*We don’t renege on our promises, says FG
*Pensioners’ body cries out over loss of 1,500 members to hardship
Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Organised labour, under the auspices of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), has issued a 14-day ultimatum to the federal government over non-implementation to the 16-point agreement reached with the government on October 2, 2023.
In a statement jointly signed by NLC President Joe Ajaero and his counterpart from TUC, Festus Osifoh, the two apex labour centres threatened that if the federal government failed to honour their part of the agreement within 14 days from today, February 9, the workers would proceed on strike.
They said government’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain was deeply regrettable and unacceptable to the working people and the citizenry.
The statement said, “Constrained by this development and recognising the urgency of the situation and the imperative of ensuring the protection and defence of the rights and dignity of Nigerian workers and citizens, the NLC and TUC hereby issue a stern ultimatum to the federal government, to honour their part of the understanding within 14 days from tomorrow, the 9th day of February, 2024.”
NLC and TUC said it was regrettable that the workers were compelled to resort to such measures, but maintained that the persistent neglect of the welfare of citizens and Nigerian workers and the massive hardship left them with no choice.
They said everything must be done within the two weeks to avoid a situation “where we may be compelled to take appropriate steps to protect Nigerian workers and masses”.
The labour centres stated, “We call upon the federal government to honour its commitments without delay. The time for empty promises and excuses has passed. The time for action is now.
“Our patience has worn thin and the situation has become unbearable for workers and masses all over the federation. Further silence amounts to committing mass suicide and this remains the only feasible course of action left for us and Nigerians to compel remedial action by government.”
NLC and TUC said they are resolved to salvaging Nigerian workers and masses from the apparent insensitivity and lethargy of those in the corridors of power who were supposed to be the bastion of public trust.
They stated, “We express profound concern over the non-implementation of the 16-point agreement reached with the federal government on October 2, 2023.
“Despite the passage of time, the majority of these crucial agreements remain unmet or negligibly addressed, indicating a blatant disregard for the principles of good faith, welfare and rights of Nigerian workers and Nigerians.
“These agreements, which were reached with the federal government, were focused on addressing the massive suffering and the general harsh socioeconomic consequences of the ill-conceived and ill-executed IMF/World Bank induced hike in the price of PMS and the devaluation of the naira.
“These dual policies have had, as we predicted, dire economic consequences for the masses and workers of Nigeria.
“Widespread hunger is now ravishing millions of Nigerians, with the workers’ purchasing power significantly eroded, while insecurity has assumed an increasing dimension.
“Nigerians are left wondering where their next meals will come from and what tomorrow might bring. The level of panic and anxiety amongst the populace has become nightmarish.
“Unfortunately, in the midst of all these, it appears our government is bereft of appropriate measures to ameliorate the huge burden it has foisted on the citizenry.”
Labour added that the agreements, which encompassed a wide range of issues crucial to the wellbeing of the Nigerian masses and workers, had not been honoured, as pledged by the federal government.
Aside the wage awards, the workers also listed the palliative adjustments, improved access to public utilities, meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), among others, as areas of disagreement.
But in a response, the federal government told the organised labour that the allegation that it did not keep its promises was not true. The government said it never reneged on its promises.
It told the two labour centres that it was not in the interest of the country for them to embark on strike.
The government appealed to NLC and TUC to come for a roundtable discussion in order to arrive at amicable resolutions of any perceived differences.
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said, “We appeal to labour to always see reason with the government. It is not in government’s interest for labour to continue to go on strike.
“We appeal with labour, let them come again, around the table to continue to have engagements and conversations around whatever grey areas they think they have in some of these agreements that have already been signed.”
Reminded that labour accused the government of being in the habit of not keeping to agreements with unions, Idris said, “No, I think government keeps its promises.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian pensioners on Thursday decried the death of about 1,500 of their members as a result of the hardship and high cost of living in the country. They also criticised the non-inclusion of their members in the newly constituted Minimum Wage Tripartite committee.
The pensioners, under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), while fielding questions from journalists, said, “Let me say this, we have casualties every day. The casualties arising from the maltreatment of pensioners in Nigeria, we have now gone into 1,500.
“Just about last week, we travelled to Enugu to bury one of the staff. We know that he perished out of hunger. It’s not in our power to distribute food to pensioners in Nigeria, we don’t have the resources.
“In Nigeria, government doesn’t think about the poor people, they only think about themselves, otherwise, how can a pensioner in Enugu receive as low as N450?”
President of NUP, Godwin Abumisi, in a prepared text he read, said the senior citizens would embark on protest in Abuja if the federal government failed to include pensioners in the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee.
Abumisi stated, “I want to say it clear and I want you to write it, I am going to lead Nigerian pensioners naked. I mean naked. When we are going to protest, we are going to go naked on the streets.
“Write down this so that the world will see it, Nigerian pensioners are going to demonstrate naked. If they like, let them arrest us on why we go naked, are you mad? And we will say, we are mad. We have reached a situation where we can now say, we are mad.”
He argued that the pensioners’ union should be carried along during negotiations on matters that border on their members.
Abumisi said, “And this is the reason why we are here today to protest and register our displeasure and dissatisfaction with the constitution of the committee, which has undermined the relevance and authority of the union (NUP), using the instrumentality of the press.
“Some may argue that the interest of the NUP, as a member of the organised labour family, would be sufficiently catered for by the representatives of the NLC in the committee.
“But, regrettably, this has not always been the case, as previous experiences have shown that pensioners had always been left out in the series of wage reviews and negotiations to their fate.”