… Vows to embark on nationwide mass protest to reject the agreement reached by labour leaders and the Federal Government in its totality.
Noah Ebije, Kaduna
A Northern group under the auspices of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has blasted the federal government, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as well as Trade Union Congress (TUC) for the respective roles played in suspending the planned nationwide strike against fuel pump price and electricity tarrifs hikes last Monday.
The labour unions and thier affiliates had indicated readiness to participate actively in a national mass action agreed to be spearheaded by the NLC and TUC from last Monday to force the Federal Government to reverse the increased prices resulting from downstream sector deregulation and tariff adjustment in the power sector, but the labour leaders backed out in the last minutes of action.
Addressing Journalists at a press conference on Tuesday in Kaduna, Spokesman of CNG, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman condemned labour union leaders for allegedly betraying the trust of the public by compromising the expectations of most Nigerian masses.
According to Suleiman, “After sufficiently mobilizing Nigerians, NLC and the TUC surprisingly announced a 2-week suspension ostensibly following an agreement at a meeting with government officials on the eve of the planned action.
“We have directed all CNG State chapters to intensify outreach with all sections of the civil society, credible Non-governmental organizations and prepare every significant component of the northern society for a massive protest on a date to be announced soon, to force the reversal of this, and all other harsh economic policies pursued by the government.
“If Nigerians today need to hear the truth, they should be told that they have leaders who have lost the energy and courage to work to solve our basic socio-cultural problems, our regressing economy or address our precarious future; leaders who prefer to leave the bulk of Nigerians in poverty, fighting each other, so that they can continue to manipulate us during elections.
“The Senate and House of Representatives in particular, are today occupied by people poorly-prepared and ill-equipped, except for their ambitions for power and fantastic wealth, while abandoning the people at the mercy of armed crime and unforgivable poverty.
“Everywhere in the world, the mass population, and not labour unions, stands as the legitimate and natural claimants to staging protests for shaping the destiny of their societies.
“It therefore follows that, with the latest shameful drama by the Nigerian labour leaders, the Nigerian masses, as major stakeholders in whatever happens in, and to Nigeria, are left with no option but to raise their level of vigilance over the direction and fate of the nation.
“We must collectively look ahead, be conscious of the present, and draw inspiration from the fact that we, and only we, can make our future better or worth.
We conclude with the saying that, “movements move Congress and politicians, and not the other way around,” to urge the mass population of Nigerians to be ready for a long haul, one that must continue until leaders are forced to enact meaningful change in the society”.
The northern group said the agreement reached with the federal government by the labour leaders was sectional, far from addressing the pains of the masses.
“Government was said to have committed to a set of vague promises of reactivating the nation’s refineries in addition to facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage to cushion the impact of the policy on the lowest vulnerable.
“To provide to labour unions 133 CNG/LPG driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale-up basis, thereafter, to all states and local governments before December, 2021, and to allocate 10% of housing to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative through the NLC and TUC.
“The CNG wishes to join the vast majority of Nigerians, whose interests were not in anyway reflected or protected in the Labour/FG agreement that the agreement reflected the concentration of negotiation on only the electricity tariff which was just one demand out of many concerns raised by Nigerians such as exploitative taxation, insecurity, infrastructural decay, massive unemployment and poverty.
“Even at that, no representation was made about the existing wide discrepancy between the electricity tariffs obtainable in the North, and those in the southern parts, and the entire palliative package does not reflect the overall interest of the mass of suffering Nigerians outside the fold of the NLC and TUC which collectively accounts for only about 0.5% of the total national population.
“The package merely offers temporary relief to a minor section of the population with the vast majority condemned to suffer the harsh realities perpetually, as prohibitive fuel prices inadvertently reflect on other commodities.
“This capitulation by the labour leadership signals the need for the formation of an alternative unified, more confident, and consistent national front for undertaking further autonomous actions outside the workers’ unions.
“We reject the agreement reached by the Nigerian labour leaders and the Federal Government in its totality, as it does not address the major grievances of Nigerians, nor reflect the interest of the vast majority of the population.
“We resist the deregulation of the downstream oil sector and insist on the immediate, unconditional and total reversal of the fuel and electricity tariffs to their former states before the increase”.CNG Spokesman added.