in the country, appeals for calm and patience, I want to believe that the leadership across the nation, at this point in time, wants to truly address the issues that concern the Labour and the general populace and move the country forward.”

Meanwhile, NLC has stated that no agreement has been reached with FG to postpone the indefinite strike.

In a statement issued by Upah, NLC said no meetings with the government had been scheduled.

The statement read: “Accordingly, we find it necessary to make clarifications. Firstly, we do not have any agreement with the government to suspend the planned strike action. Neither do we have any date for a meeting with government that may lead to the suspension of the proposed strike.

“While we do not intend to demean or minimise the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, this matter is beyond the Ministry. This should have been obvious to them during our most recent meeting.

“Secondly, while we appreciate the role played by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, in securing the release of the executives of the National Union of Road Transport Workers from unlawful/illegal police detention, we take exception to the ministry describing these executives as factional leaders.”

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