Nigerian workerd appear to be defying the courts as they insist they will begin a nationwide, indefinite strike from midnight of Nov. 14. The Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has joined.
Implication: there will be darkness across the land.
Worse, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has joined the fray, leading to fears of a total shut-down of the country from 12.01 a.m.
The NUEE in a notice signed by Dominic Igwebike, Acting General Secretary of the Union, requested all national, State and Chapter executives to mobilize members to comply with the strike by NLC and TUC.
“With reference to NLC NEC meeting of today; 13th November 2023 and the joint communique from NLC and TUC dated 7 November 2023 on nationwide withdrawal service on 14th November 2023 if the government refused to address the issues raised from the shortfall of the atrocious event in Imo State on the 1st of November 2023, we affirm that the nationwide strike will commence as stipulated on Tuesday 14th November 2023.
“To this effect, all National, State and Chapter executives are requested to start the mobilization of our members in total compliance with this directive.
“Please note that withdrawal of Services nationwide commences from 00:00 hours of Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Please ensure total compliance,” the notice reads.
Labour is protesting the physical attack and brutalisation of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, Imo State 13 days ago by persons believed to have been sponsored by the Imo State government.
Ajaero alleged that he was picked by policemen who handed him over to thugs that beat him silly, dragging him on the ground.
The NLC had declared a protest in Imo, led by Ajaero on Nov. 1, over alleged anti-workers’ policies and non-payment of 20-month salary arrears by the state government. It was during that protest that Ajaero got the beating of his life.
The police have since denied Ajaero’s claim of its complicity, claiming its men actually took the Labour chief into protective custody to save him from thugs.
After initially seeming to justify the attack, Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, offered a quick apology on the eve of last Saturday’s gubernatorial election he contested, and was announced winner on Sunday. He won with an unbelievably wide margin, amid protests from opponents in other parties.
Meanwhile, Mr Festus Osifo, President of Trade Union Congress(TUC), at a joint news conference with the NLC on Monday in Abuja said the two Labour unions have resolved to stand firmly by the decision of their joint National Executive Councils (NECs) that was held last week Tuesday.
He said “effective from midnight on 14 November, we shall declare a nationwide strike.
“All affiliates of the TUC and NLC, and all state councils of the two unions have been mobilised adequately.
“This is going to be indefinite until governments at all levels wake up to their responsibilities.
“This is the decision of the joint NEC of NLC and TUC and we are going to carry it out to the letter,” he said.
The TUC president, however, noted that for the Labour unions to suspend their strike, the government must investigate the issues surrounding the attack on Ajaero, adding that all those involved in the attack on Ajaeromust be prosecuted or disciplined.
“We are also demanding for the immediate ‘restoration’ of all properties lost.
“We also call for urgent implementation of all the outstanding Industrial Relations agreements previously entered into with the Imo government,” he said.
ASUU said it declared its nationwide industrial strike action in solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Its President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, in a statement, directed all members of the academic union to join the industrial strike action of the NLC.
“The Nigeria Labour Congress at a Joint National Executive Council (NEC) of NLC and TUC directed all affiliate Unions to commence withdrawal of services with effect from 12:00 midnight today 13th November, 2023.
“As an affiliate of NLC, all members of our union are hereby directed to join this action of NLC to protect the interest of Nigerian workers and the Leadership of the Union.
“Zonal Coordinators and Branch Chairpersons should immediately mobilize our member to participate in the action. A people united, cannot be defeated”.
In its reaction, the Presidency talked tough, too.
Mr. Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, said the strike is an attempt to blackmail the government.
His words: “We notice with dismay the decision by the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress to call out workers to commence a strike action from midnight, despite a restraining order issued last week by Justice Benedict Backwash Kanyip of the National Industrial Court.
“This decision by the NLC and TUC other than being an ego tripping move is clearly unwarranted. It is an attempt to blackmail the government by the leadership of the NLC.
“We are still at a loss as to why the NLC and TUC decided to punish a whole country of over 200million people over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero, whose error of judgment led to assault on him in Owerri while he was planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike.
“While the Federal government does not condone any form of violence and assault on any citizen of Nigeria regardless of his or her social and economic status, it is on record that the Inspector General of Police has ordered investigation into what happened to Mr. Ajaero while the Commissioner of Police in Imo State under whose watch the incident happened has been transferred out of the state.
“Calling out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader despite a clear court order against any industrial action amounts to an abuse of privilege. Power at any level should never be used to settle personal scores. Rather, it should be used to promote collective progress and advance national interest.
“Our national economy and social activities should not suffer because of the personal interest of any labour leader.
“This flagrant disobedience to court order and lack of respect for the judiciary should not be what the organised Labour would champion.
“The labour movement has always been a champion of rule of law and respect for the judiciary. It is a sad irony that the current labour leaders have shown disdain and utter disregard for court order.
“We reiterate that this strike action is illegal, immoral, unjustifiable and irresponsible. What the strike notice issued Monday night after official hours suggests is it’s designed for a sinister and hidden agenda to cause undue hardship and cause civil disturbance in our country. This is unacceptable.”