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Subsidy Removal: Tinubu urges Labour Unions for understanding as workers threaten nationwide strike

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR

*The Organised Labour in Nigeria plans a national strike August 2, 2023, if the Federal Government fails to yield to the demands, but the Government also may enforce the court order restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from activating an industrial action over the recent withdrawal of fuel subsidy May 29 this year

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Abuja, FCT, urged the Organised Labour in Nigeria to avail his administration more time to consider their grievances before proceeding on nationwide strike.

ConsumerConnect reports the Organised Labour has issued a national strike notice to make good its threat August 2, if the Federal Government fails to yield to the demands.

It was also learnt there is an indication that the Federal Government may enforce the court order restraining the Labour  Union from embarking on an industrial action over the withdrawal of fuel subsidy May 29 this year.

The Federal Government Wednesday evening, reportedly held an emergency meeting with the Organised Labour comprising the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja.

The demands of the Organised Labour are the immediate reversal of all “anti-poor policies such as the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit; increase in public schools’ fees; increase in Value Added Tax among others.’

Please give Tinubu more time to resolve strike issues: House Speaker Abbas

As part of stakeholder engagements with the Organised Labour, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the National Assembly (NASS), Abuja, also disclosed Tinubu’s plea to State House Correspondents.

Abbas stated this after leading some officers of the Lower Legislative House to brief the President on the outcome of their engagement with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which already has declared a nationwide strike.

The House Speaker also said Tinubu appealed that being new in office, he would need time to evaluate the issues workers have raised over which he is yet to be briefed.

‘What he (Tinubu) said is that he’s just coming on board.

“We should ask them and beg them to please give him a little more time,” noted the Speaker.

Abbas further stated that “the things that they mentioned, he is completely unaware of them, he is yet to be briefed about all those issues.

“But from what he heard from me, he also advised that we should channel some of those issues to the Chief of Staff to look at them one after the other.

“I believe the next coming days, some concerted actions will be taken.”

The Speaker as well explained that the House of Representatives leadership had invited NARD leadership over their publicised notice to activate strike.

The Federal lawmakers succeeded in persuading the unions to shelve the plan, according to the Speaker.

Abbas said: “Sequel to the meeting we had with them, there were series of conditions that they gave, that we felt we need to share with the President.”

In regard to the House’s efforts at restraining the NLC and TUC from proceeding with the August 2, 2023, protests, the Speaker explained “in the same manner, the same way, we will also invite them to come and sit so that we hear their grievances, and then we follow the same pattern of engaging and persuading them to give us a little time so that we can be able to meet their expectations.”

Meanwhile, the House leadership’s meeting with the President was held as leaders of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria met with the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on Palliatives set up by the Federal Government.

Wednesday’s meeting, which took place in the office of the President’s Chief of Staff, was attended by NLC President, Joe Ajaero and team, and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo.

However, the meeting failed to convince the Labour leaders to restrain from activating their strike.

The Labour leaders insisted on proceeding with the protest slated for August 2.

No going back on nationwide protests August 2 -NLC President

Sequel to their meeting with the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives, Ajaero told reporters in Abuja, “we are going ahead with the protest because we have to be emphatic on what we put in our communique, to say we are commencing protests from August 2.”

TUC President Osifo also said both sides listened to the presentations from the Steering Committee secretariat and Labour made its input afterwards.

“Some of the things they presented, we did not agree with them.

“So, the areas we did not agree on, we also made our inputs known because when you come to such a meeting, it is for the government or its representatives to do a presentation,” Osifo stated.

The TUC Leader also disclosed “but it’s left for us to either agree or disagree.

“So, during the meeting, we gave them sufficient feedback.

“And they also agreed to go and look at those feedbacks and get back to us on Friday (July 28).”

Government may slam contempt charge against Labour

There are also indications the Federal Government may enforce the court order restraining the Organised Labour from embarking on a strike over the withdrawal of fuel subsidy May this year, should the NLC make good its threat August 2.

The Labour leaders Wednesday announced their plans to commence a seven-day warning strike with effect from Wednesday.

Nonetheless, investigations showed the Federal Government may initiate contempt proceedings against the Labour leaders if the Unions still go ahead with the strike threat.

A senior official disclosed in confidence that the government would ensure compliance with the court order.

The source said: “We will file contempt charges against the Labour leaders if they go ahead to disobey a subsisting court order by going on strike,” reports The Punch.

We’ll continue to make progress in stakeholder engagements: SA on Energy

However, Olu Verheijen, Special Adviser (SA) to  President Tinubu on Energy, said the negotiations with the Labour Unions achieved some progress.

Verheijen said: We’ve agreed to continue to make progress. It was a very productive meeting.

“The focus was really around how we fast-track a lot of the interventions that will bring relief, particularly around CNG, mass transportation, cleaner energy, transportation and reduce the impact of the cost of transportation.”

On the rollout of palliatives to vulnerable  Nigerians, the Presidential aide noted: “We have to get it right. We must do this well, and we keep our promises.

“So, it’s important that whatever is announced gets done.”

Verheijen as well assured Nigerians that the President is working assiduously to address the issues “as quickly as he can.”

Protests cum strike despite subsisting court order?

Speaking on the declaration of a strike by organised Labour despite the subsisting court order, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was quoted to have said the court judgment could not stop the hardship being experienced across Nigeria.

Adegboruwa the government should dialogue with the NLC to find a lasting solution that would ameliorate the suffering of the masses.

“I do not think there is a court judgment that can arrest suffering, hunger, and especially the hardship that is going on in our land,” said the legal professional.

He added: “The FG should sit down with the workers to agree on the modalities for cushioning the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

“If time is not taken, people will just be falling and dying on the streets.

“This is not a matter that could be resolved through litigation. No amount of court cases can take away suffering.”

Speaking on the issue, Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, however, said law must be obeyed unless it has been set aside irrespective of the hardship in the country.

Adedipe opined if Nigeria must progress, institutions and individuals must have respect for the rule of law.

“If we must make progress, we must begin to respect our courts. Whatever the ruling of the court is, it must be obeyed unless it is set aside.

“If there is a subsisting judgment stopping NLC from going on strike, as a responsible body, the NLC must obey until that law is set aside.

“If Congress proceeds with a strike they might be walking a dangerous path.

“I agree there is hardship but disobeying court order is never the solution to the problem on the ground. If we don’t respect our laws, I am afraid we will not make progress. “

In his contribution to the legality or otherwise of the proposed strike by the unions, Adegoke Rasheed, SAN, said NLC leaders could be arrested for contempt if they proceeded with the strike.

Rasheed stated: “Until a judgment is set aside, it must be obeyed. It would be contempt of court for the NLC to disobey the court.

“If they do this and the court gets angry with them and orders the arrest of the leaders, the issue of human rights will not avail them.

“The order must be set aside before going on strike. The judges are passing through hardship too but everything must be done by the law. They have to tread with caution,” he said.

Another senior lawyer, Yomi Aliyu, SAN, also urged the NLC to obey the court order.

Aliyu remarked that “they cannot go on strike if there is an extant order stopping them.

“The law should be respected. The FG should negotiate with them.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Forum (NECA) has said the proposed plan of the Organised Labour to begin strike cum protests August 2 is not necessary, according to report.

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