May 19, 2016 - 12:11 AM EDT
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NLC Strike Witnesses Low Turnout Nationwide

Despite the strike mbarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), business activities were barely disrupted in the nation's capital, Abuja, as civil servants, banks and private offices all opened for business activities.

The NLC had on Tuesday night walked out of a meeting with a delegation of the federal government, and insisted on going on strike to protect the fuel price increase announced by government.

But checks by LEADERSHIP yesterday showed that airport, motor parks and filling stations were all open to the public, rendering the NLC strike almost ineffective.

Meanwhile, the NLC, led by its president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba held a peaceful rally in Abuja, calling on the government to revert the pump price of fuel to N87 or face a prolonged strike.

Wabba said that the congress would continue to fight against anti-people policies of the federal government.

"Labour, particularly the NLC, had said consistently that if policies are right, we will support them, but if they are anti-people, we will continue to resist such.

"That is why we are here today to resist this policy of the increase in fuel pump price; we must allow market forces to drive the pump price of this very essential product in our country.

"Continuous importation of fuel will be used to enslave Nigerians; the naira will be devalued and prices will keep going up and there will be no end to it."

According to him, the NLC supports the fight against corruption and the enthronement of good governance, and would continue to demonstrate its commitment in those directions.

Wabba noted that corruption was inherent in the system, hence the reason why refineries were not functioning.

According to him, the refineries can be turned around because Nigerian refineries are among the newest in the world.

"We have refineries that have stayed up to 110 years (in some countries), and with regular maintenance, refineries can be fixed and production capacity can also be upgraded for local consumption, but because of corruption we have refused to do so.

"So, instead of producing, we will be importing more than we should be producing. Therefore, if we do not address corruption, even the attempt by government to fix the refineries will be scuttled," he declared.

Wabba assured Nigerians that the NLC would continue to stand by them and fight against policies that would create hardship for the masses.

Also speaking, the general secretary, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWU), Mr Isah Aremu, described the increase in the pump price of petrol by over 60 per cent as outrageous.

"You also increase electricity tariff with almost 50 per cent and there is no light. This is just too much for the common man; a lot of people are suffering.

"Government must understand the plight of the masses as all hands are not equal and this kind of suffering must not continue," he said, adding that the protest was to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to have a rethink on issues that affect the people.

Also speaking, Dr Dipo Fashina, the Chairman, Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LACSCO), described the increase as "arbitrary, unjust and against all rules of good governance."

Fashina said the increase was a subversion of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria and AN undermining of democracy.

"Because the result of this very action will kill democracy in the country, so government must have a rethink of this action," he said.

Why we went to court to stop labour strike - FG

The federal government has appealed to The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to return to the negotiating table in order to resolve the industrial crisis that has emanated from the increment in the pump price of fuel

The government also explained why it had to seek a court action to stop the organised labour from going on strike

In a statement personally signed by minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, the minister said the federal government's negotiating team was ready to recommence negotiation with the NLC led by Comrade Ayuba Waba any time, in compliance with the directive of the National Industrial Court for both parties to further explore Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism (ADR).

"The federal government went to court to seek an injunction restraining labour from embarking on strike because there is a clear process of declaring labour strike under the law. It is therefore the view of government that those processes were not complied with before the NLC called the strike," he said.

Ngige, while responding to some issues raised by Comrade Ayuba Wabba after he led the NLC to withdraw from the negotiation with the government, insisted that series of meetings and consultations were held between the federal government, through the minister of state for Petroleum, the Office of the Vice President, the minister of labour and employment and organised labour unions.

He said, "It bears putting on record that on the 4th of May, 2016 while discussing the template put forward by the minister of state, petroleum, the NLC, TUC, NUPENG, PENGASSAN and other major stakeholders even advised that the NNPC pricing should be same with that of the Independent Petroleum Marketing Companies at N140 per litre.

"There was another meeting on May 11, 2016 where governors, National Assembly leadership and some ministers were in attendance, with NLC, TUC, PENGASSAN and NUPENG promising to take the decision of the meeting to their respective organs for further necessary actions.

"It was, therefore, surprising that the NLC, at the maiden meeting, put forward the issue of non-consultation as a major non-compliance issue on the part of the government but was outrightly debunked by the NNPC and Ministry of Petroleum."

He explained that the federal government was fully committed to the quick implementation of the palliatives in the 2016 budget, while developing other ways to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

Ngige advised the NLC to return to the negotiation table, saying that strikes will neither increase government earnings nor repair the nation's ailing refineries, but will rather lower productivity and further damage the limping economy.

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Source: News (May 19, 2016 - 12:11 AM EDT)

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