Barely 48 hours to the nationwide strike and protest scheduled for Monday by organised Labour, mixed reactions have trailed the planned action with most Nigerians appraising the necessity or otherwise of the industrial action.
Labour unions in the country, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliates had been rallying their members for the planned strike to protest the recent increase in petrol price and electricity tariff.
A meeting between the federal government and organised labour on the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff ended in a deadlock on Thursday night.
Also, the National Industrial Court granted an order restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), their officers, affiliates and privies from embarking on any strike or stoppage of work next Monday.
But NLC and TUC are insisting that they would proceed with the planned protest and industrial action unless the federal government revert the status quo in respect of price of petrol and electricity tariff.
This is even as Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court, Abuja yesterday has granted a fresh request by the federal Government to stop the NLC and the TUC from embarking on planned strike.
Most Nigerians who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday cautioned organized labour against embarking on strike.
A Calabar-based economist and financial expert, Bishop Gospel Emmah Isong, said before the labour unions proceed with the strike, they should know that downing tools would decrease productivity even though they have their political reasons such as demands for reverting to status quo in respect of the hike in fuel price and electricity tariff.
Isong said, “Labor should know that calling its members to go on strike would directly or indirectly affect even those of them who are on strike. We are talking of all sectors being affected in terms of mobility, transportation and commercial activities. Strike has never been a good thing to the entire system.
“It is on the basis that we have been calling on the federal government to give a listening ear to labour, sit on a round table and negotiate with labour leaders”.
Isong who is also the national publicity secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria PFN and General Overseer of Christian Central Chapel International (CCCI) Calabar appealed to the federal government to listen to the plight of labour to avoid the confusion the are planning to throw the country into.
“I think too many strikes actions and too many threats will reduce efficacy of the instrument. The unions should look at the mentality of strike itself. It is becoming too much. It is like government has become used to these threats”, he added.
Also, the convener of Unity House Foundation (UHF), a good governance advocacy group, Kingsley Wenenda Wali, said rather than embarking on strike, the organised labour should demand for the sale of the country’s refineries.
Wali who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt advised organised labour to demand for active private sector participation in the downstream sector.
He said, “What I think the labour movement should be asking itself is if we should continue with the subsidy regime. I will be shocked if labour supports the scam of subsidy and wants it to continue.
“If we agree that subsidy should be removed, will it be fair to replace subsidy with price control and determine to importers how much they should sell their goods, be it spare parts, cars or petroleum products?
“What I think we should be demanding is the sale of the refineries and active private sector participation in the downstream sector. We need to create the enabling environment for more refineries built by private sector operators, just like Dangote refineries.”
Another financial expert, Eugene Abels, told our correspondent that if the planned nationwide strike is allowed, it will negatively affect every strata of the nation’s economy.
Abel said, “Coming to the consequences of the strike, if there is a strike and it involves PENGASSAN, then it means every sector of the economic would be shut down. The consequences are unimaginable. It will negatively affect every strata of our nation. It will negatively impact on us; prices of things will go up but I don’t think the nation requires that.”
He however noted that the federal government should have brought the Port Harcourt Refinery II on stream in order to cater for at least 40 per cent of the nation’s petroleum products’ needs.
Abel continued: “For them to suddenly wake up and act as if landing cost for refined products will be high, does not sound very well. We had expected that the government should have immediately embarked on a programme whereby at least the Port Harcourt Refinery II would have come on stream.
“The Japanese people should have brought it on stream so that it will start producing and cater for at least 30 or 40 per cent of our needs, which will bring down our prices.
“Secondly, the taxes that make the landing cost should have been reviewed downward. If possible, it should be put at a standstill for a while pending when they are able to get the public to be aware of these prices.”
Similarly, the No Alternative To Buhari-Osinbajo 2019 (NATBO 2019)
urged NLC and TUC to shelve their planned strike.
The group said Nigeria, like all other countries of the world, was facing serious economic crises occasioned by the current COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the entire world.
