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Nigerian Government Says No Plan To Unveil Wage Award For Workers on Independence Day

A Labour ministry spokesprson described the reports as false.

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, on Wednesday, disowned a report that President Bola Tinubu was planning to announce wage awards and palliatives to workers during his October 1st Independence Day speech.

This was as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have concluded plans to mobilize Nigerian workers for a nationwide indefinite strike, starting October 3, 2023, over fuel subsidy removal. 

A statement signed by the Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, described the report as false and not emanating from the Ministry.

Oshundun said, “We wish to categorically state that the report is false and misleading as at no time did the Director of Information make such disclosure of either announcement of wage awards or a scheduled meeting.

“The report, which is said to have emanated from a purported ‘interview’ with the Director of Information at the ministry also claimed that a last-minute meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday between federal government and Labour to avert the proposed strike.

“Members of the public are enjoined to ignore the report as it is a total fabrication of an interview by the reporter to suit the narrative of the interests best-known to the newspaper. 

“For the benefit of doubt, it is important to stress that the Director of Information at the Ministry of Labor does not speak for the president nor is he involved in writing his speech to warrant him making any categorical statement on its content.

“If and when the minister schedules a meeting with labor, the public will be adequately notified through verified channels,” the ministry stated.

Meanwhile, the TUC President, Festus Osifo, Osifo, who confirmed the proposed nationwide indefinite strike, while speaking on the Morning Show on ARISE News Channel, said, “The National Executive Council (NEC) of both TUC and NLC, met and resolved to mobilize workers to go on indefinite strike action nationwide, beginning from October 3, 2023.

“Both councils resolved that in the spirit of the forthcoming Independent Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria and to take our destinies in our hands and rescue our nation.

“We also resolved to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike for a total shutdown of Nigeria, beginning from Tuesday, October 3, 2023, and to direct all workers in Nigeria to withdraw their services from their respective work places, commencing from October 3, 2023.

“We also resolved to direct all state council and affiliates to immediately begin street protest and rallies until the federal government respond positively to our demands, and to enjoin all patriotic Nigerians to join this government in putting back the people at the centre of its policies and programmes.”

 Asked if the federal government would change its tactics and decide otherwise, Osifo said the struggle to protect workers and to cushion the adverse effect of fuel subsidy removal on Nigerian workers, started long ago from the very day of inauguration and swearing-in of this current government on May 29, 2023, when the government announced the removal of fuel subsidy.

He said before now, labour was quick to go on strike for every anti-people’s policy of the government, but explained that they decided to embrace full negotiation with the federal government, since the time it announced the removal of fuel subsidy. 

“Since then, we have had several engagements with the government. Both management of NLC and TUC have met with the government on several occasions and the government kept promising us positive results, and its intention to cushion the adverse effect of fuel subsidy on Nigerian workers, but it has refused to keep to its promises,” Osifo said.

He explained that although the government came with some policies, the NLC and TUC, had to turn them down, because they were not far-reaching.

“We suggested to the government to freeze taxes of low income earners in the private and public sectors and to stimulate those working in the informal economy and these were things that could be done by the government in the short term, but the government refused to heed to our suggestions.

“Assurances were made even from the Senate and from the Minister of Labour and Productivity and nothing was done by the government, hence we decided to embark on the indefinite strike,” Osifo further said.

According to him, Nigerian workers, who lived in the suburb of Abuja and Lagos, went to work on Monday, did not return to their homes until Friday after work, because of the hike in transportation, due to fuel subsidy removal and they slept in their offices because they could not afford to be paying high transportation fare on a daily basis. 

He said the strike action became the last resort after all deliberations with the federal government failed, adding that, for 120 days, labour deliberated with the government, yet there had been no tangible results from the government.

He insisted that labour did not demand new minimum wage, but for policies that would ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian workers.

He therefore, challenged the federal government to deploy the revenue it claimed to have saved from fuel subsidy, if the government was really sincere to itself.

Osifo also clarified that NLC and TUC were together in the struggle, hence the joint statement issued by both congresses on the indefinite strike.  

Onyebuchi Ezigbo