BITCOIN

Labour protest: Senate faults presidency over poor commitment to negotiation

Hundreds of workers defied the light showers on Wednesday morning in Abuja to protest what was described as anti-poor policies, including the hike in fuel pump price, which has resulted in an astronomical increase in the cost of goods and services, thereby making survival in Nigeria a nightmare.

The workers, led by the President of the NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, and the President Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), began the protest with the theme “Let the poor breathe!” from the unity fountain at about 9:30 am, from whence they proceeded to the Ministry of Justice, to pass a message to the Solicitor General of Nigeria, who has been working to frustrate efforts of the NLC for a better country.

Ajaero, who accused the Solicitor General of giving what he described as “bad” and “evil” advice to the government against the interest of Nigerians, said she stands to benefit from the struggles for a better Nigeria equally.

The protesters proceeded to the National Assembly but however met a locked gate. The unionists were forced to break down the gate after several calls that the gate should be opened amidst chants of “Ole! Ole!” “You Be Thief!” “Barawo!” rented the air.

Delivering a letter to Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume, organised labour warned that it was considering embarking on a strike for the recent hike in fuel pump price to N617, as the government has failed to honour the court order on the initial N520 increase that all parties should remain at status quo.

Ajaero noted: “We demand the immediate implementation in good faith, all the resolutions with Congress jointly signed with government and TUC. Immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the government, including the recent hike in PMS price, school fees, and VAT.

“There was a hike of 520, and in four weeks, a committee was set up by the government, in four weeks, the government went to court and got an injunction, four weeks, the courts announced that the status quo should remain and the court has not met between that time and now. Two adjournments, and the court did not meet, and one of the parties went ahead to increase again to N617.

“We have come here to protest that very issue because we have not gone on strike for N617, and we are going to consider that option after now because the issue of strike and court order was all around N520, and we have not even addressed it, and another went ahead to increase it again.”

Ajaero called on the Senate to interrogate and review the “No Work No Pay” law, adding that because workers’ disagreement with the government led to a protest was not enough reason for the government to punish them for addressing their rights by law to address their issues.

Labour also called on the government to channel the money realised from the halt of subsidy on petroleum products into fixing all local refineries as that was the only solution to the problem, given that once crude oil was being refined in Nigeria, the cost of PMS would crash as international variables would no longer decide the price of PMS in the country.

Labour, however, regretted that “The fixing of all local refineries in the recent address by Mr president no comment was made on this and we cannot continue to run an import driven energy system. It will depend on forces of the market “

Commenting on President Tinubu’s announcement government had begun talks with labour on a new minimum wage, Labour explained that such talks could not commence until 2024, when it was due by law to review the national minimum wage further. He, however, noted that given the removal of the fuel subsidy, there was a need for a wage reward of which a sub-committee was yet to be inaugurated to begin sitting.

“Now that you have removed the subsidy, we need a negotiable wage award to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal. The wage committee that the government set up has not been inaugurated so it will be wrong to say they are negotiating when the committee has not started work today. So let us put a disclaimer to this; we have never met the wage committee to discuss anything about wages.”

President of the TUC, Comrade Festus Osifo, asked the government to join Nigerians in making sacrifices for the greater good of the country by cutting down on the cost of governance.

“We strongly believe that the government of today is highly insensitive and that government is both the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature.

“We believe strongly that you cannot ask Nigerians to keep tightening their belts, sacrificing. The Nigerian masses have been battered, the Nigerian masses have suffered, and the Nigerian masses are passing through excruciating difficulty, but in all of these, we have not heard what the president has said regarding the cost of governance

“It is grossly insensitive for them to be musing about spending N70bn to furnish their offices. We have told them to pay a visit to the secretariat and see how people are suffering, to see how people work without light for months, to see that to even go to the toilet everywhere is smelling. We are all equal Nigerians, we have an equal stake in project Nigeria.

“We want you at the national assembly to also sacrifice, cut down your budget, to buy Innoson motors. We don’t want you to go and buy foreign cars because you are creating jobs over there and importing suffering over here.

“You must show leadership. You must lead on the front because we elected you to work for us. We know that the condition with which you work is also important. We are not insensitive, but all we are saying is that you must sacrifice.”

Responding, Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume representing Borno South, criticized the executive for failing to take negotiations with labour seriously.

