An Abuja magistrate’s court on this day in October 2003 ordered the remand of Labour leaders, arrested for allegedly picketing a petrol station, in police custody until October 20, 2003.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) president Adams Oshiomhole said it was an attempt by the Federal Government to cow the labour leaders.
In the four-count charge against the unionists, the police prosecuting officer, Mr. Joseph Omaru, said they were facing trial for criminal conspiracy, criminal trespass, obstruction of public peace and incitement of public disturbances.
The NLC) is an umbrella organisation for trade unions in Nigeria. It was founded in 1978 following a merger of four different organisations, Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Workers Council (NWC).
The numerous affiliated unions were restructured into 42 industrial unions. Its founding president was Wahab
Goodluck. During its history, conflicts with the military regimes twice led to the dissolution of the NLC’s national organs, the first in 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and the second in 1994, under the regime of General Sani Abacha.
Under Nigeria’s military governments, labour leaders were frequently arrested and union meetings disrupted. Following democratic reforms in the country, some of the anti-union regulations were abolished in January 1999. The same month Oshiomhole was elected president of the reformed organisation.
Today, the NLC has 29 affiliated unions. In total, they gather around four million members, according to their own figures. This makes the NLC one of the largest trade union organisations in Africa.
Recently conflict between the government and the NLC has escalated due to the organisation’s opposition to higher fuel prices. The price increases are the result of decisions by government to dramatically reduce subsidies and to deregulate the purchase and sale of fuel. The NLC has led several general strikes protesting the government’s fuel price policy.
In September 2004, the NLC gave the federal government an ultimatum to reverse the decision to reintroduce the controversial fuel tax or face a nationwide protest strike.