The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, nationwide strike recorded mixed compliance across the states, yesterday. While some states were shut down with banks, public schools, courts and others shut down, some states recorded partial compliance and a few did not comply.
The directives of the two labour bodies were carried out in Lagos, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Kebbi, and Edo among others.
In Kano, banks and schools were shut as the government suspended qualifying examinations. Also schools were shut in Osogbo, the Osun State capital with the police beefing up security to avoid breakdown of law and order
In Imo, there was partial compliance as banks opened for business.
However, workers shunned the industrial action in Enugu and Abuja, with Labour leaders saying they would ensure strike in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, today.
The two unions in the nation’s public universities disagreed over the strike. While the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, asked its members to join the strike, the ‘ Congress of University Academics, CONUA, directed its members to shun the action.
This is coming as the Organised Labour pooh-poohed claims by the Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, that the ongoing nationwide strike was an ego trip intended to ‘blackmail the government.’ It insisted that the strike was not a personal matter affecting the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, as alleged.
On November 13, 2023, the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of the labour unions, in Abuja, resolved to embark on the strike due to the alleged failure of the Federal Government to address issues affecting workers such as the minimum wage, insecurity, corruption, and poor governance.
Also, both unions said they had made some demands, which the government allegedly failed to address following the recent crisis in Imo that resulted in the brutalisation of Ajaero, and other members of the labour unions.
Apart from the brutalisation of Ajaero, other labour leaders, and journalists, other grievances of Organized Labour include outstanding salary arrears, unjust declaration of 11,000 workers as ghost employees, unsettled gratuities, non-compliance of N30,000 minimum wage act, and declaration of 10,000 pensioners as ghost retirees.
The Federal Government on November 13 warned both unions against embarking on their planned strike, saying it would amount to contempt of court.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in a statement, said the government had obtained a restraining order from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria barring the unions from going ahead with the strike.
Labour leaders expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance on Day One, noting that the compliance level would be much better in the coming days.
As of yesterday among the major critical sectors that fully complied with the strike were workers in the Maritime sector who shut the Ports formations in Lagos, Rivers, Cross River and Delta states.
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN in compliance with the Labour directive, shutdown port operations at Apapa and Tin-can Island.
This is even as freight forwarders have called on the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy as well as the management of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC to ensure that terminal operators and shipping lines do not slam demurrage on them for the duration of the strike.
Similarly, workers in the Food, Beverage and Tobacco, Chemical and Non-metallic Products and the Construction sectors, fully complied.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, directed its members nationwide to join the industrial action via a circular by its General Secretary, Lumumba Okungbowa.
Speaking on the Day One of the strike, Deputy President of TUC, Dr Tommy Okon, said: “We are very happy about the level of compliance so far. Many workers received the notice from their unions very late yesterday (Monday). I can authoritatively tell you there will be 100 percent compliance in the coming days.”
No meeting with FG – TUC
Meanwhile, the President of TUC, Festus Osifo, has dismissed reports of any meeting with the Federal Government, saying “I have no knowledge of any meeting with the government for now.”
Banks, trains grounded as Lagos workers join strike
However, the strike recorded an impact in Lagos as banks and train service were grounded.
The Secretary General, Nigeria Union of Railway Workers, Mr Segun Esan, told newsmen that the union was involved in the strike and no train was running as a result.
“In effect, therefore, all the workers of Nigerian Railway are duty-bound to join the nationwide strike action from zero-zero hour of Tuesday, 14th November, 2023 by staying back at home and away from their offices.
“All the offices, stations, workshops, and entire premises of the corporation remain locked and inaccessible from zero-zero hour of Tuesday, 14th November, 2023, till otherwise directed by the Congress,” Esan said.
Also, the President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions, Mr Oluwole Olusoji, said advice had been sent out to members on compliance, adding that members had been advised to ensure the safeguard of lives and property from people who might be used to take undue advantage of the situation.
“We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds,” Olusoji said.
Join nationwide strike, ASUU directs members
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU wrote to all zonal coordinators and chairpersons of the union and directed them to mobilise members be mobilised for the strike in line with the NLC and TUC directives.
The letter which was signed by ASUU’s National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, was issued on Monday night.
The letter read in part: “As an affiliate of NLC, all members of our union are hereby directed to join this action of NLC to protect the interest of Nigerian workers and the leadership of the union. Zonal coordinators and branch chairpersons should immediately mobilise our members to participate in the action. A people united, cannot be defeated.”
“In light of this, who is punishing “a whole country of over 200 million people”, NLC/TUC or the Government of Bola Tinubu?
“Similarly, this strike is not ‘over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, whose error of judgment led to the assault on him in Owerri while he was planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike’, as casually and callously alleged by Bayo Onanuga.
“However, herein lies the kernel of the matter. Mr Ajaero is General Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and neither he nor any of the members of his union in or outside Imo State is owed a salary/pension payment arrears.
“However, in his capacity as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress he has an oversight over all the unions affiliated to the Congress including the civil servants and pensioners (core/non-core civil servants, teachers, local government workers, pensioners etc) who have been owed in varying degrees of arrears.
“There have been pending cases of improper implementation of national minimum wage, declaration of thousands of workers as ghost workers, and non-implementation of agreements reached with the state government since 2021.