• PENGASSAN, NUPENG, others gear up for action
Despite two court orders obtained by the Federal Government to stop their proposed industrial action, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have continued mobilising their affiliate unions and the civil society groups for the scheduled strike on Monday. Checks by Saturday Telegraph last night revealed that the workers’ bodies are set to proceed on the industrial action and have continued mobilising the workforce while putting all their affiliate organs and state chapters on notice.
The National Industrial Court had given two separate orders restraining the workers from proceeding on the industrial action pending the hearing and determination of the suite filed by the Federal Government. While an ex parte order granted on Thursday was still pending, the court gave a fresh order yesterday, to drive home its point against the proposed action. Indications had emerged on Thursday that the workers may proceed on the strike despite the court order, when the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, declared that he has not been served any court order and that he is not answerable to the group that filed the court process.
Wabba had said: “How does that (injunction) affect me if I have not been served? Have I been served? Are they our employers? What relationship do I have with any group? He queried. Feelers from the different labour centres across the nation however show that the workers are battle ready for the Monday showdown.
This became more evident last night as some state chapters of the NLC, TUC and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) began mobilisation of their members for industrial action. The meeting between the labour leaders and representatives of the government had ended in a deadlock, which warranted the labour unions proceeding on a nationwide protest over the hike in the cost of petrol and electricity tariff.
PENGASSAN, NUPENG, order stoppage of oil services
PENGASSAN, which declared its decision to join the strike via a circular tagged ‘Call to Action’, ordered withdrawal of oil services nationwide. The circular issued by its National General Secretary, Lumumba Ighotemu Okugbawa, and addressed to all branch chairmen and secretaries, advised all chapters “to mobilise members to participate in the strike”. The circular reads: “This is to your notice that the two labour centres in Nigeria; Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have jointly resolved to commence a National Industrial Action over increase in fuel (price) and electricity tariff effective Monday, 28th September 2020. “To this effect, you are advised to mobilise our members to participate in the planned industrial action, while awaiting further directive.”
A directive signed by the General Secretary, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Afolabi Olawale, has asked all formal and informal units under its zones nationwide to join the strike The directive reads: “Consequent upon the resolution of the NLC, you are hereby directed to mobilise all our formal and informal sectors members in your Zone to adequately mobilise for the successful execution of this resolution. “You are further directed to set up task 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, Comrade Yahaya Ndako reads: “It was resolved, amongst others, to shut down the economy due to the failure of the Federal Government to revert the hike in pump price and electricity tariff. You are directed to liaise with NLC/TUC to mobilise members for the showdown.”
The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) in a letter signed by its General Secretary equally directed its members nationwide to withdraw service on Monday. “The strike action starts on the 28th September 2020 throughout the country. Non compliance of any Union attracts sanction from NLC leadership.”
Kano NLC declares Monday action
On its part, the State Executive Council (SEC) of the NLC in Kano also directed its workers from public and private sectors to embark on indefinite industrial action, effective Monday. Throwing its weight behind the decision of the NLC Central Working Committee (CWC), the Kano NLC said it has begun mass mobilisation of all professional groups, religious organisations, market women and civil society allies to ensure total compliance with the strike action. Addressing journalists after its emergency meeting yesterday, the Kano NLC branch stressed that the decision to join workers on the nationwide strike became pertinent, considering the prevailing socio-economic hardship, as a result of the sudden hike in electricity tariff and pump price. In a communiqué jointly signed by the state chairman, Comrade Kabiru Ado Minjibir and the acting secretary, Comrade Hussaini Budah, the SEC vowed to resist any attempt to frustrate the strike, except government reverses the recent hikes.
NUJ ready, cancels Lagos election
In the same vein, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has put its members on notice for the strike action and civil protests as the umbrella body of journalists yesterday cancelled all engagements earlier scheduled for next week. In a letter sent to the Lagos State Council of the NUJ, the National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, noted that the state election earlier scheduled for Tuesday had been postponed indefinitely in order to allow members of the union take part in the civil disobedience. “We write to inform you that the scheduled election has been postponed indefinitely because of the nation wide strike action by Labour, which commences on Monday. NUJ as an affiliate of the NLC will participate fully in the strike action”, Leman wrote. The Kano council of the NUJ and the Joint Action Forum immediately complied as the groups said they are in support of the proposed action, while the National Harmonize Traders Union called for caution. The chairman of Kano Council of the NUJ, Comrade Abbas Ibrahim, said journalists are 100 per cent in support of the strike action because the suffering among Nigerians has reached a point of no return. Ibrahim said the strike is nothing but to call the government’s attention to the sorry state of the populace and also remind those in authority that any increase in social amenities is tantamount to further impoverishing the masses. Also, the Kano State chapter of JAF has urged the people to join its rally billed to start from the premises of the Kano NUJ along Farm Center Road on Tuesday. In a statement titled; ‘Our Demands’, and signed by JAF Chairman, Dr Musa Bashir and the Secretary, Abba Bello Ahmed, the group called on the Federal Government to reverse the price of fuel to N86 per litre and also return the electricity tariff and Value Added Tax to their old prices. JAF noted: “Immediate and unconditional reversal of the hike in petrol price from the current N160 to N86 per litre price of 2012, and reversal of the increase in electricity tariffs and VAT. The government has the responsibility to make our refineries work and build new ones in order to ensure availability of petroleum products at cheaper and affordable prices. “Re-engineering of the security apparatus to ensure organised crimes such as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery are reduced to the barest minimum if not curtailed” are part of the demands stated. But the National President of the Harmonize Traders Union Dr Bature AbdulAziz said both Labour and Government should have a common ground upon which they will resolve the issues without unnecessarily plunging the nation into an industrial crisis. AbdulAziz who agreed that many people are impoverished also called on the government to create deliberate measures that will assuage the situation.
Private school proprietors to meet
However, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) is not ready to join the strike as the group’s President, Otunba Yomi Otubela, told Saturday Telegraph that though the action of the labour unions is justified, the association is not likely to join on Monday.
Explaining that the association would hold a meeting next week to take a position on the planned strike, Otubela said NAPPS remain optimistic about the dialogue between the labour unions and the Federal Government, while adding that the hikes in fuel price and electricity tariff are not in the best interest of everyone. Otubela urged both NLC and the Federal Government to embrace dialogue in order to reach a truce on the faceoff, adding that the embarking on an industrial action for the school proprietors, who had been in almost eight months of closure due to the covid-19 pandemic doesn’t make any sense. “Dialogue remains the most crucial thing at this crucial time, given the experiences of most Nigerians in the last five months”, he said.
HoS orders workers to ignore strike
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, has called on workers to disregard the planned industrial action while insisting that all officers on Grade Level 12 and above and those on essential service must be at their duty post on Monday. Yemi-Esan, in a statement issued last night noted that the planned industrial action was against an extant order of the Industrial Court. While she didn’t disclose the penalty for workers that disobey the directive, she directed all Permanent Secretaries and Heads of MDAs to ensure total compliance. “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 NLC and TUC from embarking on any form of industrial action pending the hearing and determination of a Motion on Notice. “Accordingly, all officers on Grade Level 12 and above and those on essential services are hereby strongly advised to be at work to perform their official duties. Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers are therefore enjoined to bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all concerned officers and ensure strict compliance”.