Bimbola Oyesola, Tony Osauzo, Benin and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Anger and disappointment have continued to trail the unceremonious suspension of the much-hyped industrial action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to protest the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel pump price.
Labour announced the suspension of the planned strike following an agreement reached with the Federal Government at a meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Christ Ngige, said the resolution was an outcome of a fruitful deliberation.
The labour unions gave the government two weeks to implement the agreement otherwise it would declare industrial action and call out workers to protest.
The removal of subsidy had led to an increase in electricity tariff from about N30.23 to about N62.33 per kwh, while the price of petrol was increased from about N145 to about N161 per litre.
Some Nigerians, however, decried the suspension of the planned strike.
Members of labour in Edo, Lagos and Ogun states could not hide their disappointment as they expressed anger that the leadership, who represented them at the meeting with the Federal Government, failed to give members fair representation.
In Benin City, protesters led by the former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Osagie Obayuwana and the state NLC chairman Mr. Sunny Osayande, assembled at the King’s Square (Ring Road) and bore placards with inscriptions such as “No to electricity hike”, “No to fuel hike”, “Kill corruption” amongst others, even as they attacked the government for the increase the prices.
Osayande said they decided to embark on the peaceful march to express displeasure over the manner the union called off the strike.
In Abeokuta, a labour leader who preferred anonymity lamented that the leadership did not actually get a concrete commitment from the Federal Government, but mere promises.
In Lagos State, another labour leader expressed dismay that the leadership continues to make the Minister of Labour make fool of workers.
In Oyo State, the Joint Action Front (JAF) and Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), also, staged a peaceful protest in Ibadan against labour’s decision.
The protest, which began from the NLC secretariat in Ibadan, moved through Agodi-Gate, Oje, Yemetu and terminated at Government Secretariat.
Addressing newsmen, ASCAB Vice Chairman in the state, Mr. Femi Aborisade, said the group was against the resolution entered into by the leaderships of the NLC and TUC.
State Coordinator of JAF, Prof. Ademola Aremu, said the protest was to show the grievances of the people against the increase in fuel price and electricity tariff which, he said, had resulted in astronomical rise in the prices of foodstuffs and other commodities.
Similarly, a number of Nigerians have taken to social media to accuse labour of betraying the workers they were meant to represent.
Human rights lawyer, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu said: “The NLC/TUC bunch didn’t even pretend to negotiate. It was all done with wilful orchestration – for the price of “review” of downstream sector without benchmarks to end in rpt that does not promise action; suspension of electricity tariff for 2 weeks(!); & 133 buses. Go figure! You cannot read this communique without marveling at the criminal cynicism of the leadership of Nigeria’s Organised Labour. No, it’s not naïveté; it is organised, criminal cynicism.”
Another activist, Deji Adeyanju said: “They have compromised. They fear Buhari so much. No solid agreement reached. So after two-weeks suspension of electricity tariff, what next? So, this fuel price is okay, right?” Public commentator, Jibrin Ibrahim said:”NLC & TUC lifted the strike today because ‘NNPC will expedite the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna’ – exactly what was agreed in 2012 and did not happen. Who is deceiving who?”
Another activist, Henry Shield accused the unions of selling out, saying: “Dear NLC, deregulation and subsidy removal should not come before the building of refineries. You sold out on the people! You failed! We will march in your face on the 1st of October,” while security expert, Nnamdi Chife said, “The NLC is part of Nigeria’s problem since 1999…’’
More twitter users, Chukudebelu said: “NLC is a branch of APC. Anyone who believed they would “go on strike” must either be naive or ignorant,” while Ugochukwu Ugokwe said: “Nigeria is in shambles. But one of the reasons why things cannot be fixed any time soon is because the very ones who are meant to push that they be fixed are themselves eating fat from the decay. Like pigs, they prefer the water when it is dirty. NLC and TUC are cases in point.”
APC, NECA, others laud FG, labour on truce
However, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) commended the decision to call off the strike.
According to APC: “The Federal Government in temporarily suspending the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments by DISCOs to allow for an all-inclusive and independent review of the power sector operations is evident of the government’s pro-people stance.”