Barring any last-minute change of situation, organized labour in Nigeria will from tomorrow, Wednesday, August 2, embark on nationwide strike to press home citizens welfare demands.
Last week, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) served notice that it had commenced mobilization of all affiliates, state councils and civil society organisations to hold mass protest rallies across the nation beginning from Wednesday, August 2. This is to protest against biting hardship imposed on workers and the masses by the sudden removal of fuel subsidy and other anti-people policies Of government.
NLC said the move is to compel government to reverse its harsh policies including the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The labour movement accused the federal government of unseriousness in pursuing and addressing citizen concerns.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the CWC meeting in Abuja, NLC said it has directed all affiliates and state branches “to begin immediate mobilization to ensure that government listens to the people.”
The NLC resolved that the strike will be pursued until government meets all NLC demands to reverse its anti-poor and anti-workers policies.
The NLC went on to say that “federal government has shown enormous disdain and contempt for Nigerian people and workers having acted and continued to act without regard to the welfare and cries of the citizenry. NLC also accused the government of declaring a war of attrition on Nigerian workers and masses without any care, thereby leaving them to the throes of hopelessness and helplessness.”
In addition, the NLC accused the federal government of refusing to put in place safeguards to protect Nigerians from the harsh economic situation that its policies have inflicted on the people. Rather, it said the government has decided to insult the sensibilities of the Nigerian masses by offering N8,000 per family and offering themselves N70 billion.
Federal government, in its reaction faulted notice of strike action by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), describing it as illegal and in contempt of court. The Federal Ministry of Justice, through Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF), Mrs. B.E. Jedy-Agba, said in a statement that the seven-day notice for the industrial action is in clear disregard of the court.
Truth be told, it is difficult to convince the average worker to continue to endure the hardship brought about by the fuel subsidy removal. Not when they can see their leaders living in lavish ostentation. It does seem that the leaders have no clue of the travails of the ordinary Nigerian!
Make no mistake about it, this column strongly believes that the fuel subsidy was no longer sustainable largely due to corruption in the subsidy regime. However, removing it as desirable as it was, ought to have been done in a more humane manner.
It was crudely done and the result of poor management of that process is the push back that the government is getting from the public in general and organized labour in particular.
Furthermore, the insensitive allocation of N8000 monthly payment to ‘vulnerable’ 12million families for six months, while the National Assembly planned to pocket N70billion for its few members further incensed quite a few Nigerians.
To add insult to this injury, the National Assembly made a caricature of over 133 million Nigerians living under multidimensional poverty in the country. What was the Senate President Godswill Akpabio thinking about when he was making jokes about letting “the poor breathe?” It was a clear indication that our leaders are living in a different world from ordinary Nigerians. In my view, organized labour is insisting on fair sharing of the national resources which had been largely monopolized by leaders in government and their cronies.
You want the workers not to go on strike to seek better welfare when the Senate and House of Representatives will soon expend over N40 billion to purchase vehicles for lawmakers in the Red and Green Chambers of the National Assembly. It had been reported that no fewer than 107 units of the 2023 model of the Toyota Landcruiser and 358 units of the 2023 model of Toyota Prado would be procured for the use of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
The planned purchase is different from the official vehicles expected to be purchased for the four presiding officers of the National Assembly. These are President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass; Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau; and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu. A market survey carried out by a national newspaper reportedly showed that the least amount for a 2023 model of Toyota Land Cruiser is N125 million. For the full option of the same brand, it goes for as high as N135 million. In 2019, the Senate spent N50 million on each vehicle, when the dollar exchanged officially for N306.
No reasonable worker who has never enjoyed even bicycle loan for transportation would after reading about the humongous amounts budgeted for vehicles for the lawmakers accept the plea by the government to be patient. Such a demand for patience by government is tantamount to an insult to the collective intelligence of all Nigerians. How can you ask the people to tighten their belts while they can see government officials cruising in convoys of luxury cars and jeeps?
To make matters worse, amid the collapsing naira that may soon exchange N1000 to $1, our lawmakers without pity for the state of the naira are insisting on Toyota brand and have totally rejected any thought of getting Made-In-Nigeria vehicles by Peugeot or Innoson among others.
Nigerian and indeed African leaders are yet to understand that good governance is the panacea to strikes, civil unrest and other undemocratic tendencies. Our leaders concentrate only in seeking provisions for their own comfort to the detriment of the collective!
It was probably because of leaders in Nigeria that renowned African speaker and scholar, Professor Patrick Lumumba, said recently that Africans are accomplices in the misfortune facing the continent in its development strides.
Speaking as a guest lecturer on the topic, “Conspiracy Theory and The Future of Democracy and Development in Africa” at the graduation ceremony of Executive Intelligence Management Course (EIMC 15) at the National Institute For Security Studies in Abuja, Professor Lumumba stated that it was only when Africa begins to think of development within the continent and not depending on foreign things, there will be meaningful development. He argued that there may be conspiracy by the West to keep Africa continually dependent, but Africans and their leaders have not done enough to liberate themselves and have also contributed to the underdevelopment of the continent.
It is this attitude of Nigerian and African leaders that is endangering democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa from Mali to Niger. It is therefore high time that the leaders reduce their greed and ostentatious lifestyles that are fuelled by corruption so that Nigerians and indeed all other Africans “Can Breathe!”
Fact is that the planned strike is popular with the masses but whether NLC will go through with it is another matter. Many Nigerians have lost faith with labour given the various times it had mobilised Nigerians and raised expectations only to back down at the last minute.
As we wait the days with baited breath, this columnist wishes Nigeria and Nigerians well. Sacrifice is a necessity for progress. This strike may indeed be the sacrifice that we as Nigerians may have to endure in our march to better Nigeria!
I waited to listen to the President’s speech this evening (31st July 2023) before concluding this column.
Curiously, there is nothing in the speech that addresses the immediate plight of Nigerians. My assessment is that the president listed promises as if he was campaigning for office. We all know how little we can rely on campaign promises.
The president spoke about a few cornering huge chunks of Nigeria’s wealth through fuel subsidy payments.
If they cornered the sums fraudulently through inflated bills, they should at the very least be made to refund. It is not enough to tell Nigerians that people took our commonwealth. Sir, can they please return it? In the President’s own words, ”
“The subsidy cost us trillions of Naira yearly. it was being funneled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals. This group had amassed so much wealth and power that they became a serious threat to the fairness of our economy and the integrity of our democratic governance. To be blunt, Nigeria could never become the society it was intended to be as long as such small, powerful yet unelected groups hold enormous influence over our political economy and the institutions that govern it.
The whims of the few should never hold dominant sway over the hopes and aspirations of the many.” Good words from the President indeed, but if we are all suffering because they cornered our money, a serious country will demand a refund.
In any case, some of the proposed palliative policies sound like bites from the failed Buhari playbook.
President Tinubu spoke about 3000 buses to alleviate transport blues for 200m people. Talk about a drop in the ocean. What can 3000 buses do? So also is the proposed release of 200, 000 metric tons of wheat for 200m people? That’s not a lot. That’s tokenism.
We have seen and heard all these before, and they didn’t work.
What will work is a drastic cut in the cost of governance; recovery and reinvestment of all fraudulent subsidy payments as well as a purge of NNPC and all agencies involved in petroleum business in the last 8 years. Only then will our people believe that government means business.
MAY NIGERIA REBOUND