Strike:Labour Begins Protests As Subsidy Talks With Fg Ends In Deadlock••• Oil Workers Down Tools
The two-day meeting between the Federal Government and the organised labour ended in a deadlock on Tuesday, with the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress leaders vowing to begin a nationwide protest against the removal of fuel subsidy.
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This came as oil workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association began an indefinite strike on Tuesday, citing inhumane treatment by the management of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, an agency of the Federal Government.
The strike and planned protest by the organised labour slated for Wednesday (today) over the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government may shut down the country and paralyse the economy.
Oil workers had earlier on Tuesday staged a protest and shut down the commission’s office in Lagos, while also vowing to shut down the agency’s offices nationwide.
Speaking on the planned strike on Tuesday, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the organised labour had no reason to suspend the planned national protests and strike.
Ajaero spoke a few hours after another round of meeting of the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives held at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, deadlocked.
“We have no reason to call off the planned protests. If we suspend or call it off, you will know. I can tell you that the mobilisation is very high,” Ajaero said in response to questions from journalists.
The Federal Government had in a last-ditch effort to avert the strike met with the NLC and TUC leaders on Monday but the parley also failed to reach any resolution.
Reports have that the Federal Government and the organised labour have been at loggerheads following the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on May 29,2023.
In an effort to foster negotiations, the government set up a committee to look into the demands of the labour unions for a 300 per cent wage increase to enable workers to cope with the challenges imposed by the deteriorating economic situation that came with the removal of the controversial fuel subsidy, among other things.
Though the committee was given a total of eight weeks to come up with a suitable plan for workers and Nigerians at large, the labour leaders insisted that the committee has continued to show a lack of commitment towards their shared goal.
An earlier move by the labour leaders to embark on strike was stopped by a court order obtained by the government.
Speaking earlier after the meeting with FG officials, the NLC Secretary-General, Emmanuel Ugboaja, hinted that the congress would consider the government’s appeal for a peaceful resolution.
But he was countered by the Deputy Vice-President of the NLC, Titus Amba, who said there was no new development following the national broadcast made by the President, Bola Tinubu, on Monday evening.
Tinubu had unveiled a N500bn palliative which he said would be shared to manufacturers, small businesses and farmers.
He also disclosed plans to increase salaries and acquire 3,000 CNG-powered mass transit buses for all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
However, the Assistant National Secretary of NLC, Mr Chris Onyeka, told The PUNCH that the protest was irreversible despite the appeal by the government.
“The planned nationwide protest is on, it is irreversible,” Onyeka told The PUNCH when asked if the organised labour would consider FG’s appeal to shelve the strike.
Similarly, the congress in a statement signed by Ajaero on Tuesday night asked Nigerians to ignore news about a possible suspension of its planned nationwide strike.
The terse statement which was posted on its official Twitter handle, @NLCheadquarters read, “Ignore fake rumors, NLC is never divided. We are one united and strong labour centre. The protest rally holds tomorrow(Wednesday) nationwide.”
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Angry oil workers down tools
In a sign of things to come, oil workers on Tuesday shut down the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission’s office in Lagos as they sang and chanted solidarity anthems.
One of the protesters, Orlu Ezekiel, said the protest had the backing of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria national president, Osifo, who also doubles as the TUC president, Festus Osifo.
According to Ezekiel, NUPRC offices nationwide have been shut down as the strike action will continue until their demands were met by the management.
He said, ‘’We have chosen to begin a nationwide strike today simply because our management has decided not to do the needful. They have decided to ignore the welfare of staff. Like we keep saying, these are politicians that have been imposed on us. They have taken the leadership of this organisation backwards.
“As you are aware, we used to be DPR, and from the advent of the PIA which split the DPR into two- NMDPRA and NUPRC, we are the upstream section of the sector; we monitor the IOCs and independent oil producers. The PIA clearly stated that we would not enjoy any employment conditions lower than what we used to enjoy as defunct DPR.’’
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