A major division between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has led to partial compliance in the two-day warning strike declared by Nigerian workers over the delay in the implementation of the palliatives announced by the federal government to cushion the effects of its removal of fuel subsidy.
Across the states of the federation the TUC and NLC took opposing positions on the strike, which is slated to continue today.
The TUC said it opposed the strike because it would not yield the desired results.
Its chairman in Cross River State, Comrade Monday Ogbodum, condemned a two-day warning strike embarked upon by leadership of NLC, describing the leadership of NLC as insensitive.
Ogbodum, who doubles as chairman, Senior Civil Servants Union in Cross River State, stated that TUC is not in support of the strike because NLC did not follow due process before calling out its members to embark on the two-day warning strike, which he described as uncalled for.
The TUC chairman made the remarks while speaking with LEADERSHIP in telephone conversation yesterday after the NLC asked workers in the state to stay at home.
“For due process to be followed, we have two weeks, we have perhaps seven-day ultimatum before finally dragging workers out or shutting down the system.
“We are aware that Nigerians are suffering, but then strike isn’t the ultimate. TUC had been on top of the situation, interfacing with the federal government.
“Dialogue is the key thing. It was through dialogue that the leadership of NLC, TUC and federal government arrived at palliatives of N5bn to states. We are talking of rehabilitation of the refineries; it is not going to be a one-day thing. The president had made a pronouncement that refineries will be put in place on or before December 2023.
“Labour is insensitive, that is why we are calling on our members not to participate in the strike. We were just out from a one-day protest. Through the protest we were able to let the federal government know that Nigerians are suffering.
“We expected that NLC should have given some time before embarking on the strike. If due process is not followed, that alone can create an opportunity for the government to proceed to the Industrial Arbitration Court to get an injunction which restraints the workers from proceeding on strike.”
When asked if TUC has not been bought over, Ogbodum said, “No, not at all! We are the engine room of the government, we reason together with the government, especially when negotiation is ongoing.”
He said that in 2021, the Union called out its members for a one-month strike in Cross River State only for that exercise to end in futility because that exercise ended up in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU.
“Today we are still talking about MOU. So, strike isn’t the ultimate. It should be the last resort if negotiation fails or when the federal government says he can’t do what he is supposed to do.” TUC Chairman maintained.
Despite the TUC arm of the labour movement telling its members to shun the NLC-organised strike over delay in the disbursement of the fuel subsidy removal palliatives, the industrial action was total across Akwa Ibom state, LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday.
Giving reasons for the TUC decision to shun the showdown, the state chairman, Comrade Dominic Abang, said:
“Our Congress has been inundated with several calls from the members of the public and some affiliates on the position of TUC on the two-day warning strike called by NLC.
“Arising from the emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Sunday, 3rd September, 2023, the TUC has resolved not to join the nationwide two-day warning strike declared by the NLC for Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th September, 2022.
“In this connection, members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Akwa Ibom State Council, are directed to report to their duty posts during these periods.
“The decision not to join the NLC in the planned warning strike stems from the belief that industrial action is not the destination at this moment, rather the need to sustain the ongoing negotiations with government, and prioritising the relevant dialogue to achieve long-term solutions.
“It is worth noting that in Akwa Ibom state, for instance, the government has initiated actions to alleviate the suffering of the people by providing palliatives which was part of the charter of demands presented during the last labour protest. This demonstrates a commitment to the welfare of the citizens and willingness to address the concerns and needs presented before it.”
However, socio-economic activities, including in the civil service and banks, except the public transportation system, were completely shut yesterday as the state NLC chairman, Comrade Sunny James, called out members, shutting down the Idongesit Nkanga civil service secretariat along Abak Road and the 31 local government area secretariats, barring workers from entering the premises.
Addressing the crowd, he said: “A united people can never be defeated. The country must change for the better, Akwa Ibom workers on the march.”
The strike suffered partial compliance as Lagos State government and operators in the private sector shunned the strike, hence, people conducted their normal businesses, LEADERSHIP can now reveal.
Findings by LEADERSHIP showed that the strike was mainly effective in the maritime sector as workers were denied entrance into the ports while banks, insurance companies, among other operators in the formal and informal segments of the country, embarked on their lawful duties despite efforts by some labour unions to enforce the strike.
Since the call was not street protest but a strike which meant that workers ought to stay off duty as a mark of participation in the strike, civil servants under state governments and local governments did not, however, join.
Meanwhile, checks by LEADERSHIP showed that the gates into Alausa Secretariat in Ikeja, Lagos State, were open as usual for workers to come in.
However, an anonymous labour leader said: “This is the worst strike so far. Despite the promised mobilisation by NUBIFIE to workers in banks, bank workers went to work. I even cashed my money over the counter without a problem.”
It would be recalled that a leader of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Dr. Adewale Adeyanju, had earlier directed all workers in the maritime sector to comply with the strike and indeed they complied.
All government offices, including ministries and agencies, were completely shut down yesterday as civil servants in Kwara State stayed away from their places of work as directed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
But private business owners opened their facilities for normal operations and without let or hindrance from any quarters.
Some commercial banks in Ilorin, the state capital, also opened for operations and attended to their customers.
