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NLC to presidency: Strike not for blackmail | FG should be grateful for labour’s patience

NLC to presidency: Strike not for blackmail | FG should be grateful for labour’s patience
November 14
16:59 2023

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has reacted to the claim by the presidency that the nationwide strike was called to blackmail the federal government.

Recently, labour unions, including the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said they were going on a nationwide strike to protest the alleged brutality of Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC in Imo state.

The strike was scheduled to commence at midnight on November 14.

However, on November 5, the national industrial court in Owerri, the capital of Imo, issued a restraining order to prevent labour unions from embarking on strike in the state.

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

But on Monday, Festus Osifo, TUC president, said the labour unions would continue with the planned industrial action despite the court order.

Reacting to the development, Bayo Onanuga, presidential aide, described the decision of the unions to embark on strike as “an ego-tripping move” and “clearly unwarranted”.

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He accused the unions of trying to “blackmail the government” and “punish a whole country of over 200 million people over a personal matter”.

On Tuesday, media reports showed that there was partial compliance with the strike in many government offices.

NLC REACTS

In a statement released on Tuesday, Benson Upah, media head of NLC, said the declaration of strike was not initiated to “blackmail” the government.

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Upah said organised labour has no reason to “blackmail” the government, adding that the strike is not a “personal matter” as “mischievously” stated by Onanuga.

“Blackmail the government over what? A bribe or a favour organised labour asked for and did not get it or what?” Upah asked.

“If Onanuga was not suffering from selective amnesia, he ought to have known that this government should remain grateful to the organised labour for its uncommon patience with a government that clearly was not prepared for the consequences of its fundamentalist market policies of massive currency devaluation and ‘subsidy’ removal, which imposed on Nigerians social violence, upheaval, dislocation, displacement, or punishment they never before experienced.

“Onanuga, similarly ought to have known that organised labour, by not opting for a strike as a first option, acted as a bulwark against the rage of Nigerians thereby saving this government from itself.

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“Organised labour is not unaware of the misdirected anger of Nigerians for not going for the jugular of this government for justifiable reasons: inflation moved from 19% to 29%; exchange rate from N400 to N1,300; and pump price of PMS from N187 to N700, in the first five months of this government!”

The NLC spokesperson faulted the police’s investigation of the incident that happened to the president of the congress in Imo when the federal government had “already found Ajaero guilty”.

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“So the police will now be the judge, jury, and jailer in their own case? What a country we run! Secondly, what per chance, will the police be investigating when the government, by the admission of Onanuga, has already found Ajaero guilty, arrested him, convicted him, and punished him through torture for “planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike”,” he said.

“We concerned Nigerians are not interested in a charade. We demand an honest and thorough investigation by competent and independent professionals (with free and unfettered access to information, people, and materials) from within and outside the country. Comrade Joe Ajaero holds offices on the international circuit.”

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