While appealing to Nigerians to give the lawmakers one week to find lasting solutions to the issues raised by labour, he insisted that the President or Vice President should be a part of any negotiation with the labour movement.

“The National Assembly especially the Senate, have been following keenly what is going on. When we realize that there is a breakdown in the discussion between the presidency and the NLC the day before yesterday, one of our colleagues brought a motion on this labour crisis that we are facing and the need for the Senate to intervene.

“There is a motion that we passed on Monday when we sat before we started the screening. We brought that motion, and that is to look at what is happening. Why are the negotiations stalled? We have a problem.

“I understand now what the (NLC) President is saying, and I am in support that the NLC should be negotiating with either the President or the Vice President, and If, because of their schedule, they can’t be there, then let an acceptable representation continue the discussion.

We stand with you on that. And as I say, please have confidence in the National Assembly or give us a trial. Let the leadership of the Senate be involved in your negotiations.

“Give us a chance, and if we fail, you can go ahead and take your decision. This should be a warning to the presidency, to the National Assembly, and to everybody. If nothing tangible comes out of our effort, then you can take action. Please give us one week, and if you are not satisfied with the progress we are making, you can take further action.

Ndume added, “Let us find a permanent solution to this, and the solution can be achieved. Refineries are not working. Dangote started a refinery, and up till now, nothing. Let us ask these questions, and it is not enough to take this money to the local refineries. How much has been given to them, and what happened nothing.  So let them find concrete solutions to our problems.

“In order to implement what we have agreed, we have formed a committee, and between today and tomorrow, we will hold the first meeting with labour and start the engagement. We will do our best as your representative to come out with an acceptable solution.”

Immediate past president of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who was at the protest, faulted the federal government for failing on its promise during the last major strike in his tenure to fix the refineries for local production of crude oil before subsidy would be removed.

He lamented that the government was merely punishing Nigerians by refusing to take the appropriate measure to cushion the effect subsidy removal would have on the masses before embarking on such a policy. He added that asking hungry, helpless, and poor Nigerians to have patience under the prevailing hardship in the country without any palliative on the ground was the height of insensitivity on the part of the government.

Hundreds of workers defied the light showers on Wednesday morning in Abuja to protest what was described as anti-poor policies, including the hike in fuel pump price, which has resulted in an astronomical increase in the cost of goods and services, thereby making survival in Nigeria a nightmare.

The workers, led by the President of the NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, and the President Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), began the protest with the theme “Let the poor breathe!” from the unity fountain at about 9:30 am, from whence they proceeded to the Ministry of Justice, to pass a message to the Solicitor General of Nigeria, who has been working to frustrate efforts of the NLC for a better country.

Ajaero, who accused the Solicitor General of giving what he described as “bad” and “evil” advice to the government against the interest of Nigerians, said she stands to benefit from the struggles for a better Nigeria equally.

The protesters proceeded to the National Assembly but however met a locked gate. The unionists were forced to break down the gate after several calls that the gate should be opened amidst chants of “Ole! Ole!” “You Be Thief!” “Barawo!” rented the air.

Delivering a letter to Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume, organised labour warned that it was considering embarking on a strike for the recent hike in fuel pump price to N617, as the government has failed to honour the court order on the initial N520 increase that all parties should remain at status quo.

Ajaero noted: “We demand the immediate implementation in good faith, all the resolutions with Congress jointly signed with government and TUC. Immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the government, including the recent hike in PMS price, school fees, and VAT.

“There was a hike of 520, and in four weeks, a committee was set up by the government, in four weeks, the government went to court and got an injunction, four weeks, the courts announced that the status quo should remain and the court has not met between that time and now. Two adjournments, and the court did not meet, and one of the parties went ahead to increase again to N617.

“We have come here to protest that very issue because we have not gone on strike for N617, and we are going to consider that option after now because the issue of strike and court order was all around N520, and we have not even addressed it, and another went ahead to increase it again.”

Ajaero called on the Senate to interrogate and review the “No Work No Pay” law, adding that because workers’ disagreement with the government led to a protest was not enough reason for the government to punish them for addressing their rights by law to address their issues.

