By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau
The organised labour has vowed to sustain the ongoing nationwide strike until the federal government implements the demands of the unions to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy and the immediate prosecution of the security operatives and sponsored thugs who brutalised the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero in Imo state on November 1, 2023.
Also, labour have dismissed the claims by Imo state governor Hope Uzodimma that his government is “not owing workers a dime”, arguing that the governor is being economical with truth as Ajaero was in Owerri to lead a protest against the persistent and egregious violations of the rights and privileges of workers in Imo State by the state government.
Speaking on behalf of the organised labour on Channels Television breakfast programme Sunrise Daily monitored in Abuja on Wednesday, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Comrade Festus Osifo said organized labour is scaling up the nationwide strike and will not back down until their demands are met by the federal government.
According to him federal government is not sincere with the labour unions and as long the right things are not down including the arrest and prosecutions of those who brutalised the NLC President who he said is the symbol of labour unions in Nigeria in Imo state, the nationwide strike will be sustained.
Osifo insists that the nationwide strike was not declared only because of the manhandling of NLC President in Imo state but to compel the federal government to begin the implementation of labour’s demands, adding that the notice of the strike was given two weeks ago.
“The strike is not about Ajaero but an institution called labour unions (NLC/TUC). Those berating NLC/TUC for embarking on nationwide strike because of the brutalisation of Ajaero in Imo state are missing the point. Ajaero is the symbol of labour unions in Nigeria, therefore anything that happens to him happened to the national union and we cannot be told how to fight our course.
“He was in Imo state on behalf of the labour unions and he was at the Labour House in Owerri when he was assaulted by the Police who handed over to sponsored thugs. He was not there to campaign for any political party, at all. He was sent their by labour unions to protest to state government over unpaid workers ‘salaries and branding some of them as ghost workers”, Osifo stated.
The TUC President accused the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun of compromise, saying that Ajaero was in the same hotel in Owerri where the top echelon of Nigerian Police were holding a retreat and they have a first hand information on how ‘rogue’ Policemen brutalised the NLC President but failed to take action.
Said he: “Nigerian Police Force know those who brutalised Ajaero, they work for Police and Governor Uzodimma. Senior Police Officers who were in Owerri for a security retreat and, in deed, in the same hotel in Owerri with Ajaero on November 1 when the incident happened knew what happened and even called it state sponsored terrorism
“In fact, the IGP is compromised because he was in the same hotel with Ajaero and he did not act after the brutalisation of the NLC President. He did nothing until few days ago when he said he is setting up an inquiry. We, as labour unions do not believe in him. We want other arms of security like DSS and others to investigate the incident”.
On the claims by Uzodimma that his government is not owing workers a dime, Osifo said Uzodimma lied, insisting that NLC/ TUC have a valid Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the same government earlier in the year and wondered why the governor will be lying on national television.
“I want to make it clear to the world that labour leaders signed an MOU in May with Uzodimma’s government in Owerri.
But since then they ran away from it. In fact, he was represented by no less a personality than the Secretary to Imo State Government who signed the MOU on behalf of Imo government. If there was no communication and if he is not owing workers why did they sign an MOU.
“It is in pursuance of the MOU, to ask questions that Ajaero was sent to Imo state by the national leadership to lead a protest. So it’s a big lie if Uzodimma is claiming that his government is not owing workers and that he did hear from labour if there are issues with the labour union in the state”.
On the reaction of Senator Adams Oshiomhole on the ongoing nationwide strike, Osifo said the former NLC President commented based on the limited information he had on the reasons for the industrial action, pointing out that when he gets the true picture he will understand the situation better. READ ALSO:
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According to him Oshiomhole may have spoken based on the information the presidency presented to him when paid a courtesy call on Tuesday, arguing that the strike is not only for the brutalisation of Ajaero but for the fact that despite labour unions’ repeated efforts to engage in constructive dialogue and reach amicable agreements with the federal government on how to ameliorate the suffering of Nigeria workers after the removal of fuel subsidy, the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not shown any need to implement labour unions’ demands.
On the purported court order to stop the nationwide strike by organised labour, Osifo said labour unions did not get any court order just as he accused the federal government of using “Black Market Court Order” to harass labour unions.
Osifo said its regrettable that the federal government has continued to treat NLC/TUC leadership with levity while running away from implementing the demands of labour unions and when they call for strike action they will be threatened with court order.