Labour, FG Disagree About Failed Peace Agreement

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On Thursday, the Federal Government disapproved of organized labor’s threat to call for a nationwide walkout within the next 14 days due to the government’s purported inability to carry out the agreement reached in October 2023 with the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.

In a statement, Mohammed Idris, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, urged the unions to use moderation and let the government handle their complaints.

“We are urging Labour to be patient,” he declared. We’ll examine the murky areas. In the best interests of our country, allow them to visit and talk with us.

“A strike is not something we can afford to do right now. As a result, we urge them and will always work with Labor to advance and develop our nation.

Idris, though, remained silent when asked if the government would ask a judge for an injunction to end the strike.

Following President Bola Tinubu’s May 29, 2023, removal of the fuel subsidy, labor unions and the federal government came to a 16-point agreement regarding steps to ease the impact of the subsidy removal on workers.

In addition, the government promised to pay N35,000 to all federal employees starting in September of last year, subject to the anticipated enactment of a new national minimum wage.

According to the resolution, federal employees would receive their wage award for a period of six months, and states were urged to offer similar benefits to their own workforces.

To help with the exorbitant cost of transportation, the federal government also promised to supply 100 CNG buses across the country.

On October 3, the unions had threatened to go on a national strike, but the action was put on hold with the requirement that the wage award, cash transfer, and several other resolutions be put into effect within 30 days of the Memorandum of Understanding being signed.

However, five months after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed, the NLC and TUC charged in a joint statement on Thursday that the government was not living up to its word.

Government is at fault, says labor

Despite the passage of time, organized labor expressed regret that “the majority of these crucial agreements remain unmet or negligibly addressed, indicating a blatant disregard for the principles of good faith, welfare and rights of Nigerian workers and Nigerians,” in a statement signed by the leaders of the two labor unions, Festus Usifo and Joe Ajaero.

The Federal Government has been given 14 days, from February 9 to February 14, 2024, by organized labor, to fulfill its obligation under the Memorandum of Understanding with the unions.

The agreement, according to the labor unions, was aimed at resolving the severe socioeconomic fallout from “the ill-conceived and ill-executed IMF/World Bank-induced hike in the price of PMS and the devaluation of the naira,” as well as the widespread suffering caused by these factors.

The movement said that Nigeria’s laborers and general populace would suffer greatly economically as a result of the two policies.

“The suffering of Nigerians”

A portion of the statement said, “Millions of Nigerians are currently suffering from widespread hunger, and their purchasing power has been severely reduced as a result of the growing level of insecurity.”

Nigerians are left wondering where they will get their next meal and what the future holds. Unfortunately, despite the terrifying levels of fear and anxiety experienced by the public, it seems that our government is lacking the necessary policies to lessen the heavy burden it has placed on its citizens.

“We would like to declare that the Federal Government has not honored these agreements, which cover a wide range of issues vital to the welfare of Nigerian workers and the masses, as promised.

The case of the illegal and unlawful proscription of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria ranges from wage awards, palliative adjustments, and improved access to public utilities, to the meddling in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and the interference in union activities by the Lagos State Government.

“The working people and the citizens find it extremely regrettable and unacceptable that the government has not kept its end of the agreement.”

Constrained by this development, the unions continued, “the NLC and TUC hereby issue a stern ultimatum to the Federal Government, to honor their part of the understanding within 14 days from tomorrow (today), the 9th day of February 2024.” They acknowledged the urgency of the situation and the imperative of ensuring the protection and defense of the rights and dignity of Nigerian workers and citizens.

The Nigerian Union of Banks, Insurance and Finance Institution Employees’ Deputy General Secretary, Shola Aboderin, declared that his union’s members would participate in the work stoppage.

“We are a branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress, and failing to join the strike following the 14-day ultimatum would appear irresponsible on the part of NUBIFIE,” he declared.

Aboderin claims that the union’s members have been bemoaning the difficulties facing the nation.