In a statement by its national coordinator, Vincent Uba, the group said there was no nation on the globe that boasts of an economy that is not in a turbulent state and the citizens not crying over the excruciating hardships.
According to Uba, dealing with this economic crisis is the responsibility of every responsible government under the support and understanding of the patriotic citizens.
He said that is the hallmark of citizens’ participation in good governance for socioeconomic growth and development.
The group noted: “Those who are economically informed know that Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, is doing what it must do to keep the country moving. The recent policies and actions of government are not punitive measures, but remedial in nature to prevent the country from collapsing economically and socially.
“Since the inception of this administration, there have been global unforeseen events that only prudent, disciplined and courageous leader like Buhari can manage.
“The crude oil glut of 2015 till date, the twin problems of looting of our national treasury and insurgencies and the current Covid-19 pandemic should make us appreciate the reason why God chose President Buhari in 2015 to pilot the affairs of the country in these perilous times.
“Yes God saw beyond us and knew what was about to happen and so decided to choose a man who would be able to frugally manage the affairs of the country under these national/global disasters. God undoubtedly knew that the previous governments that could not manage our God given resources and save for the rainy day in times of oil boom and plenty but were rather busy looting, cannot manage our economy in times of famine and less revenue.
“Five years down the line, Nigeria still exists as a nation, as against certain predictions before the 2015 general elections that the country would disintegrate and cease to exist as a nation. All thanks to the astute leadership qualities of President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the sustained unpatriotic activities of IPOB and its allies.
“When the price of crude oil, which is the mainstay of Nigeria economy, crashed globally from over $150 per barrel to below $30 in 2015 and plunged Nigeria into a recession, President Buhari and his team were able to manage the situation and steer the country out of recession.
“Have we forgotten the era before 2015 when we consistently witnessed acute fuel scarcity, and became used to queueing for days at the petrol stations with fuel being sold between N200 and N250 per litre? Even at that rate, most people were saying it would be better to buy at such high prices at ease than queue for so long or even sleeping at the petrol station with little chance of seeing the product to buy.
“Should we not be applauding the president that we are no longer in such a dehumanising era of the past? Should we not also thank him that we are no longer in the era of epileptic power supply , even though we know some areas still experience problems of power but it’s not the same compared to what we were used to in the past .
In the same vein, the Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria (NOGASA) appealed to the leadership of NLC and TUC to shelve the plan to go on strike, saying it will impact negatively on businesses which are already underperforming.
The association noted with serious concerned how recent developments, including coronavirus has affected the downstream sector of the petroleum industry negatively.
It warned that the planned strike, if not properly handled, will adversely affect businesses, jobs and the Nigerian economy at large.
A statement signed by the association’s president, Mr Bennett Korie, noted that the price instability that has plagued the market in recent times has become a source of serious concern to its members.
According to him, operators in the downstream sector have incurred losses of over N320 billion due to product price instability induced by government policies.
Okorie stated: “Since the onset of COVID-19 we have been hit hard with a very drastic downturn in business revenue which has been exacerbated by the unpredictability of the pricing regime for trading in PMS.
“The last reduction in pump prices during the month of March at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous for most business investors in the downstream sector.
“The industry incurred heavy losses of over N320billion after purchasing products at government specified prices, only to be compelled to sell at reduced prices, which could not be justified by the costs of transaction”.
The associated noted that a good number of businesses were currently undergoing stress as the operating environment is becoming very hustle every day.
It added: “If you take a look around, you will find out that a lot of businesses are no longer trading as a result of the heavy losses. This also translates into loss of jobs in the sector.
“To make matters worse, the price reduction was virtually promulgated without notice, so, many businesses were caught by surprise and could no longer sustain operations.
“Those losses were never refunded by the government and some companies were forced to shut down operations and lay off workers”.
The association pointed out that the proposed strike action will rather affect Nigerians negatively in the current circumstances.
