The Organised Labour has kicked off its protest against the “anti-people” policies of the President Bola Tinubu administration in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and other states of the Federation including Lagos, Abia, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Rivers, Zamfara, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kwara, Ogun, Imo, Ondo, and Edo.
In Abuja, members of the Organised Labour with different paraphernalia of the unions, on Wednesday morning, gathered at the iconic Unity Fountain for the protest.
Some officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) from the FCT were spotted at the Unity Fountain with hundreds of their members.
Affiliated unions of the NLC and the TUC including the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the National Union of Electricity Employees of Nigeria (NUEE), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also joined the nationwide protest.
There was a sizeable number of security operatives comprising officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the men of the Department of State Services (DSS) at the Unity Fountain just as there are security operatives at the different venues of the protests across the states.
NLC President, Joe Ajaero, told Channels Television at the venue that there is “nothing stopping the protest, not even an overture from the government”.
He said that the Organised Labour won’t shelve the protest until there is a desired response from the government.
Ajaero said the response from the states will determine “whether the protest will be from today, or tomorrow or next or till thy kingdom come, it is not by using force”.
“We are here for the protest and to make a statement that since we started negotiation, that there is nothing we have in our hands,” he said.
The protesters thereafter matched to the National Assembly and the Three Arms Zone (entrance to the Presidential Villa) where the labour leaders said they would deliver their messages to the government.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, on Tuesday, warned against “violent mass protests” across the country.
‘Let Poor Nigerians Breathe’
Tinubu had removed subsidy on petrol during his epic inauguration speech on May 29, 2023, with a litre of the petrol jumping from N184 to over N620 and food prices and general inflation galloping at an unprecedented rate.
Last week, the NLC issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government and demanded “the immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the federal government including the recent hike in PMS (Premium Motor Spirit) price, increase in public school fees, the release of the eight months withheld salary of university lecturers and workers”.
The union also demanded an upward review of the minimum wage from N30,000 to N200,000, saying that since the President’s “subsidy is gone” inauguration speech of May 29, 2023, the peace of mind of Nigerians has gone.
Several meetings between the Presidency and the unions on palliatives for Nigerians suffering hardship in the wake of the petrol subsidy removal proved abortive.
Also, the intervention of the Senate and the House of Representatives achieved no success as the unions insisted that the government’s palliatives’ package was out of touch with the economic realities that Nigerians face.
In a last-minute move to placate the aggrieved unions, Tinubu, in a broadcast to Nigerians on Monday night, promised to review workers’ salaries and minimum wage.
He also announced a N75 billion palliative for the manufacturing sector, saying 75 businesses would benefit within a nine-month period spanning the third quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of next year. Tinubu went on to declare a N125 billion fund to energise “this very important sector”.
According to him, provision has been made “to invest N100 billion between now and March 2024 to acquire 3000 units of 20-seater CNG-fuelled buses”.
However, the NLC immediately faulted the palliative measures announced by the President to cushion the biting effect of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians, saying the programmes to be rolled out by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government are totally out of touch with economic realities and hardship currently being faced by poor citizens.
The union said “the promises and assurances made by President Tinubu is not the silver bullet that Nigerians expected”.
The NLC said the President was expected to tell Nigerians his plans to resuscitate public refineries which have been lying comatose for so many years but he was completely silent on the issue.