N’Assembly’s Timely Intervention in Labour Crisis

Udora Orizu highlights the swift intervention by the National Assembly leadership, which contributed to the end of the industrial action embarked upon last week by organised labour to protest the recent brutalisation of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Chris Ajaero, in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Last week, there was a sigh of relief as Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) suspended their indefinite nationwide strike, following a meeting between its leadership and the federal government.

The meeting came as the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives took swift steps to resolve the imbroglio.

The labour unions and their affiliates including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, had on November 14, 2023 begun a nationwide strike, in protest to the brutalisation of the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in Imo State on 1 November. He was reportedly attacked in Owerri, the state capital, during an NLC protest against the Imo State Government over alleged maltreatment of workers in the state.

NLC had earlier listed six conditions it said must be met by the federal government before it could call off the strike. Some of the conditions contained in a series of posts via its official X handle included “the arrest and prosecution of Special Adviser to the Imo State Governor on Special Duties, ChinasaNwaneri, police officers, as well as thugs involved in the attack on NLC President Joe Ajaero in Owerri, and arrest, prosecution and dismissal of Chief Security Officer in Imo State Government House, identified as SP Shaba”.

But, after a meeting with the National Security Adviser (NSA), MallamNuhuRibadu, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) suspended the two-day old nationwide strike.

Ribadu, had earlier, in wading into the crisis, announced that those believed to have attacked Ajaero had been arrested and were already in custody. The labour leaders took their discussion with the NSA to both congresses extra-ordinary joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting where the decision to suspend the strike was reached.

Welcoming the decision, the House of Representatives, commended the Office of the National Security Adviser for its efforts, noting that it’s for the benefit of all Nigerians.

How N’Assembly Helped

Recall that the 10th House of Representatives led by  Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, in its Legislative Agenda,  promised to intervene in national challenges and ensure the welfare of citizens are protected at all times.

In agenda 1 of its mission statement, titled ‘strengthening good governance’, the 10th House took into cognisance the fact that the rule of law is a fundamental principle of good governance, and plays a crucial role in ensuring a just and equitable society.

The lawmakers expressed their commitment towards ensuring that all individuals, institutions, and entities, including the government, are accountable to and governed by laws that are applied consistently and fairly.

They noted that promoting human rights protection is an essential aspect of democracy, which requires a multifaceted approach, involving various stakeholders such as the government, civil society organizations, international bodies, and the general populace.

In line with the agenda, the House prior to the meeting between the unions and the Federal Government, appealed to organisedlabour to call off their strike and embrace dialogue.

The federal lawmakers who were concerned about the industrial action which paralysed economic activities in most parts of the country, at the plenary on November 15, 2023 resolved to intervene by engaging relevant parties towards ending the national impasse.

This resolution followed its adoption of a motion moved by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, on the need to intervene in the face-off between OrganisedLabour and the Federal Government.

A similar motion was moved same day at the Senate, summoning an emergency meeting with the labour leaders to address the issue.

Applying legislative ingenuity, Kalu urged his colleagues to engage with the Senate counterpart and the leadership of the organisedlabour to find lasting solution to their demands.

He also urged the NLC to have faith in the parliament and agree to a dialogue.

The Deputy Speaker said, “If you go to our legislative agenda which we unveiled yesterday, on page 10, Mr Speaker, the mission statement of your administration which I’m gladly a part of, states, ‘Nigeria faces numerous challenges across various sectors and legislative interventions are crucial for addressing these issues and driving positive change’. The next paragraph states ‘critically as People’s Representatives, we recognise that Nigerians and our constituents have the right to know what issues are being addressed and what priorities their elected representatives focus on. This transparency enhances public trust and accountability. Accordingly, we have dubbed the 10th House the people’s house. Mr Speaker this is the people’s house, dubbed by You and I and all the leaders of this assembly.

“You went on to say that this agenda seeks to foster meaningful public engagement and encourage citizens and stakeholders participate in debates, hearing and consultation related to the identifed priorities. Mr Speaker, based on these references made to your documented mission statement and your commitment you made to Nigerians the day we emerged to lead the 10th Assembly, it will be unworthy of us to feign ignorance of what’s happening in our country at the moment. Today we were called early in the morning not to come for sitting, that the rooms are going to be locked and those that put on lights will not be there. But on a second call I was told that you braved it and said we cannot engage our people from our home, we will engage them when we sit together and I commend you Mr Speaker. That your decision to step into national assembly motivated a whole lot of us to come to the parliament.

“We came because there’s a burning issue in Nigeria with NLC, who had threatened yesterday about going on a massive national strike, it will be unworthy of us to leave this House today without looking into this issue. I pray that the National Labour Congress and all the unions in Nigeria that they should trust us once again. That we will use diplomacy where necessary to engage as usual. They should trust us again to come together to find lasting solution for their pain. We can dialogue, I pray for the House leadership and that of the Senate sit with this aggrieved NLC, as soon as possible to enable us find lasting solution to their need.”

Shortly after moving the motion, several lawmakers took turns to contribute to the debate, lamenting the hardship caused to Nigerians by the ongoing strike, appealing to labour unions to call it off.

In his ruling, the Speaker, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, who presided over the session said the leadership of the House would proceed on a meeting with that of the Senate, to ensure that urgent steps are taken to end the impasse.

The event of last week is proof that the 10th parliament is keeping its promises to the Nigerian people, to churn out reforms and raise the stakes of legislative deliverables.

With leaders like Hon. Tajudeen and Hon.  Kalu at the helm of affairs in the country, leadership will definitely take a good turn, as they possess the wisdom, qualities and understanding required of a progressive legislative leader.

-Orizu is SA Press Affairs to House Deputy Speaker

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