“We can’t guarantee that our members will continue to work for Heritage Bank if they don’t add anything to their salaries,” he stated. “Specifically, we can’t guarantee that our members will come to work every day again, which was on Thursday of last week.”

Aboderin continued, saying that on Friday (today), NUBIFIE would assess the goings-on and the overall state of affairs.

“There is no doubt in our minds that we will join the strike. Our members suffer more because they close later and have to spend between 60 and 70 percent of their income on transportation.

He went on, “Banks will be the first union to down tools following the 14-day ultimatum.”

Additionally, Illitrus Ahmadu, the president of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, made a suggestion that the union’s members would abide by the TUC leadership’s decision.

Since TUC is affiliated with our union, they must have made a decision on a significant national issue. Before giving such an order, the NLC and TUC leaderships had to concur on that.

“However, once they make a choice, affiliates like us are stuck with it. We haven’t been informed as of yet, and neither has the secretariat. They inform us after they make decisions such as these.

“I suppose they are merely responding to the difficulties in the area. It makes sense, particularly in light of the financial difficulties that agencies are currently facing, Ahmadu said.

The National Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Executive Secretary, Mr. Bassey Essien, declared that the union would not participate in the walkout.

Essien clarified, however, that as members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, a branch of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, the association’s LPG drivers would take part in the walkout.

Essien also voiced grievances regarding the state of affairs in the nation as they relate to the gas industry.

“We have made a significant national contribution to inform those in positions of power, the president, pertinent authorities, lawmakers, the media, and all concerned citizens that problems exist in the nation, particularly with the high cost of cooking gas,” the speaker stated.

Owners of transportation

If the government doesn’t solve the difficulties they are having operating their businesses, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners threatened to park their trucks.

Lawal Othman, the president of NARTO National, stated that even though the organization is not a member of the NLC, the difficulties its members face will soon force them from their jobs.

NARTO serves as the governing body for all Nigerian commercial vehicle owners who transport passengers, general cargo, and petroleum products.

“We are not NLC members, but we also have our own problems,” Othman remarked. There is a lot of hardship, so we might have to park our trucks. Everything costs a lot, even diesel and spare parts. Since we are not profitable, we will park our trucks.

No one in the nation is not experiencing pain, according to Mr. Nnadi Ugochukwu, Vice President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders: “We have not been notified, but I assure you that we would join the strike if we are notified about it.”

Customs officers

Mr. Lucky Amiwero, the founder of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, expressed his displeasure with the state of the economy.

He warned that a strike would have serious consequences for the country and urged the government to come up with strong solutions.

“The nation is in terrible shape. Therefore, the government ought to look into ways to do things correctly. Many things have gone wrong. The labor unions are requesting that the government investigate this from all angles and come up with long-term fixes.

“Everyone would be impacted if there was a labor strike. As you are aware, my members are not covered by the NLC, but some maritime employees are, according to Amiwero.

Under the auspices of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Nigerian Muslims have issued a warning to President Bola Tinubu not to take the nation’s economic hardship lightly, claiming that the people of Nigeria are actually starving.

Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar ll, the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual head of the Nigerian Muslim community, is in charge of the JNI.

Anger-filled women and youths protested against what they perceived to be the rising cost of living on Monday and Tuesday in the streets of Kano and Minna, the capital of Niger State.

Similar demonstrations broke out in the states of Ondo and Kogi.

In a statement released on Thursday in Kaduna by its Secretary-General, Prof. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, the organization made comments regarding the state of the economy and urged the Federal Government to take immediate action to resolve the issues.

The JNI scribe claimed that in order to prevent further inciting of Nigerians, both the federal and state governments needed to step in before things got worse and demand the unconditional and immediate release of those detained during the Minna protest.

The organization was also against hoarding and raising prices for necessities, particularly food, given that the Muslim Ramadan fast was drawing near.

