A faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress led by Ayuba Wabba has justified why it went ahead with its nationwide strike despite a court injunction secured from the National Industrial Court by the Federal Government.
Wabba said the strike was meant to keep a date with the Federal Government and the people of Nigeria, especially on its neo-liberal policies and how it was causing hardship on the people.
It was gathered from some NEC members of NLC loyal to Wabba’s group that one of the major reasons why they embarked on the strike was because the Federal Government went to secure a court injunction from the Industrial Court while the negotiations whether to go on strike or not was still on the table.
The source also said the strike was to drive home a message to the government that it had the capacity to resist any anti-people government policy irrespective of whether its ranks had been infiltrated.
Wabba, in a short remark at Federal Secretariat, argued that an essential commodity like fuel ought not to be left to the whims and caprices of market forces because of the implications it has on the economy.
During a protest he led to the Federal Secretariat and Berger Junction in Abuja on Wednesday, Wabba said the government was fast deviating from people oriented programmes and promises it used in securing the mandate of Nigerians at the 2015 general elections.
He said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had neglected the people in such a short while after the general elections.
“Labour and particularly the Nigeria Labour Congress had said consistently that if policies are right, we will support it, but if promises are anti-people we will continue to resist it.
“We (NLC) have decided to stand by the people and attack those issues so that all of us will know the fact that we are committed to the struggle to ensure good governance and a transparent process for the good of Nigerians.
“That is why we are here today to resist this policy of saying that we must allow market forces to drive the pump price of this very essential product,” Wabba said.
Meanwhile the Federal Secretariat car park near Eagle Square, Abuja was filled to capacity as 80percent of the civil servants did not comply with the strike.
Banks and other commercial activities around the Three Arms zone and Central Business Districts (CBD) including activities at the National Assembly went on unhindered.
Although there was heavy security presence around the secretariat, the rally staged by NLC went on peacefully.
Most of the protesters carried placards with inscriptions like, “Government make our refineries work, importation is not the answer,” APC – All Promises Cancelled”, “A lying government is a corrupt government”, “Build more refineries to add value”.
While the protest was on, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita sent out a circular to all Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) of government, directing workers to make sure they report to duty daily and punctually.
The circular, which was signed on behalf of the HOS by the Permanent Secretary, Common Services Office (CSO) in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr S.K.Y. Adelakun reads as follow:
“In response to the pronouncement by the Trade Union Congress calling off the industrial action scheduled to commence today, the Federal Government has directed all civil servants to report to duty.
“The circular also directs all Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Extra- Ministerial departments to ensure strict compliance to the directive”.
Isa Aremu, General Secretary of National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) who also participated in the protest, said government was using the fuel price hike as an indirect means to devalue the Naira.
According to Aremu, the Presidency was already succumbing to those policies that made the current opposition party, the PDP unpopular in the country.
He noted that it behooves the labour movement to salvage the government from those obnoxious policies that trailed the last administration, hence the protest.
He said it was unjustified that government effected an increase in pump of the fuel without a commensurate boost in infrastructure.
He said, “How can you increase tariff of electricity with almost 50 per cent and there is no light, this is just too much for the common man as a lot of people are suffering.
“Government must understand the plight of the masses as all hands are not equal and this kind of suffering must not continue.
“If for anything, this protest should serve as a means to make the President have a rethink on issues that are affecting the Nigerian people”.
Dipo Fashina, Chairman, Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LACSCO), said the increase of PMS was a subversion of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria that should be condemned in all totality.