- Aviation unions, others direct membership to prepare for action
DESPITE talks with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and a ruling by the National Industrial Court to avert the nationwide strike come Monday September 28, 2020 the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is mobilizing workers to embark on a nationwide protest against the recent hike in electricity tariff and pump price of fuel.
Electricity distribution companies (DisCos) had hiked their tariffs from about N30.23 to about N62.33 per kWh while the price of petrol increased from N145 to N161 per litre for Nigerians after the federal government said it would no longer subsidize electricity consumption.
These increases have been greeted wide spread condemnation nationwide and has led organized labour including NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to jointly declared dispute and express readiness to embark on a nationwide strike as from if the federal government fail to rescind the increases.
Already there are notifications from all sectors flying around and advising union members the format the nationwide shutdown would take, even the aviation industry is not immune from the planned action as unions in unison have declared plans to join the action.
The National Association of Aircraft Pilots Association (NAAPE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) have expressed plans to shut down the nation’s airspace in compliance with the national directive.
A statement jointly issued on Friday read,” Our unions are in full support of the strike as such all workers in the aviation sector are hereby directed to withdraw their services at all aerodromes nationwide as from 00hrs of 28th September 2020 until otherwise communicated by the NLC/TUC.
However, in a bid to forestall the proposed strike, the NGF made up of the 36 governors entered into a meeting with the organised labour, pleading with the workers to jettison the action.
Speaking at the parley, chairman of the NGF and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi said the timing for the action was inauspicious and could aggravate an already worsening situation if not averted and therefore urged the NLC to rethink its strategy.
To buy more time, the Forum pledged to take up the matter with President Muhammadu Buhari, the vice president, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, secretary to the government of the federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, among others to resolve the matter.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting reads: “The Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Nigeria Labour Congress are on the path to resolving the impasse occasioned by the threat by workers to embark on industrial action if the federal government does not rescind the recent decisions to increase the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) and electricity tariff in the country.
“This is the outcome of an early morning dialogue between representatives of the Forum and workers which took place at the residence of the Chairman of the NGF, in Abuja, early on Saturday.
“The NGF Chairman said, no one that is conversant with the prevailing situation in the country would disagree with labour and its demands, as it were, but pleaded that Governors be given time to consult more broadly with the various stakeholders, including the secretary to the government of the federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the vice president, and the president. This he said would be a top priority for the NGF and promised to head straight to the presidency once the meeting was over.
“The chairman of the NGF and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Fayemi spoke for the Forum, while the NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba who was accompanied by the TUC president Quadri Olaleye and the NLC general secretary, Emmanuel Ugboajah, to the meeting. Also at the meeting was the director general of the NGF Mr. Asishana Okauru.
“Fayemi emphasised that the plight of workers in the country was already in dire straits and that any action embarked upon by the union at this time would further worsen their situation as contained in the communiqué issued by governors after their first emergency meeting on Thursday, 24th September 2020, since the outbreak of the pandemic and eventual lockdown of the country, last March.
“On his part, the president of the NLC said the federal government violated the time-tested global process of dialogue and thanked the NGF chairman for his efforts at ensuring that sanity returns to the negotiation table.
“When the cost of PMS rises, the cost of everything in the country rises with it, the NLC president explained.
Deputy national president of the NLC and general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr. Joe Ajaero has however said there was no contrary instruction from the national body that the protest will not hold.
Similarly, the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU) directed their members to get ready to participate actively in the nationwide protest slated to commence on Monday.
“You are hereby directed to mobilise all our formal and informal sectors members in your Zone to adequately mobilize for the successful execution of this resolution. You are further directed to set up task forces in your Zone to enforce this very important directive,” said NUPENG’s general secretary, Mr. Afolabi Olawale in a statement.
His counterpart in NCSU, Yahaya Ndako directed its members to comply with the resolve to shut down the country’s economy because of the federal government’s failure to reverse the hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs.
Recall that Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court in Abuja had issued an order restraining the NLC from embarking on the strike.
The order followed an ex parte application moved by federal government’s team comprising Mrs. Maimuna Shiru and Mr. Tijjani Gazali of the department civil litigation of the federal ministry of justice
The court restrained the unions, their officers, and affiliates, privies 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 28th September 2020 or any other date”.
Also granted is an order compelling the inspector-general of police and the director-general, Department of State Services (DSS) to provide protection for workers “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.”
Meanwhile, the government warned all the federal civil servants against joining the strike.
“All officers on Grade Level 12 and above and those on essential services are hereby strongly advised to be at work to perform their official duties,” said the head of the civil service, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan in a statement.
Yemi-Esan said the federal government was in talks with the labour unions towards the resolution of the workers’ agitation.