Nationwide strike: Labour leaders concede after President Tinubu parley

After a nationwide protest on Wednesday, the organised Labour has agreed to suspend further action on its opposition to fuel subsidy removal.

This was a fallout of a meeting between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the representatives of the workers.

At the meeting were the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress, TUC, counterpart, Festus Osifo.

It was reported that the workers earlier in the day held protests across the country against the removal of fuel subsidy by the present administration.

The protests came after weeks of deadlocked negotiations between them and the government.

The NLC, TUC, and other affiliate unions have been demanding a reversal of the government’s decision.

They resorted to protests after a National Industrial Court barred them from proceeding with a nationwide strike which was to commence on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

Few hours after the protests were held across the country, the labour leaders were at the Aso Rock Presidential villa where they met with President Tinubu.

It was gathered that they felt satisfied with the promises made by the President and are now ready to stay further actions.

At the meeting, President Tinubu was said to have assured the workers that the Port-Harcourt refinery would certainly commence production by December this year.

Five major commitments were reported to have been made by the President during the meeting.

President Tinubu, according to a message credited to the NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, also pledged to ensure that an agreement is reached on the Wage Award for Nigerian workers immediately.

“PBAT (President Bola Ahmed Tinubu) promised to unveil a workable roadmap to the CNG alternative next week.

“PBAT committed to an immediate restructuring of the framework for engagement in line with the input of the Labour leaders.

“We have decided for a return to a new and reinvigorated dialogue process to allow for full implementation,” the message posted on NLC platform indicated.

The labour leaders are expected to make a formal announcement on suspension of the protests on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the workers made bold statements across the country, accusing the Federal Government of being insensitive to the plight of citizens.

In Abuja, the nation’s capital, over 5000 protesters stormed the National Assembly.

They first converged at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, from where they marched to the Federal Ministry of Justice before proceeding to the National Assembly.

However, following the failure of the security officials to grant them access, the angry protesters pulled down the gates and thronged into the assembly complex to vent their anger.

In Kano State, the NLC said the Federal Government’s palliative measure to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy was deceptive.

The Kano chapter lamented that just two months into President Tinubu’s administration, he unleashed unpopular policies on the masses.

Kabiru Inuwa, Chairman of the NLC in Kano said the union was not a political party and would never play politics with the lives of Nigerians.

“Tinubu should let the masses breathe. Palliative he promised should be quickly shared,” he said.

The message was not different in Kogi where the organised Labour appealed to the Federal Government to reverse all policies that were working against the interest of Nigerians.

Kogi State Chairman of NLC, Comrade Gabriel Amari noted that the protest was as a result of the hardship being faced by Nigerians, adding that, if urgent measures were not put in place, it might lead to national chaos.

“Nigerians are passing through the worst moment in their lives. This is not the renewed hope President Tinubu promised us when we voted for him.

“All the anti-people policies must be reversed immediately before things get out of hand,” Amari stated.

Their counterparts in Ogun declared that subsidy is a global practice.

The workers described the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in school fees and VAT as anti-people policies.

They also asked for the release of eight months withheld salaries of university lecturers and an end to “inhuman actions” and policies of the government.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “Let the poor breathe, don’t suffocate them”, “Stop importation of petrol, revive the refineries now!”, “Stop the looting, tax the rich and subsidise the poor”, “Give workers what is due”.

The NLC Chairman in Ogun, Hammed Ademola said, “We have to be on the street, we must not wait until we die, our destiny is always in our hands and now is the right time for us to tell the government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that we Nigerians are suffering.”

“The fuel subsidy removal has caused a lot of hardship, untold hardship on the masses of this nation. We are suffering, we have crude oil yet we are still buying abroad, enough is enough”, Ademola said.

His TUC counterpart, Akeem Lasisi said “subsidy is a global practice, so it is unfortunate in this country that our own subsidy is marred with corruption.”

The TUC chairman added that, “instead of removing subsidy, the government should remove the corruption in subsidy.”

Bayelsa workers told the President that an increase in fuel price is an increase in poverty and criminality.

The State Chairman of NLC, Comrade Barnabas Simon, who noted that the removal of the fuel subsidy was hasty with no thought out plan to cushion the effects on workers, added that N8,000 cash transfer palliative to twelve thousand households was an insult to Nigerians.

They said, “Permit me to remind the government that it was expected that the organised labour would have been consulted and brought on board the negotiation table to seek ways of ameliorating the effects that would come with subsidy removal on the ordinary Nigerians.”

Similarly, chairman of the NLC in Anambra State, Comrade Humphrey Emeka Nwafor said the citizens cannot bear the suffering any more.

He said: “The hardship Nigerians are passing through in this present administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is too much.

“Other Nigerians should equally add their voices against the current economic status of the country. We demand that the FG should pay the 8-months salary of University workers.

“The FG should not allow private companies to determine the price increase of petroleum products for Nigerians, when we have our regulatory agency. We are not accepting the N8,000 palliative.

“This protest match is a warning to the Federal Government to do what is right to save Nigerians from hardship.”

In Enugu State, the NLC Chairman, Fabian Nwigbo accused the Bola Tinubu-led administration of ambushing Nigerians on its first day in office with the removal of fuel subsidy which had more than doubled the sufferings of the people.

“The anti-human policies of the government continue to affect our people, some of them are dying as a result.

“We are tired of what is happening, the N30,000 minimum wage cannot even fill the tank of a tricycle and that is what some of us are earning and using to feed our families,” he said.

On his part, Chairman of TUC in the State, Ben Asogwa said that the labour unions had kicked against the idea of subsidy removal when it was contemplated.

“When the government insisted, we asked that they make our refineries work again and convert our vehicles to gas-powered to make it cheaper for us, as well as increase our minimum wage.

“But none of that was done; we are not happy with the sufferings we are going through,” he stated.