Nigerians may soon be thrown into another cycle of turbulence if the latest threat by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), to commence on an indefinite general strike materializes. Friday last week was designated by the Congress for the commencement of the action, according to NLC President Joe Ajaero.
In his statement, he had justified the new dispensation as having come as the legitimate response by labour, on the grounds that the Congress has given enough time to the Bola Tinubu administration to resolve the numerous strangulating circumstances, that beset Nigerians in the wake of the fuel subsidy removal, as announced during the President’s inauguration on May 29th 2023.
According to Labour, the indefinite strike would commence unless the government addressed the burning issues facing workers in Nigeria and which comprise a complement of measures such as 200% salary adjustment, repair of the country’s moribund refineries and the implementation of a new minimum wage regime, and the programmed conversion of motor fuel engines from petrol to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
On its own side the government had called for restraint by the NLC with the argument that it be given more time to address the issues involved in order to come up with a more sustainable response. According to Simon Lalong, Minister of Labour and Employment, there is a glimmer of hope that the government and Labour will reach a middle ground soonest. In that context he allayed the fears of Nigerians over the strike action. In the circumstance lie paramount, the interest of the workers and masses who bear the brunt of any untoward development in respect of the government- labour face-off. This just as they say that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
Incidentally, the advent of the Tinubu administration had been welcomed by a two day warning strike by the NLC, which started on September 5 2023, and which the Congress says was not only a success, but demonstrated the resolve of workers to hold the government accountable. with the warning strike successfully executed in the rating of the NLC, the looming indefinite strike remains hanging like the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the neck of the government, The question that arises remains what dividends it offers to the country, given the prevailing circumstances. For just as the NLC may have contemplated to follow-up the warning strike with the indefinite action, the overriding consideration must be, not to throw away the proverbial baby with the bath water. In that context remains the condition that unless the strike action will succeed and offer viable dividends to workers, its execution will remains counter-productive. And from the look of things this is a major reason why the NLC needs to revisit its urge to launch an indefinite strike action at this stage in the life of the fledgling Tinubu administration.
And the reasons for this are legion. Firstly is the fact that the administration is yet to coalesce into sustainable functionality. As at present the President is still sourcing persons to man strategic offices – a process which commenced with the swearing in of Minsters on Monday August 21, 2023, who will run the processes of governance. Since then, other officers have also been progressively sourced with a case in point being that of the substantive Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and other critical offices which require the approval of the Senate to function. With the National Assembly due to return from its one month annual recess on Tuesday next week being September 26, 2023. The situation demands that all processes of governance that will require the involvement of these awaited officers shall remain in abeyance until the resumption of the legislature.
Secondly is the need for the administration to develop a supplementary budget which is mandatory for a new administration like Tinubu’s to engage in. Given that the political and economic programmes of the old and new administrations of President Muhamadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu respectively may not be mirror images of each other, the need for a new budget remains imperative and is coming. And by the provisions of the Constitution it is the National Assembly that will facilitate such whenever it resumes. Hence it should be expected that even as the NLC remains resolute on its agenda of putting the government on notice, it should avail the Tinubu administration the leave to acquire operational capacity.
Beyond the foregoing remains other issues bordering on the integrity of the legacy projects and processes bequeathed to the present administration by its predecessor. In this regard lie the shenanigans in several sectors of the economy where early day initiatives and measures by the new administration seem not to have settled well in the society. Of particular interest are the oil and gas as well as money and banking sectors. For instance, accompanying the early stage withdrawal of fuel subsidy were the complement of measures in the financial sector with particular reference to the foreign exchange regime. Just as the fuel subsidy regime imposed a deleterious widespread impact on the economy so the reforms in the forex regime also impacted on Nigerians especially those who have dealings in forex transactions. With a considerable number of Nigerian youth engaged in educational institutions abroad, it can be appreciated how much distress Tinubu’s forex reforms have imposed on them.
Hence, given the wide scope of trauma of the citizenry, the NLC remains eminently justified to call up a industrial action of any scope as long such matches the level of angst among Nigerians. But just as discretion remains the better part valour, granting the Tinubu administration some more time to consolidate and acquire operational capacity, may be acting in wisdom.