“The current trying-time ordinary Nigerians are experiencing, occasioned by food insecurity, inflation, abject poverty and insecurity, is distressing and calls for serious redress,” the statement titled “The need to address the inflation crisis in Nigeria” said.

“With a strong sense of responsibility, the JNI, led by His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria to act quickly to address the challenges that Nigerians are facing.

“This call is made in response to the terrible suffering that people are expressing in print and electronic media, including social media, where protests and other dissident concerns were being voiced in Minna, Niger State, and Lokoja, Kogi State.

The JNI feels obliged to speak out about this issue because of the alarming effects that inflation and hoarding have on the cost and accessibility of basic goods and services, especially food.

“Reports and appeals from regular Nigerians expressing their distress over the skyrocketing costs of necessities have flooded in.”

“We fervently urge the FGN and state governments to step in before the situation deteriorates,” it continued. In a similar vein, everyone detained during the demonstrations ought to be freed, and swift action and cooperation should be taken to prevent a repeat of this. This call is now required in order to prevent further agitation of the populace.

In a related development, the Price Control Board will be established by the Niger State House of Assembly in order to control the cost of necessities.

After its sponsor, Alhaji Isa Etsugaie (APC-Agaie), presented the bill’s general principles during Thursday’s plenary, a bill for the PCB scaled first reading on Thursday.

Etsugaie, the bill’s presenter, stated that the board would examine the state’s market conditions in order to reconstruct the broken supply and demand system.

In order to make sure that everyone received a fair share of the necessities, he continued, the board would evaluate the distribution and delivery practices.

In addition, he said, the board would oversee the operations of the State Supply Company and other businesses, as well as control how necessities were distributed.

The lawmaker stated that the board would assist in interpreting price movements, keeping an eye on prices, and connecting them to other changes in the state economy.

He declared that among other things, the board would send a report on the state of the markets straight to the governor.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the bill was subsequently approved by the house on its first reading.

Additionally, Femi Falana, SAN, a human rights attorney, gave an explanation of his legal strategy against the Federal Government on Thursday regarding the nation’s rising commodity prices.

Falana stated that the need for the explanation arose from a legal challenge to the Federal High Court’s order compelling the Federal Government to provide necessary supplies.

The Federal Government was given a seven-day deadline by a Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday to fix the prices of goods and petroleum products.

Judge Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa specifically directed the government to set the prices for petroleum products, such as diesel, Premium Motor Spirit, and kerosene, as well as for milk, flour, salt, sugar, bicycles and their spare parts, matches, motorcycles and their spare parts, and motor vehicles.

Falana said in a statement that some attorneys have claimed the court order is unenforceable, which justifies the exploitative status quo.

The senior attorney clarified that he had come before the court to make sure the Price Control Act’s provisions were followed.

He pointed out that the ruling class in Nigeria passed the Price Control Act in 1977 in response to popular demand.

“An existing law that regulates and controls the prices of certain goods in Nigeria is the Price Control Act,” he said. This Act’s primary goal is to guarantee that the cost of necessities stays reasonable and within the reach of the average person.

It seeks to discourage price gouging and advance equitable pricing methods. The Price Control Board, an organization under the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, was established by the federal government to regulate the prices of goods.

Additionally, the Federal Government established the Federal Consumer Protection Commission, whose duties include responding to consumer complaints, educating consumers, and assisting trade, industry, and professional associations in creating and enforcing quality standards that protect consumers’ interests.

The social activist went on to say that the Federal Government has stopped raising telecom and electricity rates recently.

“Why does the NNPCL not have the same price control over diesel and kerosene as the PMS (petrol) does?He asked.

“Why is it difficult to control the prices of the goods that the captains of industry import into the country?” he asked, referring to the fact that the FG could waive duty payments totaling N16 trillion to Dangote, Honeywell, and company in just five years.”’

Most impoverished people have been priced out of the market, but lawyers and other affluent citizens can afford the growing costs of necessities. Falana argued that as a result, the Federal Government must step in to regulate the cost of necessities in Nigeria.

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