NLC, TUC suspend nationwide strike

  • Suspected assailants of Ajaero arrested, says NSA
  • Imo gov warns ‘individuals pursuing personal gains at state’s expense’
  • HURIWA tasks industrial court on independence, integrity

After barely two days at the trenches, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) reached a truce with the Federal Government, late yesterday, bringing to an end the indefinite strike called by the former.

TUC National Vice President, Tommy Okon, said: “I can confirm that the action has been suspended. The two labour unions met via Zoom and took the decision. It was not possible to meet physically, so we adopted a Zoom meeting where it was unanimously agreed to suspend the two-day-old strike.

“We trust the National Security Adviser (NSA) that he will do the needful and meet all the promises made. We are sure that the NSA is not playing politics. He is genuine in finding solutions to all the issues we highlighted. Therefore, we want to give the government the benefit of the doubt by suspending the strike.

“We have shown good faith, it is now the turn of government to reciprocate the gesture.”

The suspension followed intervention by the NSA, Nuhu Ribadu, who disclosed that those who assaulted NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, Imo State, had been apprehended.

The leadership of both congresses had, earlier, held a meeting at the office of the NSA, with a view to finding a solution to the industrial action embarked upon following the assault on Ajaero.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, who spoke at the end of the meeting, said all the parties had frank, fruitful, and genuine discussions on steps taken by the government to address concerns of the unions over the Imo incident.

Lalong said the labour groups agreed to convey the outcome of the meeting to their members and weigh the government’s plea to call off the strike in the interest of the nation.

TUC president, Festus Osifo, had described the meeting as robust and laced with assurances by the government team that suspects behind the Imo incident had been apprehended. He said the unions were also informed about other actions the government had already taken and would, yet, take in addressing labour’s grievances.

Osifo had said labour would appraise the outcome of the meeting, communicate with its members, and thereafter, reach a decision.

The Senate had also pleaded with the organised labour to call off its industrial action, tasking the leadership of the National Assembly to summon an emergency meeting with labour leaders to address the issue.

The resolutions came after a motion by Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi).

In the motion, which was presented by Senate Leader, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Ningi condemned the attack on Ajaero, describing it as unfortunate.

He said the NLC president has constitutional rights as a Nigerian and Imo citizen to be involved in electioneering in the state, adding that it was wrong to have brutalised him for participating in the process.

He expressed concern that if the strike is allowed to continue, Nigerians would be the worse for it, warning that it could lead to a total collapse of the economy.

In a statement, Head Strategic Communication at the office of the NSA, Zakari Mijinyawa, said: “The NSA regrets the incident and condemns it in its entirety, as it was against the rule of law and the principles of freedom of association and expression subscribed to by President Bola Tinubu and his administration.

“The Federal Government will never condone such an act. As fallout of the incident, relevant authorities were directed to conduct thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assault and bring the culprits to book.

“The Federal Government, through the ONSA, therefore, appeals to the labour leadership to call off the strike action and allow the dialogue process underway to be exhausted.”

IMO State governor, Hope Uzodimma, yesterday, lamented the assault on Ajaero in Owerri, Imo State, when he received members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), and others.

The governor, however, added: “We will not tolerate individuals pursuing personal gains at the expense of peace in our state. Anyone found guilty of undermining our collective tranquility will be treated as persona non grata. Let us unite for the betterment of Imo State.”

He said: “I vehemently condemn any attack on the president of the labour union. During my interactions with members of the Imo State Council of Elders, I clarified my stance on recent events regarding the national leadership of NLC. It is imperative to stress that Ajaero’s presidency of the NLC should bring prosperity to Imo State, not inflict undue hardships on the people.”

He added: “My administration has diligently ensured that all verified Imo workers integrated into the automated payment system receive their due compensation promptly.

“The harmonious relationship between the state government and Imo workers is a testament of our commitment to a stable working environment and we will stop at nothing in making Imo workers proud of their services to the state.”

This came as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) condemned the involvement of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the strike.

