No Going Back on Strike, Protest, Labour Insists

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have declared that there is no going back on the decision to start a nationwide protest against the recent rise in the price of petrol and an increase in electricity tariffs in the country beginning from Monday, September 28.

The National Executive Committee of NLC met yesterday and endorsed the earlier two-week notice issued by the Central Working Committee (CWC), saying that on September 28, it will in collaboration with other unions and civil society allies ground activities in the country if the federal government fails to reverse the recent hike in the price of petrol and electricity tariffs.

While addressing journalists on the outcome of the NEC meeting, NLC’s President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said yesterday that the union rejected the petrol price increase as well as hike in electricity tariffs approved by the federal government.

He said: “NEC’s decision is premised on the fact that the government’s two decisions along with others, including the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) to 7.5 per cent, including numerous charges charged by banks will further impoverish Nigerian citizens.

“Therefore, this increase in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is not only ill-timed but is also counter-productive. NEC also observed that the privatisation of the electricity subsector, five years down the line has not yielded any positive result.

“Whereas the entire privatised electricity assets were sold for N400 billion, the congress is surprised that the federal government within the last three years has injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that was used to sell these very important national assets.

“Thus, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatisation process has failed and the hike in tariffs was only a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians.”

On the issue of privatisation of refineries and increase in the price of petrol, Wabba said that NEC believed that the government’s argument has not changed from what it used to be.

He said that whether it is about partial deregulation or full deregulation or subsidy removal, the matter has always been about an increase in the price of petroleum products.

He lamented that the price increase has eroded the gains of the new minimum wage granted Nigerian workers and increased the cost of living for all Nigerians.

He said NEC demanded that deregulation should not be import-driven and that the nation’s three refineries be made to work optimally.

He said NEC believed that the federal government has business in doing business in the downstream sector, just like other oil-producing countries, which have government-owned refineries.

“In light of all these, NEC decided to endorse the two-week ultimatum given to the federal government to reverse those obnoxious decisions and also endorse the action proposed by the Central Working Committee that September 28 will be the date that those actions will be challenged by Nigerian workers, civil society allies and other labour unions,” he said.

TUC said after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilisation strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest the price increases resolved that the congress is going to work in collaboration with its sister labour centre, NLC and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike.

In a statement signed by TUC President, Mr. Quadri Olaleye; and Secretary-General, Mr. Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the union said its ultimatum, which expired last night has been shifted to Monday, September 28, 2020, for effective and maximum effect.

TUC stated: “We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts.”

The union said there is no need for the current pains and hardship that the federal government is subjecting Nigerians to by the price increases.

“It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills,” it stated.

The TUC added: “As at today, about eight states are yet to commence the payment of new minimum wage and its consequential adjustment even though the president signed it into law on April 18, 2019. We have written letters to the governors and also engaged them in dialogue but all to no avail. Sometimes we wonder if these people have a conscience at all.”

The Congress urged all Nigerians to get ready for the unprecedented mass action against corruption, obnoxious policies, rape and other violent offences, breach of collective agreement and unemployment.

“We also call on the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, etc. to support our struggle by placing indefinite VISA ban on our political leaders