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NLC: We’ll No Longer Honour Last-Minute Meetings By Nigerian Government To Stave Off Strikes, Protests

Ajaero said attending such meetings make members of the public think that the leadership went there to discuss other things.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed that it may no longer be available for negotiation or meetings with the government summoned on the eve of a planned protest or strike.

It described the national protest held on Tuesday as peaceful and highly successful.

It also commended the performance of security agencies which he said has opened a new visa of observance of democratic ethos by the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.

It however, deplored the action of police in escorting opposing groups to counter labour protests on that day.

The NLC also accused the federal government of attempting to undermine the labour movement by inviting its affiliates to the last negotiation meeting.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the Congress had to suspend action on the second day of the protest to allow members observe the 46th anniversary of the formation of NLC.

In the aftermath of the one-day national protest carried out by the labour movement to draw attention to the economic hardship and sufferings of workers and the masses, Ajaero said the protest was successful as it achieved its objective.

When asked if the NLC was ready to attend further talks with the government to resolve issues, Ajaero said the doors of labour were always open for dialogue, especially when such talks could lead to meaningful resolution of disputes.  

Ajaero said: “If they invite us to a meeting, we will attend because we have our views and we will not say we will not go. However, henceforth NLC will no longer be comfortable attending meetings on the eve of any action because we believe it will amount to mere waste of time and energy as nothing usually comes from such last minute meetings.”

He said attending such meetings make members of the public think that the leadership went there to discuss other things.

While responding to the parallel stand taken by TUC as against that of NLC, Ajaero said there was nothing binding the two labour centres to adopt a common stance on the issues of industrial dispute.

“What usually happens is that NLC is empowered to act independently but may decide to collaborate with other unions to achieve desired target,” he said.

Regarding the agreement on palliatives, he said it was a joint agreement which both labour centres signed with the federal government independently, adding that each of the unions reserved the right to take positions on the implementation.

The NLC President said: “We may be collaborating to take actions but instead of us to work together and suffocate and punish our members, we preferred to work alone or separately to achieve our agenda.”

According to Ajaero, NLC still maintained its position that the October 23 agreement with the federal government was yet to be substantially implemented.

He challenged anyone with a contrary view to come out with empirical evidence of the blow by blow implementation already attained by the government.

For instance, Ajaero said on the payment of wage award, the number of federal workers that had so far received four months were not up to 40 percent of ministries, departments, agencies and parastatals.

Also he said that it was – not –  on record that state government or private sector employers have paid the wage award to their workers. He said that the government is both an employer and a regulator, it is expected that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment should try to ensure that it happens in order to nip the crisis in the bud.He also said it would be for Nigerians to see if the agreement on tax relief was implemented as agreed.

On the issue of refineries, Ajaero said the inspection visit was supposed to have taken place long before now since the government had promised that it would commence operations last December, but that the visit was only carried out last week.

He said the federal government reneged on its undertaking to get the refineries work by December last year.

According to him, President Bola Tinubu specifically asked the Group Managing Director of the then Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to tell the meeting when the lifting of petrol would commence at the Port-Harcourt refinery and he gave December 2023.

“President Tinubu asked the NNPC Group Managing Director in my presence, when can we expect PMS to be lifted from the refinery and he said that it will start latest by December, 2023,” he explained.

Concerning minimum wage, Ajaero said law envisaged that the government ought to kick start negotiation for a new minimum wage six months before the expiration of the existing one to avoid a lacuna.

However, he said that the committee on minimum wage was only set up in January ending after pressure from labour. He said there was no way the committee could conclude negotiation on the new minimum wage before April this year.

In addition, he wondered what had happened to the promise of delivering thousands of CNG vehicles or converting the existing vehicles to diesel engines.

“Now, how will I come on a national television to claim that the agreement has been substantially implemented.” On the agreement that police should vacate the premises of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), he said that the place has remained under Police occupation as on Wednesday.

“How will a serving Minister or even a government functionary come to say that they have done well on this, with verifiable facts,” he asked.

Leading civil society activist, Femi Aborishade who is also a member of the Femi Falana-civil rights coalition also spoke at the Labour House expressing support for the NLC’ s action

He condemned the intimidating tactics of the present administration, describing it as the worst ever in the history of the country.

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

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