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Subsidy removal: Labour suspends strike

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) last night shelved their nationwide planned strike to protest the removal of fuel subsidy…

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) last night shelved their nationwide planned strike to protest the removal of fuel subsidy to give room for more consultations.

This was contained in a communiqué signed by TUC President, Comrade Festus Osifo, Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, NLC President, Joseph Ajaero, Secretary General, Emmanuel Ugboaja, Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ms Kachollom Daju.

Reading out the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, Gbajabiamila, who led the government side, said seven resolutions were reached to address the situation.

According to the communiqué, the agreement are that; “The NLC to suspend the notice of strike forthwith to enable further consultations.

“The TUC and the NLC to continue the ongoing engagements with the federal government and secure closure on the resolutions.

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to establish a joint committee to review the proposal for any wage increase or award and establish a framework and timeline for implementation.

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to review World Bank Financed Cash transfer scheme and propose inclusion of low-income earners in the programme.

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to revive the CNG conversion programme earlier agreed with Labour centres in 2021 and work out detailed implementation and timing.

“The Labour centres and the federal government to review issues hindering effective delivery in the education sector and propose solutions for implementation.

“The Labour centres and the federal government to review and establish the framework for completion of the rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries.

“The federal government to provide a framework for the maintenance of roads and expansion of rail networks across the country.

“All other demands submitted by the TUC to the federal government will be assessed by the joint committee.”


Genesis of the problem

The National Industrial Court, Abuja had earlier yesterday stopped the NLC and TUC from embarking on a nationwide strike billed to start tomorrow. 

Daily Trust had reported that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) had directed retail stations to jerk up the pump price of fuel from N197 to between N488 and N570 per litre.

This followed the declaration by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that fuel subsidy had gone.

However, Justice Olufunke Anuwe restrained the NLC and all its affiliates from further embarking on the strike until the hearing and determination of the main suit.

The court further ordered the service of the originating summons and motion on notice on the NLC against the next adjourned date of June 19.

The orders of the court followed an ex parte application by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice against the NLC and TUC. 

The judge observed that the government had shown urgency on the matter because the proposed strike action was capable of disrupting economic activities, the health sector and the educational sector.

“In my view, this is a situation of extreme urgency that will require the intervention of this court,” she said.

Salary increment sacrosanct 

However, the TUC had earlier called on the President, Bola Tinubu, to increase the minimum wage of workers in the country in order to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.

It said this should be done before the end of June in order to implement the Petroleum Industry Act, adding that the consequential adjustment on Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) should be considered. 

TUC leader Osifo and Secretary Toro in a joint statement said these were part of their demands. 

Osifo said they also demanded that the “status quo ante of PMS pump price” should be maintained while discussion continues, adding that a representative of state governors must be a party to the communiqué and that all the governors must commit to implement the new minimum wage. 

The union also demanded a tax holiday for employees both in government and private sector that earn less than N200, 000 or $500 monthly whichever is higher. 

“PMS allowance to be introduced for those earning between N200, 000 to N500, 000 or 500USD to 1,200USD whichever is higher.

“The exchange rate for retailing PMS in the country must be kept within a limit of +- 2% for the next ten (10) years where the fluctuation is more than 2%, the minimum wage will automatically increase at the same rate. 

“Setting up an intervention fund where the government will be paying N10 per litre on all locally consumed PMS. The primary purpose of this fund is to solve perennial and protracted national issues in education, health and housing. 

“A governance structure that will include labour, civil society and government will be put in place to manage the implementation. 

 “Federal government should provide mass transit vehicles for all categories of the populace. 

“State governments should immediately set up a subsidised transportation system to reduce the pressure on workers and students. The framework around this will be worked out.”

TUC also called for an immediate review of the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover more Nigerians and prevent an out of stock of drugs. 

It advised the president to direct whoever will be labour minister to immediately constitute the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), saying the platform would be used by government, labour and employer to discuss issues and policies of government that may affect workers and all other mandates as specified in the law, among other demands.

“A framework should be immediately put in place to maintain the road and expand the rail networks across the country. Government must design a framework for social housing policy for workers through the Rent to Own System. 

“The state of electricity in the country must be appraised and an action plan should be defined with timelines on how to get this fixed. A strong monitoring team comprising of all parties will be constituted.”


Earlier plans 

Daily Trust reports that earlier yesterday, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and over 30 unions had declared support for the strike.

 The NLC has over 50 unions as its affiliates nationwide – with the majority of them providing essential services. 

The unions include Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Radio, Television, Theatre and Art Workers’ Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU); National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees; National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE); Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE). 

Others are: Nigeria Civil Service Union; National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Senior Staff Union in Colleges of Education, Nigeria (SSUCOEN); Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN); Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU); National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers; Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria; NULGE; SSANU; Academic Staff Union of Colleges of Agriculture and Related Institutions (ASUCA); National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees; National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) among others. 


Kwara reduces workdays to 3 

However, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State yesterday approved the reduction of work days from five to three days a week for civil servants in the state. 

The governor described the decision as a temporary palliative measure to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy. The state’s Head of Service, Mrs Susan Modupe Oluwole, announced the governor’s decision on Monday. 

She however, “Warned the workers not to abuse the magnanimity of the governor, stressing that the regular monitoring of MDAs by her office would be intensified to ensure strict compliance.”


Planned industrial action a threat – IGP 

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has described the proposed industrial action against fuel subsidy removal as an “emerging threat” capable of thwarting the peace and stability of Nigeria’s democracy. 

Baba, who spoke at Force Headquarters, Abuja during a strategic meeting with other top cops of the force, vowed that he and his team – DIGs, AIGs, CPs and others, would not allow the internal security of the country to be jeopardised.

“In so doing, I charge you all to remain focused while monitoring the election tribunals and the proposed industrial actions across the country. You must develop proactive crime management mechanisms to forestall any untoward acts from political and non-political actors,” he said. 

The top cop added that 4,072 assorted calibres of live ammunition and other incriminating items linked to various crimes had been recovered between January and May with over 3,000 suspects arrested.

From Muideen Olaniyi, John C. Azu, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja) Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos) & Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin) 

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