There are speculations that President Bola Tinubu plans to use his Independence Day address to neutralise the planned total strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), but details of the palliatives are still under wraps.
When it was first reported that the Mr Olajide Oshundun, Director of Press and Public Relationsin the Ministry of Labour and Employment allegedly let a bit of the cat out of the bag that the President would announce a wage increase for workerd, he quickly retracted, insisting in another statement he did not own the words ascribed to him.
But speaking with journalists after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, tacitly confirmed Tinubu’s plans when he appealed to the Labour unions to shelve their planned strike because the welfare of Nigerian workers would form part of the issues the President would address in his maiden Independence Day broadcast to Nigerians on Sunday.
He urged the leadership of the organised labour to be patient with the Federal Government and give more time for dialogue.
Said he: “Council noted the notice by the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress to proceed on an indefinite strike from October 3, 2023.
“The Council noted further the implication of this strike for the economy and the nation and thus urged members to continue to engage with the leadership of their respective states and to appeal to them to shelve the action and continue on the path of dialogue with the federal government. This is the appeal of Council”.
Mutfwang said that many of them were just coming out of prolonged industrial strikes, adding that enforcing a new strike at this time would further damage the economy.
He adds: “NEC actually expressed genuine concern on the situation in the country and appreciates the concern by Labour to have those issues addressed. That is why NEC is appealing for patience, appealing for time to be able to address the concerns of Labour. We also believe that Mr. President will be addressing the nation first of October and some of the concerns of Labour will be appropriately addressed in the President’s speech.
“It is therefore important that… it’s a federation, so whatever happens Labour is represented in all the 36 states and the FCT and NEC is appealing that discussions should continue at the state levels because there will be peculiarities as to the issues to be addressed concerning the demands of Labour, 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. To ask them to go back immediately, it’s going to further damage the economy.
“Therefore NEC, while expressing genuine concern about the situation in the country, appeals for calm and patience and I want to believe that the leadership across the nation at this point in time wants to truly address the issues that concern Labour and the general populace and move the country forward”.
Mutfwang’s appeal comes two days after the labour leaders announced they will commence an indefinite strike on Tuesday, October 3.
They asked their state chapters to mobilise for protests across the country, while admonishing Nigerians to stockpile food and other needs.
The dreaded National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) went a step further to tells its members, including petrol tanker drivers, petrol station attendants, to join the strike.
The Labour Party immediately took the side of workers, saying workers have shown enough patience and understanding.
Its full statement reads:
The leadership of the Labour Party is in support of any legitimate means to be deployed by Nigerian workers to press for better generations. The party therefore fully supports the resolution of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on an industrial action slated to commence as of Tuesday, October 3rd.
We have followed with keen interest, in the last four months, various meetings between Organized Labour and various government bodies including the President of the Senate, the presidency, and the ministers of Labour as well as all the efforts made by the Labour leadership to get the government understand the magnitude of sufferings government policies have thrown Nigerian Workers and the entire populace into since the enthronement of this administration.
Labour Party is not in any way surprised at the government’s apparent indifference, insensitivity, intransigence, and recalcitrant posture towards the genuine demands of the Labour bodies because their usurpation of power was not sanctioned by both the workers and generality of Nigerians. Nigerians went to the polls with clear conviction of the government they wanted but this was denied them through institutional conspiracy. Today, Nigerian workers are being punished for taking a stand during the February 25 Presidential Election.
Labour Party is also aware of the sordid conditions which workers, the majority of them being our members, are subjected to, whereby many of them go to the office on a Monday and are forced by the prevailing economic challenges, to sleep in their offices all through to Friday before they return home.
Labour Party is surprised that the government claimed that it has removed subsidies on Petroleum products and that it now generates over a trillion naira monthly, yet it finds it difficult to address workers’ demands. Daily, Nigerians are subjected to harsh economic realities where the inflation rate is nearing 30 percent, where a dollar is sold above N1000, and where par-capital income has depreciated. Many families are withdrawing their wards from schools over a hike in school fees, while criminal activities are surging daily.
We think that the Nigerian workers have shown enough patience and understanding.
We are also using this medium to inform all our members and supporters to stock their homes with their necessary needs ahead of a long-drawn mass action until victory is ascertained.
No retreat, no surrender.