Labour also called on the government to channel the money realised from the halt of subsidy on petroleum products into fixing all local refineries as that was the only solution to the problem, given that once crude oil was being refined in Nigeria, the cost of PMS would crash as international variables would no longer decide the price of PMS in the country.

Labour, however, regretted that “The fixing of all local refineries in the recent address by Mr president no comment was made on this and we cannot continue to run an import driven energy system. It will depend on forces of the market “

Commenting on President Tinubu’s announcement government had begun talks with labour on a new minimum wage, Labour explained that such talks could not commence until 2024, when it was due by law to review the national minimum wage further. He, however, noted that given the removal of the fuel subsidy, there was a need for a wage reward of which a sub-committee was yet to be inaugurated to begin sitting.

“Now that you have removed the subsidy, we need a negotiable wage award to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal. The wage committee that the government set up has not been inaugurated so it will be wrong to say they are negotiating when the committee has not started work today. So let us put a disclaimer to this; we have never met the wage committee to discuss anything about wages.”

President of the TUC, Comrade Festus Osifo, asked the government to join Nigerians in making sacrifices for the greater good of the country by cutting down on the cost of governance.

“We strongly believe that the government of today is highly insensitive and that government is both the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature.

“We believe strongly that you cannot ask Nigerians to keep tightening their belts, sacrificing. The Nigerian masses have been battered, the Nigerian masses have suffered, and the Nigerian masses are passing through excruciating difficulty, but in all of these, we have not heard what the president has said regarding the cost of governance

“It is grossly insensitive for them to be musing about spending N70bn to furnish their offices. We have told them to pay a visit to the secretariat and see how people are suffering, to see how people work without light for months, to see that to even go to the toilet everywhere is smelling. We are all equal Nigerians, we have an equal stake in project Nigeria.

“We want you at the national assembly to also sacrifice, cut down your budget, to buy Innoson motors. We don’t want you to go and buy foreign cars because you are creating jobs over there and importing suffering over here.

“You must show leadership. You must lead on the front because we elected you to work for us. We know that the condition with which you work is also important. We are not insensitive, but all we are saying is that you must sacrifice.”

Responding, Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume representing Borno South, criticized the executive for failing to take negotiations with labour seriously.

While appealing to Nigerians to give the lawmakers one week to find lasting solutions to the issues raised by labour, he insisted that the President or Vice President should be a part of any negotiation with the labour movement.

“The National Assembly especially the Senate, have been following keenly what is going on. When we realize that there is a breakdown in the discussion between the presidency and the NLC the day before yesterday, one of our colleagues brought a motion on this labour crisis that we are facing and the need for the Senate to intervene.

“There is a motion that we passed on Monday when we sat before we started the screening. We brought that motion, and that is to look at what is happening. Why are the negotiations stalled? We have a problem.

“I understand now what the (NLC) President is saying, and I am in support that the NLC should be negotiating with either the President or the Vice President, and If, because of their schedule, they can’t be there, then let an acceptable representation continue the discussion.

We stand with you on that. And as I say, please have confidence in the National Assembly or give us a trial. Let the leadership of the Senate be involved in your negotiations.

“Give us a chance, and if we fail, you can go ahead and take your decision. This should be a warning to the presidency, to the National Assembly, and to everybody. If nothing tangible comes out of our effort, then you can take action. Please give us one week, and if you are not satisfied with the progress we are making, you can take further action.

Ndume added, “Let us find a permanent solution to this, and the solution can be achieved. Refineries are not working. Dangote started a refinery, and up till now, nothing. Let us ask these questions, and it is not enough to take this money to the local refineries. How much has been given to them, and what happened nothing.  So let them find concrete solutions to our problems.

“In order to implement what we have agreed, we have formed a committee, and between today and tomorrow, we will hold the first meeting with labour and start the engagement. We will do our best as your representative to come out with an acceptable solution.”

Immediate past president of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who was at the protest, faulted the federal government for failing on its promise during the last major strike in his tenure to fix the refineries for local production of crude oil before subsidy would be removed.

He lamented that the government was merely punishing Nigerians by refusing to take the appropriate measure to cushion the effect subsidy removal would have on the masses before embarking on such a policy. He added that asking hungry, helpless, and poor Nigerians to have patience under the prevailing hardship in the country without any palliative on the ground was the height of insensitivity on the part of the government.

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