Mobilisation for Protest March in Top Gear Despite Restraining Order

Mobilisation for Protest March in Top Gear Despite Restraining Order

…As Activists Say No One Can Ban Protest Against Bad Governance …Court Injunction is More of a Move to Invite Revolution Activists say they are resolved to press on with their protest against the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price, slated for Monday, in spite of the order by the National Industrial Court

…As Activists Say No One Can Ban Protest Against Bad Governance

…Court Injunction is More of a Move to Invite Revolution

Activists say they are resolved to press on with their protest against the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price, slated for Monday, in spite of the order by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), their officers, affiliates, and privies from embarking on any strike or stoppage of work in whatsoever form described on Monday, September 28th, 2020 or any other subsequent date, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

National Coordinator, All Workers Convergence (AWC), Mr Andrew Emelieze, says, “Rather than addressing the situation at hand, our government is trying to use the National Industrial Court to bulldoze her way to put a halt to September 28 general strike called by labour. This shows clearly, a government that is not ready to correct her mistakes.”

“The position of the Industrial Court is provocative and also an attempt to undermine the collective will of the people. Government is pushing us to the wall with the court injunction, more of a move to invite a revolution,” he says.

Emelieze further posits that, “We the Nigerian workers commend the NLC/TUC and we urge them not to be intimidated or blackmailed by government. Labour has the mandate of the workers and people of Nigeria to go ahead with the strike on Monday 28th September in line with our constitutional rights as citizens to protest against bad governance.”

“Nigerians are hereby reminded that labour’s planned protest is not just against hike in petrol price but a protest against bad governance in Nigeria. We the Nigerian workers call on labour to paddle on and never surrender, they have our collective support to execute the September 28th strike and that is the position of the people’s court which is superior to the position of the Industrial Court,” the AWC coordinator added.

“Every government has exploited one injunction or the other to ban strikes and protests but it has never worked nor has it broken the resolve of the people,” quips Mr Adeola Soetan, a member of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), one of the organisations that have rallied people against the new increases in electricity tariff and fuel price.

The restraining court order appears to have done little to whittle the resolve of workers and their allies. A statement signed by NLC State Secretary, Mr Ibrahim Muhammed and TUC State Secretary, Mr Festus Mayowa Falegbe, say the Executive Councils of Labour Centres in Oyo state in conjunction with civil society organisations, at their meeting on Friday, September 25th, 2020 resolved as follows:

  • That beginning from Monday, 28th September, 2020, all workers in both private and public sectors, artisans, traders, market men and women and transporters are to commence an indefinite nationwide peaceful protest/strike.
  • That the protest match shall take off from the secretariat of the NLC, Agodi Gate, Ibadan between 8.00am and 2.00pm each day.
  • That members of the public are hereby advised to shut their businesses and join the protest as we jointly resist the untold hardship orchestrated by the bad policy of Government.
  • That all markets and transport systems in Oyo State are expected to remain shut between 8.00am and 2.00pm daily.

The NLC and TUC are calling out workers in partnership with civil society organisations, to protest the recent hike in electricity tariff and the increase in fuel price. They are also irked by the jerking of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 7.5 per cent and the exhorbitant charges by banks which has impacted negatively on the living standards of the people.

The apex labour organisation says, “the increases in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff were ill timed and insensitive to the sufferings that Nigerians are going through at the moment especially in the wake of the socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Interim Injunction

Bur the court also granted an order of interim injunction restraining the unions, their officers, affiliates, privies or howsoever described from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or its affiliates or ordinary Nigerians from accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on the September 28th, 2020 or any other subsequent date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima made the order sequel to an ex-parte application filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association through their counsel, Mr Sunusi Musa Esq. The same Judge also granted similar order to the Federal Government on Friday stopping the NLC and the TUC from embarking on their planned strike which is to start on Monday, following an ex parte application by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The duo of Acting Director, Department Civil Litigation of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Maimuna Shiru, and Mr Tijjani Gazali, led the Federal Government’s team, who moved the ex parte application that was later granted by Justice Galadima on Friday.