While calling on the labour unions to rethink their plans, the association said, “In light of the negative outcome of the planned strike to the entire Nigerian economy we appeal to the NLC/TUC to reconsider their proposed action over the increase in petroleum pump price and electricity rates by the government.
“We believe at that it will be counter- productive at this juncture, because it will create far more problems for workers and businesses that employ them than it seeks to solve.
“For an already embattled sector to recover from the ravages of the Covid-19 global pandemic, we plead caution at this critical stage to avoid creating more problems than solutions – we seek to avoid actions that can trigger more layoffs, and loss of revenue to businesses and workers alike.”
Also, the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) yesterday warned the labour unions against embarking on the planned strike scheduled to commence on Monday.
The NYCN asked the labour unions to rethink their stand, even as it wondered where they were when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced an end to subsidy a few months ago.
While acknowledging the right of labour unions to protect workers’ interest, the council argued that the time was now for a paradigm shift from industrial actions.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Abuja, NYCN president, Solomon Adodo, sought support for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s quest to take the country to the next level.
Adodo stated: “The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) received the news of the unfortunate threat by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) with sadness.
“And we therefore with greatest respect, warn the workers’ unions not to deceive or misinform Nigerians on the states of petroleum products pricing”.
But despite the warning from Nigerians, the various unions under organised labour yesterday directed their members nationwide to begin mobilisation to down tools on Monday in line with the planned strike action.
A directive signed by the general secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Afolabi Olawale, asked all formal and informal units under its zones nationwide to join in the strike
The directive reads: “Consequent upon the resolution of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress taken at its meeting on Tuesday 22nd September, 2020 directing all affiliate members of the Congress to embark on a nationwide wide industrial action on Monday 28th September, 2020 to protest the recent hike in electricity tariff and the Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS), you are hereby directed to mobilize all our formal and informal sectors members in your Zone to adequately mobilize for the successful execution of this resolution.
“You are further directed to set up tasl< forces in your Zone to enforce this very important directive. Kindly revert back to the General Secretary if you need any further information or clarification on this directive.”
Also, the Nigeria Civil Service Union directed its members nationwide to down tools on Monday.
The directive signed by the general secretary of the Union, Comrade Yahaya Ndako, reads: “Sequel to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Emergency National executive Council (NEC) meeting held on 22 nd September, 2020 at Labour House, Abuja, it was resolved, amongst others to shut down the Economy of the Country come 28th September, 2020 due to the failure of the Federal Government to revert the hike in Pump price and Electricity tariff.
“In view of the above, you are directed to liaise with NLC/TUC to mobilize our members en mass for the showdown.”
Also, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) equally directed its members nationwide to withdraw service on Monday.
In letter signed by Barr Ikenna Eze for the general secretary, the association said, “You are all to call for State Executive Council (SEC) and State Administrative Council+SAC) meeting between Thursday and Friday this week to mobilise all nurses and midwives in your state to effectively ensure that the NLC strike succeeds unless otherwise stated.
“The strike action starts on the 28th September 2020 throughout the country. noncompliance of any Union attracts sanction from NLC leadership.”
Govs Warn NLC, TUC, Others Against Industrial Action
Meanwhile, governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday cautioned the NLC and TUC against their planned industrial action and protest on Monday.
In a communiqué issued after their emergency meeting on Thursday, deputy chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, said the strike would worsen the economic situation in the country.
Consequently, the governors set up a committee made up of the Governors of Jigawa (chairman), Nasarawa, Ogun, Kwara, Gombe, Abia and Bayelsa States to interface with the National Economic Council, the Labour Unions and relevant stakeholders for the overall interest of the nation.
The governors said, “On the call for a national strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Forum believes that the labour unions should exercise caution on the call for a strike action, noting that any strike action will worsen the currently deteriorating economic situation of the country brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While expressing concern over the call for a national strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Forum members suggested the provision of a cushioning arrangement to ameliorate the effect of subsidy removal.
“Governors conﬁrmed during the meeting that an Industrial Court had barred Labour from embarking on its planned industrial action but nevertheless decided to use the intervening period to mediate between the stakeholders.
