The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has insisted it will go ahead with today’s protest against fuel subsidy removal.
This is coming as talks with the Federal Government on short-term palliatives failed to yield much results on Tuesday.
The Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, had earlier warned that police would not tolerate any form of violent protesting and had called on the NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC to be careful.
The Federal Government had, at yesterday’s meeting of Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives, pleaded with labour to shelve the planned protest, saying it was doing everything possible to address its concerns.
The IGP’s advice followed the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, directive that its affiliates and the 36 state councils should fully participate in the protest.
Also Pro-labour civil society groups, under the aegis of the Joint Action Front, JAF, and Campaign for Democratic Workers Rights, CDWR, asked members across the country to mobilise and join the protest.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, had earlier issued a directive to its affiliates nationwide to commence mobilisation for today’s protest.
The organised labour said the palliatives rolled out by the President in his nationwide broadcast on Monday night, was very insignificant to cushion the effect of the suffering in the country.
This is as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero was conspicuously absent at the meeting.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives held at the State House, Abuja, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, appealed to organised labour to suspend the planned protest.
He said: “We have laid out the plans, the interventions of Mr. President, as you all heard in his broadcast yesterday (Monday), we made it clear that this was just Mr. President’s initial rollout and interventions and that conversations will be ongoing as we go along.
“We appealed to Labour, we did appeal to labour to call off the protests for tomorrow (today). We found listening ears here and they did agree that they all accepted that Mr. President’s broadcast was a welcome development and that they will go back home to talk to the other leaders that are not present today (yesterday). ‘’So we’re hopeful that they will do the right thing and call off the strike tomorrow.”
However, the NLC, led by its Deputy President, Comrade Titus Amba, said there was nothing new, apart from the broadcast of President Bola Tinubu, that was presented to the committee, adding that the palliatives as rolled out by the President in his broadcast could not remedy anything.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the TUC President, Festus Osifo said: “We told Nigerians that we’ll be meeting today (yesterday) by 12 noon, so we came here much later. We had the conversation, and again the government team told us that what the President has put on the table is more or less like a starting point, and it’s a baseline.
“So we on our path also said yes, that we would have been surprised if that is everything that will be put forward because for us, we felt there are some gaps. For us, we felt that the President has said that N1 trillion has been saved in the last two months, that what has been proposed is not far-reaching.
“For us, you know, as part of the principle of negotiations, when anything is put on the table, you accept, but you push for more. So, on our part, we said what has been put on the table is not sufficient, it’s not enough, and that they can do more.
“So part of what we put forward was that, we will look at those things the President highlighted. We think, for example, that 3000 CNG buses are not sufficient, we think it is not sufficient. By the time you divide 3000 by 37, you can see how many they can come up to, so it’s not sufficient, it’s grossly inadequate.
“We also think that some of the measures put on the table are not far-reaching. So we are also going to demand for what we think will do, so if we think 30,000 buses could do it or 40,000 buses could do it in the immediate.
“Yes, we’ll push it forward. So those were all the conversations that we had. Then on the government part, they also appealed that we should shelve the protests. Our response was that we are going to go back this evening (yesterday) and also have a conversation around that and you will hear from us at the end of that conversation.
Asked the position of labour on minimum wage increase, Osifo said: “On our part, what we’re demanding was wage award. For example, you’ve heard some states that have said we’re paying N40,000 minimum wage, so more or less they are the ones giving it. It is not the law, they are doing above the minimum wage.
‘’So for us, we felt the federal government could on their own, do above the minimum wage without much conversation, because the committee on the minimum wage has not been constituted.
“But what we have been advocating on the part of labour is wage award that doesn’t have bureaucracies, that doesn’t have much issues around the law, because the law that prescribed minimum wage said five years.
“Until you amend that, no other thing can kick in. But we said for the immediate, let government come out just as some state governments have announced that paying N40,000. Some say N50,000, so they should do something like that.
“We have also heard some state say that they are going to pay PMS allowance of XYZ amount. So those are the wage awards that we are thinking and we are pushing governments to do. What they have proposed like you have heard the President say yesterday, we are taking that as a baseline. We believe strongly that the President, the state governments should do more.”
The Deputy President of NLC, Titus Amba, has further clarified that the proposed protest will still hold today.
According to him: “We’re on the same page, like the TUC national president said. Yeah, we met today (yesterday), and we discussed based on what we all left yesterday, with the mind of coming back today. We all listened to the President’s speech with an appeal that time should be given to this very government.
“We sat down, analysed it very, very well, and we came up with some issues, which I believe you heard from the TUC President where he said the president of this country did mention that within two months, the government of Nigeria was able to save at least N1trillion from subsidy removal.
“To the ordinary Nigerian out there, he will conclude that there are a lot of funds kept because of this subsidy issue. So why can’t this monies be made available to cushion the suffering and yearning of all Nigerians. So these were some of the things we discussed.
“We also said the 3000 buses proposed to be made available are not sufficient. If you divide 3,000 by the number of states we have, it won’t take us anywhere. So, the government came with an appeal of shifting the intended protest tomorrow. “
Reacting to federal government’s appeal, he said: “We said no, it is not something we can discuss here, because we have other organs of the union that we have to go back to for them to look at it critically.
‘’The truth is that every Nigerian out there is boiling and waiting to see what will come out of this very meeting.
“We had to go back and maybe make a presentation to them that this is what the government has said and this is what we’re thinking, how we should go about it. So this is the decision we have now.”
Asked if the protest still would hold, he simply said “Yes, of course.”