Labour's plan to embark on nationwide strike and mass protest against recent increase in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff hike was sealed yesterday, as the highest decision making organ of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the National Executive Council, NEC, ratified the descision of the Central Working Committee, CWC.
It also directed state councils to intensify mobilization of workers and other Nigerians preparatory for the strike scheduled to start on September 28.
The seal on the plan to go on strike came on a day the Trade Union Congress, TUC, extended its seven days strike notice to September 28 to tally with NLC's deadline.
This is even as attempt by some Nigerians to protest against the fuel price increase, electricity tariff hike and rise in Value Added Tax, VAT, under the aegis of Joint Action Force, JAF, in Kano was frustrated by security agencies, including the Police and civil defence corps.
At a meeting held at Labour House Abuja, NEC ordered the 36 NLC state councils and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to intensify mobilization of workers and other Nigerians, faulting the timing of the increments.
Recall that the NLC 's CWC had last Wednesday, threatened to shut down the economy if the federal government refused to reverse its decision before September 28.
Speaking after the NEC's meeting, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, advised the federal government to, in the interest of industrial peace and social order, listen to the cries of workers and other suffering Nigerians and rescind the increases, warning that failure to meet the demands would make the planned strike and mass protest inevitable.
He said: "The National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, comprising members of the National Administrative Council, President and General Secretary of members of the affiliate unions and our state council chairpersons and secretaries of the 36 states and FCT met today (yesterday) and resolved as follows:
"NEC resolved to reject in its entirety the issue of hike in electricity tariffs by almost 100 percent as well as the fuel price increase in the name of full deregulation.
"This decision is premised on the fact that this twin decision, alongside other decisions of government, including the increase of VAT by 7.5 per cent, numerous charges being charged by commercial banks on depositors' funds without any explanations, will further impoverish Nigerian workers, citizens and their families.
"Therefore, this increase, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is not only ill-timed but also counterproductive. NEC also observed that the privatization of the electricity sub-sector seven years down the line has not yielded any positive result.
"Whereas in the entire privatization process, the entire sector was sold at about N400 billion, we are also surprised that government within the last four years injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that accrued from this important asset.
"Therefore, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatization process has failed and the electricity hike is actually a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians.
" On the issue of the refineries and also the increase in the pump price of PMS, this particular issue had been on the table for more than three decades and the argument has not changed.
"Whether it is the name of full deregulation or subsidy removal, what is obvious is that it is fuel price hike and this has further eroded the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage because it has spiral effects which include the high costs of food and services and the reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians.
"In the light of all of these, NEC thought that the issue of deregulation would be a continuous exploitation if it is import-driven.
"While demanding that our three refineries should be made to work optimally and then, it would benefit Nigerians, NEC also concluded that government has business in doing business because the primary purpose of governance is about the security and welfare of the people and if in other countries, governments are maintaining refineries, and they are working optimally for the benefit of the people, Nigeria cannot be an exception.
"In the light of these, NEC decided to endorse the two-week ultimatum given to the federal government to reverse those obnoxious decisions and also pronounce that the action proposed by the Central Working Committee is hereby endorsed by NEC that 28th of September should be the date that those decisions should be challenged by Nigerian workers, our civil society allies and other labour centre's."
TUC extends strike notice deadline
On its part, TUC in a statement by its President and Secretary, Quadri Olaleye and Musa-Lawal Ozigi, respectively, said: " TUC, after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilsation strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest fuel hike and electricity tariff increase, resolved that the Congress is going to work in collaboration with its sister Labour Centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike.
"Consequent upon this, the ultimatum which should expire by midnight of today September 22, 2020, has been shifted to September 28, 2020 for effective and maximum effect. We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts.
"There is no need for the pains we bear. It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills. You will recall that this government during its electioneering campaigns in 2014, told the world there is nothing like subsidy.
"We were told that they will build refineries, but all that are history now. We run a mono-economy and any hike in fuel automatically will have adverse effect on us, yet successive governments tow that path because they are not creative.
"As at today, about eight states are yet to commence the payment of new minimum wage and its consequential adjustment, even though the President signed it into law on April 18, 2019. We have written letters to the governors and also engaged them in dialogue but all to no avail. Sometimes we wonder if these people have conscience at all. The Congress, hereby, appeals to all Nigerians to get ready for the unprecedented mass action against corruption, obnoxious policies, rape and other violent offences, breach of Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA, unemployment, etc.
"We also call on the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, etc. to support our struggle by placing indefinite Visa ban on our political leaders whose stock in trade is to loot and impoverish the masses and the country. We can no longer take it. Enough is enough!"
Meanwhile, operatives of security agencies, comprising the Police, Department of State Service, DSS, and and National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, yesterday swooped on protesters who stormed the streets of Kano to kick against increase in pump price of petrol , Value Added Tax, VAT, and electricity tariff hike.
The protest, led by a civil society organization, Joint Action Forum, JAF, started as a rally in front of the premises of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, along Farm Center Road early yesterday morning amid heavy security presence.
The protesters marched through some streets of the city but were stopped by the heavily armed security agents.
Leaders of the protest got into a hot exchange with the security men for curtailing their rights to protest.
However, in a statement titled "Our Demands", signed by the chairman, Dr Musa Bashir, and Secretary, Abba Bello Ahmed, the group called on the federal government to reverse the price of fuel from N160:00 to N86:00.
Asking to also reverse rate of VAT and hike in electricity tariff, the group stated: "We demand immediate and unconditional reversal of the hike in petrol price from the current N160:00 to N86:50 price of 2012, and reversal of the increase in electricity tariffs and VAT.
"The government has the responsibility to make our refineries work and build new ones in order to ensure availability of petroleum products at cheaper and affordable prices. "Re-engineering of the security apparatus to ensure organized crimes such as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery are reduced to the barest minimum if not curtailed."
The protesters vowed that they would not relent in their resolve to challenge the decision of the government unless all the prices were reversed. They called on the NLC and the TUC to act fast in mobilising Nigerians to challenge what they described as wicked policies."