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Nationwide strike: Akpabio, Abbas seek dialogue with NLC, TUC

Nationwide strike: Akpabio, Abbas seek dialogue with NLC, TUC
November 15
17:52 2023

The leadership of the house of representatives has resolved to meet with its counterpart in the senate to engage the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over the ongoing nationwide strike.

Specifically, Tajudeen Abbas, speaker of the house, and Ben Kalu, his deputy, will meet Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Barau Jibrin, deputy senate president, to engage the labour unions for “immediate” suspension of the strike.

The lower legislative chamber passed the resolution during the plenary session on Wednesday following the adoption of a motion sponsored by Kalu.

Workers commenced a nationwide strike on Tuesday to protest against the alleged brutality of Joe Ajaero, president of NLC, in Imo state.

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The industrial action has grounded operations in most public facilities, leaving Nigerians stranded.

While moving the motion, Kalu said it would be “unworthy” for lawmakers to feign ignorance of the strike and “pretend” as if does not concern them.

He said Wednesday’s plenary was almost cancelled due to the strike because lawmakers were informed that their offices would be under lock and key.

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“I want to pray that the NLC and all the unions in Nigeria should trust us (lawmakers) once again,” he said.

“That we (lawmakers) will use diplomacy where necessary to engage as usual. They should trust us again to come together to find a lasting solution to their pain.

“I pray that your office (speaker) and that of the senate (senate president) dialogue with this aggrieved NLC as soon as possible to enable us to find a lasting solution to this hydra-headed need.”

Yusuf Gagdi, chairman of the committee on navy, said he was “flabbergasted” when he saw the reason the union embarked on strike.

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“This should not be the basis of suffocating government activities. It should not be the basis of shutting down Nigeria,” Gagdi said.

Kingsley Chinda, the house minority leader, supported the motion, saying the strike is a “strong instrument” which should not be abused.

“Strike to me is the extreme of every action. There must be steps that should be taken before the strike so that we don’t begin to trivialise labour strike,” he said.

He asked labour unions to shield their swords and allow national assembly leadership to wade into the matter and “bring it to a conclusion”.

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Julius Ihonvbere, majority leader, corroborated Chinda’s position, noting that there should be consultation and other avenues explored before a strike is used as a last resort. 

“This one (strike) came with the speed of light,” Ihonvbere said.

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“This cannot happen in a country that wants to recover. It is not evidence of patriotism, commitment to social justice and liberation of people from poverty and hunger, marginalisation and dehumanisation which the government is committed to.”

‘RULE OF LAW SHOULD STAND’

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The federal government had secured an order restraining the unions and their affiliates from embarking on the strike.

Speaking on the court injunction, Bamidele Salami, a lawmaker from Osun, said section 6 of the constitution stipulates that every person in the country must comply with the orders of courts.

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“When a court of law has made a pronouncement on a matter, it behoves citizens, institutions, labour unions and groups in the country to abide by such decision,” he said.

“It is unacceptable to the constitution and to the Nigerian people that the labour leaders in this country choose to cherry-pick which decision of the court to abide with and also infringe on the fundamental human right of fellow citizens to free movement.” 

The legislator said the labour unions must obey the court’s decision if not it will encourage impunity.

Abbas said the proposed intervention by the national assembly leadership shouldn’t be seen as “passing any judgement” or interfering in the verdict of the court.

“Our intervention is just to enable them to suspend (the strike). Even the federal government, despite the court judgment, is still sitting and negotiating with the union, so what stops us from doing the same,” he said. 

The motion was unanimously voted for when it was put to a voice vote by Abbas.

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