The federal government, on Wednesday, declared as unlawful, the street protest planned by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in solidarity with the striking members of the University-based unions.
The Congress has announced that it would embark on a two-day nationwide protest on July 26 and 27, to press home the need to resolve the over five-month-old strike especially by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Besides NLC, some other labour unions in the medical and aviation sectors had equally threatened the Federal Government with solidarity strike in support of ASUU.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed the Federal Government’s position to State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, since the NLC has no dispute with government, its planned street protest was illegal.
The Minister observed that what the Congress was doing is about interest, noting that it should insulate itself completely from politics.
He said: “While we’re still on Labour, I think we should also start to interrogate what Labour is doing.
“The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of NLC members are involved. What the NLC is planning in the next two days is about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body with the federal government.
“Well yes, that’s a dispute between some members of NLC, ASUU, whatever and the federal government, which is being looked into. And NLC itself, it’s a party to the committee that is looking into the solution. So, calling out people on street protest, you begin to wonder, what is the motive of NLC in this matter?
“But you see here, we do not interrogate what NLC is doing. NLC by its own laws, cannot even give out pamphlets. And NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics. Now, if you declare dispute with us, yes you can go on strike. Even that one would depend on whether certain steps have been taken or not. But this particular NLC, you know, asking and mobilizing people to come out on strike on July 26 and 27, is clearly on nothing.”
Reminded that NLC is worried about the prolonged strike which is affecting their children as well, the Minister said: “the federal government is as worried as NLC and everybody, but the law is the law. What we are saying is that rather than…what I expect NLC to do as umbrella body, is to find solution, to join federal government in finding solution.
“They are part of the tripartite agreement that have been negotiating with federal government on this ASUU issue. So why are they now going out to take sides?
“I think you also interrogate it yourselves. I think it’s popular to get NLC out and support but ask yourself how does that help the problem? How does that solve the problem? What you are going to create is more anarchy. And I think the NLC should think twice about their proposed strike in solidarity with ASUU. Is as if the federal government is doing nothing about ASUU. No. And they’ve been involved in this negotiation all along so why now?”
On the aviation union also warming up for solidarity strike in favour of ASUU, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika on his part described the development as uncalled for, saying that the aviation section should be seen as a critical national security enterprise.
He said: “I’m naturally concerned about this if the aviation union will shut down in support of ASUU. I would say they have no need to. I will say also that we should begin to look at civil aviation is a critical national security enterprise. It has all the implications. We should not contemplate or think about an aviation disaster. We should also think about the general activity on the economy of Nigeria without civilization.
“It’s okay. This is democracy, you can push for demands, but in pressing for demands you should be reasonable in doing so. Where, the life that you’re trying to promote, would be seriously affected and hampered. Where lives can be lost because of your own activity. I think it should be reconsidered.
“So, civil aviation workers, I think should not be part of this. Yes I am concerned and yes we’ve spoken to them and I don’t think they will join because they know that there’s huge responsibility of lives on their heads. If you’re an air traffic controller, it involves national security. It involve the capability of preventing external aggression and so on so forth. I believe that they are very aware of the enormous responsibility upon them in civil aviation and they should continue to see it so and continue to be as law abiding as we want them to be.
He explained that conversations were ongoing to have them shelved their planned solidarity strike.
“Yes, it’s an ongoing thing. So in civil aviation, we speak to them almost on a daily basis. They are part of us. They are workers like every other person is. And we interact with them. In the ministry, we have their own representatives who speaks to me time and again, probably on daily basis. Yes, we have spoken and I don’t think they will join and yes, we are concerned, but yes also reminding them of the enormous responsibility upon their necks and our own necks,” the Minister added.