(Bimbola Oyesola, ABUJA)
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday suspended its nationwide industrial action commenced last Wednesday in protest against the hike in the pump price of petroleum by the Federal Government.
The decision was taken at the Congress’s emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja, to review the strike.
However the NLC contrary to the general opinion is suspending the strike to enable it appear in court today as it has been officially served with the court injunction from National Industrial Court in Abuja.
Daily Sun gathered that NLC lawyer, Femi Falana had advised the Congress against impunity and contempt of court.
“Our lawyer said as we have now been served, we must obey the court, noting that not obeying will amount to impunity and when this happen government will have the upper hand.
“Besides we have the assurance that we can win through the legal process, because there is a case that happened on the same issue in 2003, 2004 and we won and had the judgment then and up till now government is yet to appeal against the judgment.”
Our source revealed further that the NLC is also returning to the negotiation table today, but insisted that the position of the Congress on the price hike has not changed.
The NLC in a communiqué jointly signed by the President , Ayuba Wabba, and the General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said the labour centre suspended the action based on its impact across the nation, noting the sacrifices of its members, response of the generality of Nigerians, government’s attitude and the brutality of the police in some states, giving special emphasis to Ebonyi State Police Command where it noted that members were intimidated, harassed, arrested and detained unjustly.
“The NLC who said the protest was informed by the twin issues of the unjustified and illegal hike in electricity tariff and increase in the pump price of petroleum products, stated that it adjudged the protest action to be a success in spite of both internal and external challenges.
The communique read, “NEC reiterated the correctness of its position on the twin-issues of electricity tariff hike and astronomical increase in the pump price of PMS and the hardship they portend for Nigerian masses.
“NEC also acknowledged that the temptation to compare the strike action with that of 2012 could be compelling, but that the scenario had changed as both the actors and the terrain were different.
“NEC said before it had embarked on the action, it had anticipated a probable outcome and therefore was not surprised by government’s negative response. Nonetheless, it felt fulfilled by having the presence of mind and courage to identify its mission and fulfilling it, stressing that if a similar situation arises again, it will still rise and stand with the people.”
The Congress said it commended those who took part in the action in one way or the other and reaffirm its commitment to the struggle.
It reiterated that the action was taken in the best interest of the poor and the weak and in drawing government’s attention to the dangers of relying on importation of petroleum products as a sustainable strategy for making available petroleum products. The NLC insisted that the days ahead and time would prove its position right.
The statement read further, “Congress singled out for commendation, its state councils, affiliates and other patriotic Nigerians who at very short notice picked up the gauntlet for this struggle. Congress commends the leadership of the National Assembly and All Progressives Congress led by Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
“In consideration of the above, NEC after due consultation with its constituents resolved to suspend with immediate effect, the action it commenced on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The action is thus hereby suspended.
“Congress will resume negotiations with government on the twin issues of the hike in electricity tariff and an increase in the pump price of petroleum products and any other issue that may arise thereof.
“It similarly remains committed to genuine dialogue within the framework of internationally established and recognized principles of representation.”
The Congress however warned that it will continue to resist wrong legislations, policies and programmes and will always act in the best interest of Nigerians as it remains the only pan Nigerian organisation not affected by religion, region, creed, partisanship or primordial sentiments.
Meanwhile as it returned to the negotiation table, the congress has urged the government to play by the rules in its engagement with its constituent parts, stakeholders and non-state actors as proof of its commitment to deepening the nation’s democracy and also in acknowledgment of the well-worn credo that what goes around, comes around.
While it commended all Nigerians for their understanding and support, the Congress equally charged the citizenry to be vigilant at all times adding that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.