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Anger, disappointment greet NLC botched strike action


— as stakeholders accuse labour leaders of sell out.

Chinazor Megbolu  | 

In the wee hours of September 28, 2020, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called off the strike earlier slated for that day.

The suspension of a nationwide rally to protest the hike in Petrol and electricity tariffs stirred the anger of Nigerians as they woke up from sleep that morning.
Majority of Nigerians both in public and private sectors laughed at the labour unions and went about their businesses as if nothing happened, claiming they never took them serious in the first place.
 Some had said the present labour leaders are like barking dogs that can’t bite.
The strike, which was suspended after a late-night meeting with federal government officials at the presidential villa in Abuja, saw
both parties resolving to review their decisions in two weeks to see if their agreement with the government is fulfilled.
The suspension of the strike action was announced by the Minister of labour and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and contained in a communiqué signed by all the parties involved in the meeting.
The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba had disclosed the unions agreed to suspend the strike after deliberating on the issues and a committee has been set up to find a lasting solution to the problems.
“Both the government and organised labour have looked into the issue of fuel price hike and we have discussed the state of our refineries and how to achieve sustainable refineries.
“We also reviewed the process of privatisation and other issues, such as clear palliatives that were needed to be extended to our members and Nigerians to cushion the effect of these policies,” he said.
But majority of Nigerians never believed the sincerity of purpose of the labour leaders as they were accused of compromise.
In a telephone chat with the National President, Association of Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, he said NLC is one of the tools that’s not stable in their dealings.
“I see NLC as one of the tools that is not stable. They should not give Nigerians hope and while they are sleeping, take another decision.
“I’m not saying they shouldn’t go on strike but they should put very good negotiations with the federal government properly and carry Nigerians populace along,” Nwabunike said.
He also noted that he loves dialogue and that’s exactly what they have done but the labour unions should not strangulate the federal government or people as it were.
According to him; “they should balance their discussions and dialogues with the government but they should also carry their members along”.
Engr. Kelvin Akazue, however, noted that the strike in the first place was of no use because of the economic situation of the world with everyone battling to recover from Covid-19 pandemic.
“Politically, it is like a payback for the 2012 strike.
“Unknowingly, that we have a weak NLC now. In fact, we have no NLC to fight the government now, whether with genuine reasons or not.
“In summary, for now, I don’t support strike. I believe in dialogue: give and take. In 2012, if President Goodluck Jonathan had listened to advice, the strike should have worked.
“Then, Jonathan would have done the salary review being done now. That was my opinion then, though personal. In contrast to the agitations and soft pedal of the (NLC) towards Government decisions and implementations on Electricity tariffs/ petroleum pump price upward review.
“It will interest us to know that the masses of this great nation Nigeria have little below 20 per cent of non government appointees or elected in influencing or opposing any government decisions and implementation.
“On this reason, the NLC was constituted and stood on the gap as the masses mediator in checkmating Government excesses,” Akazue said.
An IT guru, Mr. Richard Ndidi  noted that he didn’t even understand the basis for the strike in the first place. According to him; “I am neither here nor there on this case.  “First, what was the purpose of embarking on the proposed strike. It was because of the incessant increase in the suffering of the masses via hike in electricity / fuel price tariffs.
“Have they now reversed the prices or provided the facilities that can serve the purpose to avoid an inevitable rise in the nearest future?
“Only government and labor could answer to that.
“Ordinarily, the strike would have made government to rethink. On the contrary, considering the plight of the people just coming out of Covid-19 pandemic, it will become more challenging for people to cope with the pains of another government lockdown via labour strike.
” So, shelving it serves a purpose”.
An importer, Mr. Augustine Maduemezie, expressed deep disappointment over the botched strike action.
“They acted as if they bought them over. How can they just suspend the strike without carrying their members along and without telling us the agreed negotiated pump price?
“My brother, everything looks somehow, if people say they have collected bribe they might be right because it looks suspicious. It is only God that will deliver us,” he said.
According to Deacon Ayodeji Ojo, an economist, “we live in a kind of nation that our leaders know they are deceiving us and they know that the people know they are being deceived but are helpless.
“What NLC and TUC did was a mere drama and not strike because they know the federal government will not respond to any of their long list of demands. So why the strike? Besides, the NLC and TUC leaders are connected to the politicians so, what they were doing was nothing but scam.
“On October 1, 2020, President Buhari in his address to Nigerians, mentioned a number of nations that are buying fuel at a high price. He added that it will not make sense that Nigerians will be buying at a low price. So, let the organised labour just stop the drama because they also know it will not result to anything good,” Ojo admonished.
Also, Barrister Akazue Victor Mbadiwe declared that “the NLC and TUC are confused. If not, why calling people out for strike you know was not going to be.
“The leadership of these unions is seeking for relevance. If not, what is in the communique that will address the issues affecting the oil and power sectors?
“Labour unions leadership is political now unlike in the days of Pa lmoudu,  when labour was about the people”.
The Public Relations Officer of the newly formed ANLCA chapter Muritala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Mr. Christopher Oloko said he was surprised when the labour unions called off the strike, noting they ought to have staged the proposed protest instead of the cancellation.
“Concerning the strike, I’m still surprised it was called off. They are supposed to have done it. The hike in the price of fuel and electricity is not doing anyone any good.
“Everybody is complaining. They were supposed to hold it so that Government will know that it ought to reverse it,” Oloko noted.
According to another executive member of the newly formed ANLCA chapter MMIA, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwachukwu, “the calling off of the strike by the NLC was quite expected. Owing to the fact that Nigerians were just coming out from the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.
“The disappointment in it, is that NLC carried on as if they have concluded about the strike. They should have consulted the stakeholders before ending the proposed strike.
“Strike isn’t a solution to any problem but as a last resort.
“But when you have made that last resort, it should be the final and when you come out of it, it will have some merits.
“That’s why some of us never believed the strike would have taken place considering the situation of the country. So, we were happy when it was called off.
 “Not that the strike wasn’t okay but because of the timing and change of mind of that proposed strike.
“I don’t know what the federal government is doing with fixing of electricity price. From my own point of view, you can’t be fixing price for a private company.
“It is the responsibility of the private companies to fix prices. So, I don’t know why Government is fixing prices for them. They are wrong doing so”.
Even though the labour unions have called off the strike for two weeks, it remains to be seen if it will still hold once the two weeks moratorium expires.
Nigerians are waiting and watching!

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