Pressure mounts on NLC to shelve planned protests

By Nudoiba Ojen

There are pressures from several quarters on the Nigeria Labour Congress to shelve it’s planned nationwide strike billed for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The proposed strike is to register displeasure over the rising cost of living in the country

Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; Lagos People’s Assembly (LPA) and Arewa Think-Tank cautioned against blackmailing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with protests.

They stressed that the Federal Government deserves cooperation in its bid to tackle the economic challenges.

Last week, Ohanaeze Ndigbo President Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu urged the NLC to toe the line of dialogue.

He urged the people to shun any form of protest.

The Directorate of State Service (DSS) warned that there is a possibility of the protest being hijacked, thereby turning an otherwise peaceful exercise into a violent one.

According to a statement by its spokesman, Dr Peter Afunnaya, the protest may herald violence that may further impact negatively on the economy.

At the weekend, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice Lateef Fagbemi warned the NLC leaders not to risk contempt of court.

The Lagos Police Command also warned protesters against impeding the flow of traffic in Lagos during the protest.

The Police Commissioner, Fayoade Adegoke, said violation of human rights by protesters will not be permitted.

Trade Union Congress (TUC), the second labour centre, disowned the NLC’s plan, saying it was uncalled for and unilaterally decided.

However, the NLC yesterday insisted that the protest would go on.

Its President, Joe Ajaero, said: “We remain resolute, determined and prepared to express our pain and grief peacefully as Nigerians come 27th and 28th of February 2024.

Ajaero, who maintained that NLC would go ahead with its plan to protest the “mounting hunger and insecurity” in the country, accused the Federal Government of trying to use an amorphous group – Nigeria Civil Society Forum (NCSF) – to attack its members during the rallies.

He said there would be a total shutdown of the country through the withdrawal of services by workers if any of its members were attacked during the protest.

Ajaero alleged in a statement that the right to protest and freedom from slavery was being threatened in Nigeria.

“We would want the state to know that the solution to our horrible economic situation and hunger is not by suppressing peaceful dissent or inflicting violence on peacefully protesting citizens as the government did in Minna and other cities where its agents tear-gassed and beat up women before locking them up for raising their voices against hunger.

“It does not lie in the deployment of state-sponsored terror. The pangs of hunger cannot be cowed by bullets or tear gas.

“In light of this, we at the Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society allies are moving ahead with our protest rallies against economic hardship and insecurity in line with the decision of the National Executive Council.

“As citizens, we have a fundamental right to peaceful protest and history bears us witness that our protests are always peaceful except in instances of state-engineered violence.

“In light of this, we advise the state to put on its thinking cap and find solutions to the pains it continues to cause the people instead of further dehumanising them.

“However, if it is irrevocably set on the path of violence against us and other peace-loving Nigerians, it will be making a costly mistake because if we are attacked, there will be a total shutdown via withdrawal of services by workers.

“Let no one be deceived, we and other deprived Nigerians cannot easily be intimidated.

“Lest those in power now who may have forgotten be reminded, we faced a more resourceful and resilient adversary in order to have democracy.

“All we are saying now is: let there be food for the people, let the people live in safety, let the people live a life of dignity devoid of suffocating IMF/World Bank economic policies.

“Once again, we advise those waiting in the wings to unleash violence on us that this is not about the NLC but about Nigerians who are saying ‘enough is enough’, about a people who have resolved not to be further pushed into the pit of misery and hopelessness, while a few live in obscene luxury at our collective expense.”

Also, two groups, The Joint Action Front (JAF) and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) said they would participate in the protest in solidarity with the NLC.

The Federal Government denied the allegation of a planned attack on NLC leadership, describing it as “speculative”.

Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy Bayo Onanuga, said by raising the allegation, “NLC is feeling guilty in hatching its hidden agenda influenced by partisan considerations”.

Onanuga, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, said the planned protest is illegal as it is against a subsisting order of the court.

He said the NLC had a hidden agenda because most of the issues raised by labour for embarking on the protest had been addressed by the government.

Onanuga insisted that the issues raised by the labour had been addressed by the government, including the payment of a wage award of N35,000 for six months.

He said the money had been paid to civil servants up till January and only that of February is outstanding.

The President’s aide said the Federal Government had inaugurated a 37-member Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage to review and come up with an acceptable and sustainable Minimum Wage.

He said the government had made substantial financial commitments on the provision of CNG Buses and Conversion Kits.

Onanuga said the busses will be rolled out very soon to alleviate the transportation challenges being faced by Nigerians.

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