In a statement, signed by Vice President (External Affairs), Babatunde Akinteye, the association also faulted decision by NLC and TUC to down tools nationwide, describing it as disheartening.

The statement reads in part: “We, at the NANS headquarters, express our profound resentment and disappointment at the recent decision by NLC and TUC to embark on a nationwide strike.

“It is with a heavy heart that we, as the apex student body in the country, address the irrationality, disregard for the court of law, and apparent misplaced priority demonstrated in this action.

“While we empathise with any form of assault, the decision to resort to a nationwide strike due to an incident involving the NLC president is not only a deviation from reasoned discourse but also a disregard for legal processes that should be followed in seeking justice.”

The statement added: “The Federal Government cannot be held responsible for isolated incidents, and it is unjust for innocent citizens, particularly students, to bear the brunt of a strike that stems from individual grievances. We believe there are more constructive ways to address such concerns without disrupting the lives of ordinary Nigerians.”

IN Kaduna, labour officials locked down some ministries and government parastatals over failure to comply with the strike.

Offices that were affected include: State Secretariat; Ministry of Health; Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency; Ministry of Local Government Affairs; Kaduna Geographic Information Service; Office of the Head of Service; Kaduna State Facilities Management Agency; and Obasanjo House.

Commercial banks also complied with organised labour’s directive to embark on the strike.

Local NLC chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, said Kaduna is a labour state and directives from the unions’ executive body must be strictly adhered to.

Also, the industrial action took a toll on the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), yesterday.

The schedule of FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, was forcibly cancelled as the Joint Union Action Committee (JUAC) shut the gate to the premises, which houses the minister’s office.

Wike had intended to inspect projects within the FCT but had to cancel the plan, following the action by union leaders, which left FCTA workers outside the premises.

JUAC chairman, Mutilukoro Korede, said the action will continue till demands are met, even as he called on President Tinubu to cut short his trip overseas, return to Nigeria, and wade into the matter.

He said: “We are still singing the same song, ‘Meet labour’s demand’. The brutalisation of the NLC president should be condemned in its entirety and the culprits arrested and prosecuted, particularly the police officers involved and other individuals.”

He added:  “We believe in Nigeria, we believe in the government of President Bola Tinubu.  Here, in the FCT, we believe in our own minister. But we are not going to keep quiet. We will ensure that the gate remains under lock and key. I know other colleagues across the country are doing the same. We will not stop till the Federal Government sees reasons to act otherwise.”

However, there was low compliance in Lagos, yesterday.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) ignored the directive, alongside Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD).

The Telegraph learnt that NUPENG had not sent any circular to members on compliance, even as operations across branches and zones continued and offices remained occupied by staff.

Although banks had been operating freely, the presidents of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) and National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE), Olusoji Oluwole and Anthony Abakpa, said they would begin to enforce compliance.

Lagos State TUC chairman, Gbenga Ekundayo, who bemoaned the level of compliance, said the unions would follow up for improved observance.

Similarly, activities at the Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, continued without disruption.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that judges, staff, lawyers and litigants went about their businesses freely.

Court activities also went unchecked on Tuesday.

However, a notice by the FHC’s chapter of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), signed by Public Relations Officer, G.A. Maku said there would be an emergency meeting of all staff at 11:00 a.m. today.

It reads: “All members of staff are expected to converge at Ukeje Hall @11am this morning for an emergency meeting. This meeting is noteworthy as members will be briefed on the position of the union with regards to the ongoing NLC strike action and other important issues.”

IN a related development, civil rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), urged National Industrial Court (NIC) to stave off encroachment on its independence by the executive arm of government.

It spoke against a backdrop of what it described as incessant ex parte injunctions, purportedly meant to restrain NLC and TUC from holding a strike since the emergence of the Tinubu administration.

He wondered how workers would be able to bargain for improved conditions of service, following government’s arbitrary removal of subsidy on petroleum products, if NIC constitutes itself as a hurdle to constructive dialogue between workers and government.