Protests in major cities as NLC strike begins

Workers  in most states of the federation on Wednesday shunned a directive of a faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress to embark on an indefinite strike due to the increase in the pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 by the Federal Government.

Despite this, however, labour and civil society organisations held rallies in most states to press home their demand that the Federal Government should reverse the price hike.

There were protests on Wednesday in Lagos, Abuja, Osun, Benin and Kwara among other states in compliance with the directive of the NLC, which declared a nationwide on Tuesday

Talks between the government and organised labour collapsed on Tuesday night as representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress walked out of a meeting with a Federal Government’s delegation, led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.

President of a faction of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, had given the go ahead for the strike to commence on Wednesday after the parties in the negotiation failed to reach an amicable settlement.

The Joe Ajaero-led NLC faction and the Trade Union Congress, led by Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, had distanced themselves from the strike while the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers as well as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Association of Nigeria had last week also said the unions would not join the strike.

The Ajaero faction had earlier in the afternoon on Tuesday attended a separate meeting with the government and indicated that it would not participate in the strike.

In the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday, civil servants turned up for work at different ministries, departments and agencies.

Our correspondents, who went round the FCT, observed that the Federal Secretariat was a beehive of activities, contrary to the directive of the Wabba-led NLC.

At the ministries of finance, budget and national planning as well as that of industry, trade and investment, workers reported for work.

Apart from civil servants, banks and other offices were opened for business as early as 8am when one of our correspondents visited the places.

Deposit money banks, located in the Central Business District, such as Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank for Africa, First City Monument Bank, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc recorded huge number of patronage from customers.

An official in the ministry of finance, who spoke to The PUNCH said some of her colleagues at the ministry as of Tuesday night had been discussing on the telephone on whether to obey the directive to go on strike or not.

She said, “You know that there has been this division among the labour unions as to what the direction of the industrial action would take.

‘‘Apart from this, there was a court order stopping the strike; so, no one was fully sure of what to do.

“As a result of this division, we don’t know what to do and since it is the government that gave me job and not the NLC, I have to obey the directive to report to duty because we now have a government that does not tolerate nonsense.”

The Director, Information, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Dambatta, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that workers at the ministry boycotted the NLC’s directive.

He said, “We didn’t join the strike that was called by the NLC. In fact, if you come to the ministry now, you will think today is Monday owing to the level of activities going on.”

Attempts to get the comment of the spokesperson for the ministry, Mr Charles Dafe, were not successful as calls and a text message sent to his mobile did not connect as of the time of filing this report.

At the aviation ministry under the Federal Ministry of Transportation, most workers of the organisation turned up for work.

The spokesperson for the ministry, Mr. James Odaudu, said the ministry’s workers did not join any industrial action.

“We are all here. Work is going on here and there’s nothing like strike,” he said.

Workers also resumed for work in large numbers at the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.

At health institutions and hospitals in the FCT, including the Federal  Medical Centre, National Hospital and General Hospitals in Asokoro and Garki, workers were busy attending to patients.

No strike in Lagos, Kaduna, Bauchi, Niger, Rivers, Anambra, Bayelsa, Niger

In the Lagos State Government secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja, workers seemed oblivious of the call to embark on strike by the NLC.

The secretariat was full of activities on Wednesday as many civil servants went about their normal business.

One of them, who chose to be identified simply as Dare, told our correspondent that it was the feeling of many of the workers that the labour unions were polarised and would not be able to save any worker who obeyed from government’s wrath.

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