The state chairman of the NLC, Comrade Murtala Olayinka could not be reached for comment at the time of filing this report.
The state chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Tunde Joseph, said that his union had not joined the strike.
“We are not on strike because our national body is against the strike”, he said.
In Bayelsa, the NLC State has accused the TUC and its affiliate members in the state of sabotaging the effort of the organized labour by its non-compliance with the two-day warning strike directive.
LEADERSHIP observed that the only workers seen in the offices at the State Secretariat were members of the TUC who said they were not part of the strike, while the other workers under the NLC closed and gone home in total compliance with the directive.
The chairman of the NLC, Comrade Barnabas C. Simon said they were going round to monitor the action which he affirmed was in total compliance, adding that TUC was sabotaging their effort in enforcing the protest action.
He said, “They said they are not part of the warning strike but at the end of the day, the dividends of the action, they will be part of it. It is not encouraging in the labour movement here in Bayelsa State, not even encouraging at the national level because we should be one at times like this”, Comrade Simon said.
While reacting to the allegation, the chairman of TUC Bayelsa State Council, Comrade Julius Laye confirmed that TUC in the state decided not to be part of the warning strike for obvious reasons, saying that there ought to be a synergy between the two centres if the organised labour wanted to achieve a total strike.
“If NLC had taken the decision, they would have done it in consultation with TUC. The information I got was that NLC made the announcement of going on strike without informing TUC. NLC recently went on a protest. Traditionally before now, when directives are coming, it carried the letterhead of the two labour centres and over the years with the previous NLC chairman, we have collectively called all the affiliate union members and done things together.
“But the last was an issue of university lecturers who have been on strike for some time. If you recall, NLC did a sympathy protest on their behalf and during the NEC meeting, we asked our national leadership why they were not part of it. The information that came was that NLC did not inform TUC that they want to carry out this action. Of course, it is their affiliate but they will be in solidarity forever.
“The second one is that NLC recently organised a nationwide protest as a result of the subsidy removal and the information got to TUC very late. In fact, TUC decided to join at the eleventh hour, around 7pm. It was difficult for me to mobilise my members because the TUC in Bayelsa State had already discussed with their affiliates that morning. So some of the states joined but as an individual, I did not join.
“Over here, we had a NEC meeting and it came out that no information got to the TUC president or secretary or the secretariat that NLC wants to go on strike. NLC held their meeting on Friday and made the decision on Friday that they are going to strike on Tuesday. Perhaps, as a result of that, TUC had this feeling that it cannot always, if it is not consulted, take this thing.
“But for anybody to use the word that TUC is sabotaging NLC is quite unfortunate. I also saw the message sent out by NLC in the state; they did not state that all their affiliates should go on strike. For these things, it needs synergy, it needs mutual understanding, mutual respect if we want to have a total hold on the state government and make them accountable”, Comrade Laye said.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded partial compliance from some government ministries, departments, and agencies in the two-day nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress.
When LEADERSHIP visited the Federal Secretariat alongside other major areas such as the popular Treasury House, FCTA and FCDA, and some banks in the territory, it was discovered that only a few of these places visited partially complied with the strike, while others did not comply at all.
In the Federal Secretariat, there was almost full compliance, as most offices were under lock and key, and banks like Zenith and Union banks in the secretariat premises were locked.
However, places like the FCTA, FCDA, Treasury House, and Zenith Bank branches outside the secretariat, and other major government agencies like the FCT area council service commission completely refused to comply as activities went on as usual.
Speaking on the strike at the Federal Secretariat, the global president of Yoruba Council Worldwide, Aare Oladotun Hassan, described the warning strike as unnecessary, saying that the strike cannot correct the anomalies on the ground.
“There are other issues to look into, like that of insecurity. You cannot hold just one issue of removal of fuel subsidy and say that the entire country should be shut down.
“I am putting it to the DSS: anyone, especially the NLC, who is calling for this kind of strike should be investigated, the BVN should be subjected to forensic investigation, because somebody somewhere is fueling this.”
NLC Hails Workers, Says Compliance Total
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday applauded workers and state councils for the massive support and efforts at ensuring that the first day of the nationwide warning strike took off with a resounding success across the nation.
Comrade Joe Ajaero, in a statement, said Nigerian workers had demonstrated that their words and decisions will always be backed by action.
“We are glad to inform you that all of our objectives for the first day were fully met because of the high level of compliance experienced as a result of your collective efforts around the federation.
“Congress salutes you all for your commitment towards ensuring that the reasons for the warning strike were fulfilled at this time. We however urge you all to continue with the same zeal and determination which saw the huge success that was recorded today as we move to the second and final day of the nationwide strike to ensure a complete success of the entire exercise”, the statement reads.
According to him, it is a civic duty to ensure that people are governed effectively and that those in government remain accountable to the people at all times.
Meanwhile, the strike also affected various sectors of the economy, including electricity where a general power outage was experienced through yesterday in the FCT.
According to a public notice issued by the management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and sighted by LEADERSHIP, the outage was due to enforcement by NLC of the two-day warning strike embarked upon by the labour union.