Strike: FG, Labour on collision course

The Federal Government and the organised labour appeared to be headed on a collision course over the planned nationwide strike.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had at the end of a joint National Executive Council meeting on Tuesday declared an indefinite strike beginning from Tuesday, October 3 to press home their demands.

But the central government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, yesterday, warned that embarking on the planned action would amount to a gross violation of a subsisting order of the National Industrial Court.

It stressed that issues bordering on fuel subsidy removal, which informed the decision of the NLC and the TUC to declare the strike action, were already pending before the National Industrial Court, NIC.

In a letter to the head of the legal team of the two unions, Mr. Femi Falana, the AGF urged him to persuade his clients to abort the planned strike action.

Fagbemi noted that it was due to the willingness of the unions to enter into a negotiation over the issue that it was persuaded to withdraw a contempt proceeding that it initially instituted against them.

The letter, dated September 26, read: “The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to media reports on the proposed nationwide strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, scheduled to commence on 3rd October 2023.

“You are kindly invited to recall the antecedence of previous steps/actions on this matter, particularly the exchange of correspondence between this office and your firm, before and after the nationwide ‘action/protest’ declared by the NLC on 2nd August 2023.

“Whilst your clients had maintained that the nationwide protest by NLC is in furtherance of its constitutional right to embark on protests, the Ministry has repeatedly advised on the need to advise your clients to refrain from resorting to self-help and taking actions capable of undermining subsisting orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is also to be recalled that based on the conduct of the said nationwide action/protest, this Office instituted contempt proceedings against the labour leaders.

“However, upon the intervention of the president and National Assembly, coupled with the decision of the labour unions to discontinue their action/protest, the contempt proceedings were not prosecuted further.

“This was advisedly done to enable the government and labour union engage in further negotiations without any form of encumbrances.

“However, in its Communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council meeting on 31st August 2023, NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from 31st August 2023.

“Also on 26th September 2023, the Presidents of NLC and TUC, jointly issued a communiqué stating that organised labour had resolved, ‘to embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023.’

“From a review of the contents of the above communiques and available media reports, the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.

“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.

“Therefore, the proposed strike action is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on 5th June 2023 restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice.

“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.

“It is the expectation of the public that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.”

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, State Security Services, DSS, were copied.

•No agreement with FG to suspend strike –NLC

Notwithstanding, NLC has dismissed a report that it had reached an agreement with the Federal Government to call off the planned strike as false

Mr. Benson Upah, head of information and public affairs in NLC, said there was no iota of truth in the statement allegedly issued by Mr. Olajide Oshundun, director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, that it had reached a truce with government.

“ We do not have any agreement with the government to suspend the planned strike action neither do we have any date for a meeting with the government that may lead to the suspension of the proposed strike. While we do not intend to demean or minimise the Office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, this matter is beyond the ministry. This should have been obvious to them during our most recent meeting.”


•Don’t abandon dialogue, NEC urges labour

Meanwhile, the National Economic Council (NEC) has appealed to labour not to abandon dialogue in its quest for better welfare for its members. It also appealed to the unions to suspend its planned nationwide indefinite strike.

Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, who disclosed NEC’s resolution after a meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima in Abuja, yesterday, said the nation was at a critical moment in its history, adding that some states took over such labour crises when they assumed office in May.

According to him, some of such states just resolved the crisis and will be unfair for the labour to return to another industrial action.

The Plateau governor said the proposed industrial action would have immense effect on the economy of both the states and the federal governments.

He said the NEC expressed genuine concern about the situation in the country and appealed for calm and patience among Nigerians.

“The National Economic Council (NEC) deliberated on the planned indefinite strike by the National leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to proceed on an indefinite strike on Oct. 3, 2023.

“The council noted further the implications of the planned strike on the economy and the nation and thus urged members to continue to engage with the leadership of their respective states.

“It appeals to them to suspend the action and to continue on the path of dialogue with the Federal Government. This is the appeal of the council.”

He said the council appreciated the concerns raised by the NLC to have those issues addressed, adding that NEC also appealed for time to address the concerns of labour.

“We also believe that President Bola Tinubu will be addressing the nation on Oct. 1, and some of the concerns of labour will be appropriately addressed in the president’s speech.

“It is therefore important to note that it’s a federation issue, so whatever happens the labour is represented in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“And NEC is appealing that discussion should continue at the state levels because there will be peculiarities as to the issues to be addressed concerning the demands of labour and therefore dialogue is the way to go.”


Dr. Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia and chairman, Senate Committee on Privatization, has also weighed in on the planned strike.

In a viral video, the former Senate chief whip appealed to Labour to have a rethink as doing otherwise would hurt the economy and the nation.

“I still plead with the Nigeria Labour Congress to reconsider their decision on embarking on a nationwide strike. Anything less than activities to promote the economy would hurt the nation more than ever. I also appeal to the state governors not to distribute the palliatives made available by the Federal Government by party membership but to everyone in the state.”

•CSO opposes NLC planned strike

A Civil Society Organisation under the aegis of Civil Society and Workers Dialogue Forum (CSWDF) has expressed its disapproval of the proposed strike.

The organisation in a statement by its convener, Abubakar Ibrahim and Rafiu Shaibu, co-convener, Bashir Faisal, described the planned action as a deliberate mischief “given that the NLC is insensitive to its own part of dialogue with the Federal Government over the petrol subsidy removal impasse.”

The group said it acknowledged the difficulty faced by Nigerians and explained that the Federal Government had made deft moves in rehabilitating the refineries to reduce the cost of PMS and gas importation.

It added that the recent distribution of palliatives to the tune of N5 billion to each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory is part of efforts to mitigate the effects until things normalise.

It added that no government anywhere in the world derives pleasure in the suffering of its people.

“The wage increase of workers is being negotiated with NLC constituting membership of the committee, hence we are appalled at what the proposed strike intends to achieve.

“As opposed to the past, the NLC has always been on the negotiation table before any decision was taken by this administration,” the group said.

The CSO recalled that in June 2023, “the labour union was in talks with the Federal Government over fuel subsidy removal without carrying other stakeholders along which we protested our exclusion.

“Having agreed with President Bola Tinubu’s administration, only for the workers union to recant and propose an indefinite strike is counter-productive and we will mobilise our members across the 36 states and FCT for anti-NLC protest,”  the CSO said.

It added that the statement should serve as official notice to the Director of State Service, Inspector General of Police and other security agencies, that it is going to mobilise to streets against NLC on October 3.

The group said some states had purchased buses for public transportation and had also added funds to the FG’s offer to cushion effects of the subsidy removal in their respective states. It insisted that the proposed strike is inappropriate thereby calling on citizens not to allow themselves to be used against the genuine interest of the government.


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