The Court had earlier granted an order compelling the Inspector General of Police and the Director General Department of State Services (DSS) to provide protection for the claimants and other Nigerian worker engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

NLC Communiqué

A communiqué signed by the NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba and General Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Ugboaja, says its National Executive Council (NEC) had at its emergency meeting held on the 22nd of September 2020 resolved to endorse the decision of its Central Working Committee (CWC) to embark on an indefinite strike action and peaceful protest, to take effect from Monday, 28th September 2020, if government fails to reverse the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff and accede to other ancillary demands by labour; and

The NEC also endorsed the decision of the CWC for the NLC to begin a mass mobilization of the Nigerian people, professional groups, religious organizations, market women, the informal sector and Congress civil society allies towards total compliance to the indefinite strike action.

The meeting had appraised the outcome of the last emergency meeting of the CWC which took place on September 16, 2020 with an agenda on the recent increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as ‘petrol’ and the increase in electricity tariff. The NEC was also briefed on the outcome of a meeting between a Federal Government Team and Organized Labour on the increase in the price of petrol and hike in electricity tariff

The NEC also appraised the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) to 7.5% and the incessant increases on charges by banks on depositors’ funds and on financial transactions through Nigerian banks.

Cost of Doing Business

It noted “that the increase in energy cost has increased the cost of doing business in Nigeria. This has resulted in hyper-inflation and has eroded gains made by increase in the national minimum wage and threatens to force many local businesses to either close shop or relocate to friendlier business climes;

“It was the well-considered position of the NEC that successive governments in Nigeria have failed to resuscitate our public refineries and even build new ones;

“The NEC observed that the argument for deregulation which has become a recurring decimal for more than three decades in Nigeria is only a guise by successive government to foist perpetual increases in petrol price on Nigerians thus exacerbating poverty.”

On the increase in electricity tariff, the NEC noted that government earned about N400 billion from the privatization of the electricity power sector but has so far spent more than N1.5 trillion on the power sector after the privatization. This clearly shows that the power sector privatization program has failed.

The NEC also noted that the investments in the power sector has not translated into improvement in services and increased efficiency in the power sector. The NEC reasoned that government cannot, therefore, transfer the cost of its own failure in the power sector privatization exercise on innocent Nigerians;

The NEC also described as worrisome the fact that those mainly targeted by the latest increase in electricity tariff are manufacturers, many of whom would be forced to shut down resulting in mass redundancy, thus worsening the unemployment and crime situation in Nigeria.

The NEC maintained “that manufacturers that manage to survive the double jeopardy of high operating costs for their independent power generators and high electricity charges would simply transfer their new costs on already impoverished Nigerians. Ultimately, the dislocations consequent on the increase in the cost of living have eroded the gains of the recent increase in the national minimum wage;

Value Added Tax

It also decried the recent increase of the Value Added Tax to 7.5 percent and the incessant increase in charges on depositors’ funds and banking transactions through the Nigerian banking system as part of the sustained exploitation and deprivation of the Nigerian people especially the working class of Nigeria.

After a careful consideration of the foregoing socio-economic realities especially in light of the insufferable hardship they present to the working-class family and the masses of our people in Nigeria, the NEC decided as follows:

The NEC resolved to reject in its entirety the recent hike in electricity tariff by almost 100 percent. NEC also unanimously rejected the recent increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit and other refined petroleum products. NEC resolved that the price hike is ill-timed and counter-productive especially at this time of Covid-19 induced socio-economic dislocations;

The NEC resolved that the twin decisions of increase in electricity charges and hike in the pump price of petrol in addition to the increase in VAT and bank charges will further impoverish the already impoverished masses of our workers and citizens and impose huge hardship and suffering on many Nigerian families;

The NEC resolved that the privatization of the power sector seven years ago has not yielded any tangible result thus NEC concluded that the entire privatization of the power sector has failed and has become an avenue for continuous exploitation of Nigerians;

Deepening Misery

On the increase in the pump price of petrol, NEC concluded that whether the hike is perpetrated under the guise of “full deregulation”, or “removal of fuel subsidy”, what is obvious is that the price hike has eroded the gain of the recent increase in national minimum wage as the new petrol price has induced a spiral wave of inflation in the price of goods and services thus further deepening the misery that Nigerians are going through.