Governor Tambuwal said the NGF Secretariat will provide relevant support to the committee on the details of the mechanism for deregulation put in place by the federal government.
He further explained that an emergency NEC meeting would be called as soon as the Committee comes up with a common position on the deregulation of both the petroleum and power sectors and the ﬁgures laid bare for all to see.
“Finally, members advised that any position taken by the Forum should not be seen to be contrary or injurious to the position State Governors have always maintained in support of deregulation.
“Governors insisted that subsidy in the petroleum sector, apart from promoting corruption in petroleum pricing and distribution brings about loss of revenues to the three tiers of government and loss of jobs to the populace.
Tambuwal continued: “The governors also expressed serious concern over deductions from the Federation Allocation of the 774 local governments of the country to construct and equip healthcare centres in each local government area onbehalf of the Association of Local Government Areas of Nigeria (ALGON).
“They called on the Minister for Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation not to disburse to receiving entities monies already deducted for the construction of primary healthcare centers in each of the 774 LGAs, and that further deductions should be halted forthwith.
“Constitute a Committee comprising the Governors of Ekiti (Chairman), Ebonyi, Delta, Gombe, Plateau, and Kano States to represent State and local governments on the matter.
“The Committee will also approach Mr. President, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the National Judicial Council and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to appeal against the judgement”.
HoS Bars Senior Civil Servants From Participating
Meanwhile, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan yesterday warned civil servants on GL12 and above as well as those on essential services to be at work to perform their official duties.
The Head of Service who gave the warning yesterday in a secular referenced HCSF/190/5.1/11/19, and addressed to permanent secretaries, heads of government agencies as well as MDAs and Parastatals noted that the directive was sequel to a court injunction restricting Nigerian Labour from embarking on the planned strike action.
Accordingly, she enjoined the permanent secretaries and chief executive officers to bring the contents of the circular to the attention of all concerned officers and ensure strict compliance.
The circular noted: “Sequel to the call by the Labour Unions for workers to embark on industrial action from Monday, 28th September, 2020, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), wishes to inform all public servants that the Federal Government team is currently engaging with the Labour Unions with a view to resolving all contentious issues and avert the planned industrial action.
“Furthermore, it is important to note that there is a court injunction granted by the National Industrial Court (Suit No. NICN/ABJ/253/2020) on 24th September, 2020 restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria from embarking on any form of industrial action pending the hearing and determination of a Motion on Notice”.
Again, Court Restrains Labour
Meanwhile, Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court Abuja yesterday granted a fresh request by the federal government against the NLC and TUC from embarking on planned strike schedule for Monday.
The court granted an exparte application brought before it by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Justice Galadima had on Thursday issued the same restraining ex parte order for Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association.
The duo of acting director of the Department Civil Litigation of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Maimuna Shiru, and Mr Tijjani Gazali, led the gederal government’s team, who moved the ex parte application that was later granted by Justice Galadima.
Mali: N’Daw Sworn In As Transitional President
By Kingsley Opurum with agency report
Former Defence minister, Bah N’Daw, was yesterday sworn in as Mali’s president, with putsch leader Assimi Goita as his deputy following an August coup which ousted former President Ibrahim Keita.
The swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bamako was attended by Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Embalo and former Nigerian leader and regional mediator, Goodluck Jonathan.
N’Daw who served as Defence minister from 2014-2015 and held several other military positions will act as president until the country can hold elections.
The military junta overthrew former president Ibrahim Keita’s government on August 18 after months of anti-government protests.
Goita who led the coup is the leader of the National Committee for the People’s Salvation (CNSP) which the junta called itself.
The inauguration comes after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded that Mali “immediately” appoint two civilians to lead the volatile nation after the recent coup.
The opposition coalition movement M5-RFP, which was key in mobilising demonstrations that led to the coup, also called for civilians to occupy the two top political offices.
The M5-RFP recently rejected a CNSP road map to a new government, describing the document as a power grab by the junta.