NLC/TUC planned strike on shaky grounds as FG gets court injunction
Culled Business Day
The Federal Government of Nigeria has secured a court injunction against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC)’s planned industrial action, against the removal of fuel subsidy.
The Federal Government had dragged the NLC, TUC and their affiliates before the National Industrial Court seeking to stop the looming strike threatened by Labour over the fuel pump price increment.
The President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Justice Babatunde Adejumo, restrained the NLC, TUC and their affiliates from embarking on any nationwide strike action.
The motion exparte was argued by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN before the President of the NICN.
“The defendants are hereby restrained from carrying out the threat contained in their communique issued on May 14, 2016 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed on May 16.
“It is the order of this court that status quo be maintained as at May 17. I decided to take this case this morning because it is on an issue that will affect everybody. I don’t want people to be subjected to hardship. There will be scarcity of foods, people may die, students will engage in all sorts of activities. This is why I have to grant this order,” the court held.
The AGF had argued before the court that it was in the national interest to stop NLC from shutting down the nation over last week’s increase in price of fuel. He cited Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to justify his application to stop the strike.
Malami argued that no amount of damages could serve as compensation if NLC was allowed to shut down the economy.He contended that ordinary and law abiding citizens would be subjected to hardship if the respondents were allowed to go ahead with their threat. Malami argued that the government was left with no alternative but to seek the intervention of the court.
Justice Adejumo gave seven days within which hearing of the motion on notice would elapse, and adjourned the case till May 24.
Amid the heated for and against the liberalisation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry as announced by the government, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has advised the Federal Government to convene an expanded stakeholders’ meeting to discuss palliatives.
Segun Oshinowo, the Director-General who made the call emphasized that the stakeholders should include Labour and representatives of the organised private sector such as Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and NECA.
The NECA’s position came as pressure continues to mount on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) to jettison the planned nationwide strikes and protests to compel the government to rescind its decision liberalising the downstream sector and increase of fuel price from N86.50k to N145 per litre.
Oshinowo in a paper titled “deregulation of the oil and gas downstream sector: governance of our country- who is in control?, made available to Business Day, insisted there were many more stakeholders whose voices needed to be heard. He restated the futility of the agitations in some quarters championed by the labour for the government to continue the subsidisation of fuel consumption, saying the realities of the Nigerian economy do not support the labour’s position.
“There is no question about the fact that the subsidy regime has failed. The organised private sector, as a key stakeholder in the Nigerian economy, has been consistent with its position that the way out of this policy disaster of subsidy is deregulation. We therefore want to commend this government for embracing the policy of deregulation and liberalisation, which will bring to an end to the corruption-ridden and anti-development policy of subsidy on petrol.”
“The way forward therefore is for the government to invite organised labour and other key stakeholders such as the organised private sector, represented by NECA, MAN, NACCIMA, NASSI, NASME, major marketers, independent marketers for an all stakeholders dialogue with government. The purpose of this should be to fashion a way out which will take cognisance of palliatives for ameliorating the short-term pains of the new policy,” Oshinowo said.
Meanwhile the leadership crisis rocking the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) manifested itself as the Joe Ajaero faction of the NLC insisted that it would not join the Comrade Ayuba Wabba-led NLC to embark on the strike planned for today.
Also, the federal government has insisted that there is no option to the increment of the pump price of fuel. Stakeholders in the Labour sector, including the governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and other government officials were locked in a meeting at the office of the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
The meeting, which was summoned at the instance of the SGF, was being held to avert the proposed nationwide strike by the NLC and the TUC scheduled for Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
However a mild drama played out as the general secretary of the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, and the president National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, both of whom are president and deputy president of the rival NLC faction, were locked out of the meeting.
Speaking during the opening session, both the SGF, Babachir Lawal, and the minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, insisted that the new price increment would remain, saying there was no other option to the hike.
Speaking to journalists outside, NUPENG president, Achese, said oil and bank workers, who are part of his faction, would not be joining the strike.
The meeting had in attendance the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba; TUC president, Bobboi Bala Kiagama; NLC general secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, and TUC acting general secretary, Simeso Amachree, among others.
The president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Olabode Johnson, was on the Labour side.
On the government side was minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige; the SGF, Babachir Lawal; minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu; minister of solid minerals, Kayode Fayemi and Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole
Governor Oshiomhole had earlier met with the Vice President, Mr. Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, possibly to harmonise federal government’s position before they went for the closed-door meeting at the SGF’s office.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN, two prominent unions within the oil industry, had earlier endorsed the deregulation policy of the federal government which caused a sharp increase in the price of fuel from N86.50 to N145 per litre.
Speaking outside the meeting, Comrade Ajaero said his group would not be joining the strike on Wednesday, adding that his faction would also be meeting with the federal government’s team immediately after the meeting with the Wabba faction.