The NEC therefore resolved that the first response by government to the crisis in our downstream petroleum sector must be to ensure that all our petroleum refineries are working. NEC also resolved that government has business in business since the primary role of government is the welfare and security of citizens.

Also speaking on this, the TUC says the nationwide protests scheduled for September 23 has been moved to September 28.

Its Lagos State, Mr Gbenga Ekundayo, said the postponement was for a unified protest with the NLC.

The union leader said the federal government and organised labour were yet to reach an agreement on the new prices of electricity and petrol.

TUC’s Ultimatum

“TUC’s ultimatum ended today, NLC’s ultimatum will end on September 28. Those are two ultimatums, and the labour movement should not work that way. We have to harmonise our moves together.

“At the national level, it was agreed that we collapse together, instead of starting something now and another joining. It was agreed that we all wait till September 28,” he said.

The resolve of the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to hold a nationwide protest on Monday, has massive backing from civil society.

A statement by its Co-Conveners, Mr Baba Aye and Mr Gbenga Komolafe, says Coalition for Revolution (CORE) welcomes the resolutions of the leadership organs of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress to jointly organise a general strike and mass protests demanding reversal of the fuel pump price and electricity tariff hikes, and an end to anti-poor people policies of the regime.

Working Class

“In unity and organisation lies the strength of working-class people. As the most organised bodies of workers, the role of trade unions in generalising resistance to the exploitation and oppression of the masses cannot be overemphasized. We thus hasten to stress that, much more important than considerations of increased “cost of doing business in Nigeria”, what is at stake as the NLC decision points out is that, the regime’s polices foster impoverishment of “the already impoverished masses”,” the coalition says.

In line with the 22 September resolution of the NLC’s National Executive Council “to begin a mass mobilization of the Nigerian people, professional groups, religious organizations, market women, the informal sector and Congress civil society allies towards total compliance” with its general strike directive, CORE urges the trade unions to organise rallies and mass meetings over the next few days to build momentum for the strike.

It further calls “on the trade unions to stand firm and not be wooed by partial reversals and sweet tonguing of the government. Rank and file workers have time and again expressed their disappointment at NLC & TUC’ for acceptance of tokenist reductions when much more could have been won. This time must be different.

CORE Activists

According to the organisation, “CORE activists are working people and youth at the grassroots. We will be at the barricades with the trade unions, committed to uncompromised fight back. CORE stands for the full reversal of systemic impoverishment of the masses. This puts struggle for total liberation of the masses to effect system change on the order of the day.

“Every single battle, including for the reversal of fuel pump price and electricity tariff hikes has to be viewed and pursued from this overarching perspective of the class war between a handful of exploiters on one hand and the exploited and marginalised masses, who constitute the immense majority of the population on the other.

“Thus, in line with the action plan of CORE for its #RevolutionNow campaign as adopted at its 18 July Plenary Session, the coalition is organising a nationwide and global protest on 1 October. After 60 years of flag independence, the struggle for total liberation must be pursued with all vigour.

“The future awaits our stand today. As we dare to struggle, we dare to win. The people united can never be defeated,” the statement says.

“We shall go ahead and fight.

“No retreat no surrender

“We call on citizens to give labour the maximum support for this strike and join the mass rallies nationwide

“While those who cannot join the mass rallies should   observe a sit at home until labour say otherwise

“All markets, offices, borders are to remain shut.

“We shall overcome”, AWC says in its battle cry.

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