Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has blamed the country’s organised labour leaders for truncating a planned nationwide strike over the increase in petrol prices and electricity tariffs.
Falana, who spoke on ARISE News on Sunday, likened the deal reached between representatives of the Nigerian government and labour leaders as similar to that of “coup plotters.”
Falana, as leader of ASCAB (Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond), a coalition of about 80 groups, championed the call for Nigerians to participate in a September 23 nationwide protest called by the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
However, hours before the planned protest, a truce was reached with government.
Asked why he “chickened out” of the protest tagged Enough is Enough, Falana explained:
“We were going to have a general strike but on the eve of the protest, labour leaders met with the government till the early hours of the morning, almost like coup plotters, and we were told that the issue had been resolved.”
Some still went ahead and many were arrested he said, with about 33 were in Lagos. Some have been granted bail and will be released soonest, he revealed.
But he hinted that a strike is still in the works. “It’s a continuous process. As long as the inhuman condition our people have been subjected to continues, you are going to have a lot of protests,” he said.
Falana also insisted that fuel price hike in Nigeria is illegal, alluding to a 2012 court judgment that he said has not been appealed.
According to him, another basis for its illegality is that “the law says it’s the minister of petroleum resources that fixes the price of petrol, not invisible market forces.”
He disagreed with President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion that petrol prices in Nigeria should not be lower than in Saudi Arabia, a statement the president made on Independence Day.
According to Falana, the comparison with Saudi Arabia doesn’t hold water because of the stark difference in welfare and benefits between the two countries.
Falana also opined that there should be no increase in electricity tariffs unless there are improvements in service.