Monday, October 2, 2023


NLC’s threat: A password to CBN’s obstinacy

NLC’s threat: A password to CBN’s obstinacy
March 29
08:24 2023

In the years past, the impact of the organised labour on our democratisation experiences can never be overemphasised, as far as issues of national importance are concerned. Labour has always stood up to be counted whenever the government appeared to be going astray, with policies that make life more difficult for the masses. The organised labour, even, during the era of military rule, remained both the voice of the voiceless, and the conscience of the nation.

When, in 1986, the regime of the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) wanted to take the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, and adopted its economic proposition of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU, an affiliate of NLC) protested, against it, even though, the self-acclaimed “Evil Genius” still went ahead to do what he said would not do – take the loan. The names of labour leaders like the late Pascal Bafyau, Ayo Akele (of blessed memories), Comrades, Adams Oshiomole, Issa Aremu, among others, were always on the lips of people from the middle class, down to the lowest wrung of the social ladder. History would also bear witness to how, dead but not forgotten veteran labour leaders like Michael Imoudu, Wahab Omorilewa Goodluck, among others, were thrown into detention for expressing opposing views towards IBB’s IMF loan, and the SAP conditionality. The Abdulwaheed Omar-led NLC also stood stoically against fuel subsidy removal in January 2012 under President Goodluck Jonathan, over the conviction that it would further inflict more socioeconomic hardships on the already pauperised masses, and the Jonathan-led administration had no other options than to bow. The parties would later meet at a midpoint of ₦97 per litre from ₦65 a litre, instead of the federal government’s proposition of ₦141 per litre. This was after days of nationwide protest that shook the foundation of Jonathan’s government. Ayuba Wabba and his NLC in 2016 also did express some opposition to President Buhari’s policy of partial subsidy removal, even though they could not prevent it. That is what the organised labour, over time, has become known for-speaking up, when it seems, the interest of the majority of the people is being put to jeopardy; not meekness in the face of Draconian policies; not silence in the face of misgovernance and injustice; not joining the spectators, when the masses are being annihilated. The common man on the street, civil servants, even students, always look up to the organised labour to say or do something regarding any government policy that did not seem to be in agreement with the socioeconomic wellbeing of the masses. They’ve always championed the course of the people. Political issues like the infamous annulment of the legendary June 12 (1993) presidential election, and the consequent agitation for its de-annulment are prominent among many historic interventions of the organised labour with a view to shaping government policy to suit the yearnings and aspirations of the people.

The institutional platform on which these various noble and nationalistic feats were achieved by these great men is no other than the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), known as “the organised labour, for short. Whenever all hopes seemed lost by the Nigerian masses regarding any government policy that annihilates them, the organised labour always came through for them. But today, the same cannot be said of this great institution. It is, either too distracted by frivolous issue of individuals’ ambitions, or battles of ego. Just about a fortnight ago, the congress was involved in a battle of supremacy with the Imo State government, while hundreds of thousands of its members across the nation suffered the excruciating effect of the Emefiele-inflicted cash crunch in the country. Sometimes, it could be, battling a crisis of legitimacy in the eyes of its members as its leadership has had to contend with allegations of compromise – its leaders have, at one time or the other, been accused of bribe-taken to soft-pedal on some of its positions on issues that resonate with the masses, but which the political class are not comfortable with. None of the allegations has ever been proven to be true.

To the crux of the matter; in the last couple of months, Nigerians have suffered untold hardship in the hand of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), due to its policy of currency redesign. It would be recalled that the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had, through the ill-conceived policy, hoodwinked Nigerians into depositing their old notes of (₦200, ₦500, and ₦1000 denominations), in exchange for the new ones. But to everybody’s dismay, he mopped close to ₦3 trillion up, from circulation through the exercise, only to release a paltry sum of about ₦300 billion of the new notes, under the pretext of wanting to implement “Cashless Policy”. This is a far cry from what is needed to drive the informal sector of the economy, where the majority of operators are unbanked. The economy, and by implication, people’s livelihood were brought to a standstill. People lost their loved ones to common ailments such as malaria, and typhoid which, as little as ₦5000 could take care of, not because they don’t have the money, but because they have no access to the ones they already have, saved in the bank. In the spirit of “Checks and Balances” which is corollary to the principle of Separation of Power, neither the National Assembly nor the Supreme Court, could get the CBN Governor to review the policy, due to its apparent effects on people’s lives and livelihood.


Following the inability of the two other arms of the government to checkmate the executive recklessness of which the policy reeks, Nigerians appear to have resigned to fate, counting down to when Emefiele ends his tenure statutorily in June 2024, or when and if the President-elect gets sworn in on the 29th of May, and he, hopefully reverses the policy or sack Emefiele. But, out of the blue, came the bombshell from the NLC chairman about two weeks ago, giving the federal government a 7-day ultimatum to remedy the situation and make cash available, or they have a total strike by the organised labour to contend with. At the end of the ultimatum, the CBN, predictably, called the bluff of the organised labour, and the suffering continues for the hapless masses. So, last week Wednesday, the NLC, directed its members in all its branches across the states of the federation to begin mobilisation for industrial action over the persistent non-availability of cash in the country. The NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, at a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, said mobilisation would begin last Friday while the total shutdown of economic activities across the nation will begin today, Wednesday, 29th March 2023.

But for Emefiele, the fear of beret-wearing labour activists taking over (picketing) CBN and its branches across the federation is the beginning of wisdom. Guess what…? The CBN hurriedly announced its readiness to make available, from the following day – Thursday 23rd of March 2023, old notes that were rumoured to have been burnt, to spite the Supreme Court’s ruling. The apex bank further directed commercial banks to open for service on Saturday and Sunday, to attend to customers’ need for cash. Wonders, they said, shall never end; ATMs that have been inactive since mid-January, suddenly begin to dispense cash. It feels good to note that, the obstinacy of Emefiele and his CBN’s has a password in the NLC.

It is, therefore, gladdening to see the NLC, find its voice after missing in action, while Nigerians suffered like orphans in a war zone. Until last week Wednesday, I never knew, there was still an entity that could talk and the “almighty” CBN Governor would take heed. Thank you, NLC, for reviving the indomitable spirit and the vibes with which the organised labour has been known over the years. Thank you for bringing the anthropocentric disposition of labour activists of yesteryear to bear, in intervening in this critical matters of national importance. This is an eloquent testimony to the fact that, for every Goliath, there is always a David and a stone. The fear of sheer number that the NLC possesses is what Emefiele dreads so much that, he had to comply immediately. This is because, taking on a fully mobilised NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), is like fighting a lion, and I do not think, the former Managing Director of Zenith bank is feeling like a “Daniel” at the moment. It was not going to be funny, when the organised labour comes to picket the apex bank’s branches across the federation, as it had threatened to, hence the volte-face move in making available Naira notes, in both old and new currencies by the CBN.


Abubakar writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via 08051388285 or [email protected]

Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.


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