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DSS Can’t Blackmail Us Over Planned Protest, NLC Says, As TUC Voices Displeasure At ‘Unilateral’ Announcement of Date

“Tt is pertinent that when such decisions are taken unilaterally, there is need to go ahead and implement unilaterally.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the organised labour would not allow itself to be blackmailed by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) into abandoning its peaceful protest against the high cost of living in the country.

In a statement signed by the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, the labour movement described as wild, the allegations made by the DSS that the two-day national protest billed to hold on February 27 and 28 would be hijacked by some elements to foment trouble.

NLC had in response to alleged federal government’s foot dragging in the implementation of agreement with labour, resolved that it would embark on a two -day national protest beginning from February 27.

However, responding to the DSS statement, NLC stated: “We are concerned by  the unsolicited advice of the DSS to shelve our  planned protest against the unprecedented high cost of living in spite of the indescribable suffering in the land, spiralling inflation, deepening poverty and the Naira at an exchange rate of N1,900 to the dollar.

“According to the Service, the planned protest should be shelved ‘in the interest of peace and public order,’ pre-supposing that the action is intended to be violent and disruptive even when we have a history of peaceful protests.

“More worrying is the new role the service has assigned to itself, the chief spokesperson of the government. It is common knowledge that all levels of government are striving to ameliorate the prevailing economic condition and as such, should be given a benefit of the doubt.

“So far, appropriate authorities are working assiduously with a spectrum of stakeholders to fashion out modalities to address the current difficulties.

“We are equally worried that although the ‘service is aware that some elements are planning to use the opportunity of the protest to foment crisis and by extension, widespread violence’, and yet have not executed the arrest of these elements,” it stated.

However, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has expressed displeasure that the NLC unilaterally announced national protest dates, saying that the issue was a matter of mutual concern.

The TUC in a statement signed by its Secretary-General, Nuhu Toro, said both centres issued a joint statement with a 14- day ultimatum to the federal government, adding that the ultimatum ought to have expired today.

It said that the right thing to do was for both leaderships to review the situation and agree on the way forward preceding convening the respective NEC meetings.

“We cannot be seen to undermine the process of synergy and collaboration between both centres that predates the current leadership of both congresses.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we fully understand that NLC is an independent labour centre that has the right to take independent decision, it is pertinent that when such decisions are taken unilaterally, there is need to go ahead and implement unilaterally.

“We wish to postulate that both centres have demonstrated severally that we both have the capacity to go solo,” it said, stressing that the leadership has the right to defend the sanctity of its congress.

Meanwhile, the federal government has said that very substantial progress has been made in the October, 2023 agreement signed with organised labour on the implementation of palliatives to cushion the effects of removal of fuel subsidy.

A statement signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment. Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha said that from what is on ground, production of petrol will commence before the end of the year at the Port-Harcourt refinery.

The statement said that following a review of the  implementation of agreement with labour, substantial progress has been made in various areas.

On the payment of wage award of N35,000 for six months, government said it has so far paid for four months up to December 31, 2023.

It said that the remaining two months of January and February, 2024 are being processed.

On the minimum wage committee, government said it has inaugurated a 37- member tripartite committee on national minimum wage to review and come up with an acceptable and sustainable minimum wage for the Nigerian workers and that the committee had so far held two meetings and discussions are ongoing.

With respect to the suspension of collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) on diesel for six months beginning from October, 2023, it said that this was effected immediately.

On the provision of Compression Natural Gas (CNG) buses and conversion kits, the federal government said it has so far made substantial financial commitments in this area.

According to the minister, these buses will be rolled out very soon to alleviate the transportation challenges being faced by Nigerians.

Also on the issue of various tax incentives as contained in the agreement, government said it has commenced series of engagements with relevant stakeholders while all necessary machineries are being put in place for effective implementation.

On the Leadership Crises rocking NURTW and RTEAN, government said waded into the matter and the issue had been amicably resolved.

Also, with respect to the outstanding salaries and wages of tertiary education workers in federal owned educational institutions, government said it has paid in full the four months outstanding salaries to ASUU as approved by Mr. President.

 Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Ugo Aliogo 

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