•FG obtains fresh restraining order as Ngige warns against lawlessness
•Strike will worsen economy, governors tell labour
•HoS directs civil servants to ignore NLC, TUC
Festus Akanbi in Lagos, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
In defiance of all entreaties and subtle threats from the federal government, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are set to commence their planned strike on Monday as they frantically continued with the mobilisation of their members across the country yesterday.
The unions had given the strike notice to reverse the recent increase in petrol price and the hike in electricity tariffs. However, in spite of some desperate moves on the part of the federal government to stave off the industrial action, labour leaders insisted that the strike would commence on Monday.
The meeting between the federal government and representatives of the organised labour on Thursday was adjourned till Monday following the failure of both parties to agree. The two unions were expected to consult with their various organs at the weekend in order to review a cocktail of palliatives being dangled by the federal government.
However, in an apparent bid to outsmart the leadership of the organised labour, the federal government yesterday obtained a fresh order from the National Industrial Court stopping the NLC and the TUC from embarking on their planned strike.
Speaking with one of our correspondents yesterday, TUC President, Mr. Quadri Olaleye, said the Monday strike would proceed as planned, explaining that the labour unions cannot call off the strike until the agreement is signed.
He said, “Although government proposed some palliatives to cushion the effect of the hardship, we insisted that they should revert to the old price regimes in the oil and power sectors, while we are looking at the palliatives.
Definitely, that is the position as at today (yesterday). We cannot call off the strike till the agreement is signed,” Quadri insisted.
His position was corroborated by the Secretary General of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugbaja, who told our correspondent that there is no going back on Monday strike. Ugbaja told THISDAY that mobilisation for the Monday’s strike would go on throughout the weekend.
NUPENG, Civil Service Union Join Strike
Also, the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum And Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Civil Service Union yesterday directed their members to get ready to participate actively in the nationwide protest slated to commence on Monday.
In a statement directing NUPENG members to mobilise for the industrial action, the union’s General Secretary, Comrade Afolabi Olawale, said: “You are hereby directed to mobilise all our formal and informal sectors members in your Zone to adequately mobilize for the successful execution of this resolution. You are further directed to set up task forces in your Zone to enforce this very important directive”.
In the same vein, General Secretary of the Nigerian Civil Service Union, Comrade Yahaya Ndako directed its members to comply with the resolve to shut down the country’s economy due to failure of the federal government to reverse the hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs.
The NLC President, Aliyu Wabba, had on Thursday dismissed the order of the Industrial court stopping the strike, saying he had not been served, adding that the group that filed the suit was not his employers.
He asked, “How does that (injunction) affect me if I have not been served? Have I been served? Are they our employers? What relationship do I have with any group?”
Ngige Warns Against Lawlessness
Meanwhile, the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige has appealed to the labour leaders to obey the court order restraining them from embarking on the strike.
Ngige told THISDAY yesterday that it was important for the leadership of the labour unions to respect the court orders restraining them from going ahead with the strike on Monday.
He disclosed that the ministry had followed the directive of the National Industrial Court, by publishing its proceedings in three national dailies on Friday, saying any excuse that they did not have copies of the court pronouncement would amount to a fraud.
He explained that the federal government would continue to explore ways to stave off the planned industrial dispute throughout the weekend, by reaching out to the leadership of the NLC) and the TUC.
HoS Directs Civil Servants to Ignore Labour
Also yesterday, the federal government issued a circular through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, warning civil servants not to heed the call of the labour leaders for the controversial strike.
The circular, signed by the Head of Service, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, directed all officers on Grade Level 12 and above and those on essential services to be at work to perform their official duties.
She enjoined all Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers of parastatals and agencies to bring the contents of the circular to the attention of all concerned officers and ensure strict compliance.
Restraining Order against Strike
The restraining order of yesterday was issued by the same judge (Justice Ibrahim Galadima, of the National Industrial Court in Abuja), who gave a similar order on Thursday.
The order followed an ex parte application by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
This followed an ex parte application moved by federal government’s team comprising of the duo of Acting Director of the Department Civil Litigation of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru and Mr. Tijjani Gazali.
The court restrained the unions, their officers, affiliates, privies from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or its affiliates or ordinary Nigerians from “accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on the 28th September 2020 or any other date”.
Also granted is an order compelling the inspector-general of police and the director-general, Department of State Services (DSS) to provide protection for workers “engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice”.
Also governors of the 36 states of the federation have appealed to the labour unions to exercise caution over the planned nationwide strike. The governors said that any industrial strike at this moment will worsen the economic situation in the country.
The governors said they support the removal of fuel subsidy, saying subsidy promotes corruption and loss of revenue to all tiers of government and job loss.
The governors, in a communique after their virtual meeting chaired by the vice chairman, who is also the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambawul resolved to “intercede with the labour unions, the Federal Government and other stakeholders. They called on the labour to exercise caution, noting that any such action will worsen the already deteriorating economic situation of the workers brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.