The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Tuesday, gave reasons why it agreed with the federal government to suspend the strike scheduled to commence Wednesday. NLC said it took into account a restraining court injunction procured by the government to stop the proposed nationwide strike.
The union accused the federal government of exploiting ex-parte injunctions to silence workers.
NLC’s explanation came as KPMG, a multinational audit, tax and advisory services firm, on Tuesday, predicted that the current withdrawal of petrol subsidy in Nigeria could see the inflation rate climb to 30 per cent from June. It recommended that measures be put in place to mitigate the effect of the new policy.
In a similar vein, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Tuesday, advised the federal government to overcome resistance to its laudable removal of petrol subsidy by effective communication of the benefits and mitigation strategies in place to cushion its adverse effect.
The planned indefinite nationwide strike action, previously scheduled to commence today, to protest last week’s withdrawal of fuel subsidy by the federal government was on Monday night called off by both NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC). Stopping the planned industrial action was one of the seven-point resolutions reached at the end of a negotiation meeting between the federal government, TUC, and NLC.
Justice Anuwe had on Monday stopped the planned nationwide strike. The order of the court was sequel to an application by the federal government, which was hinged on the heavy impact the strike would have on all aspects of the economy.
Removal of petrol subsidy was one of the highlights of President Bola Tinubu’s inaugural address on May 29. The announcement of an end to the fuel subsidy regime was followed by an increase in petrol price by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
The price hike elicited quick reactions from both NLC and TUC, which accused the government of failing to engage in necessary consultations before removing the fuel subsidy.
In a communiqué issued after an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the congress, summoned to discuss the outcome of the dialogue with the federal government on the petroleum products price hike, NLC said it took into account the restraining court injunction.
The communiqué signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, said NLC suspended the strike to demonstrate to the federal government the need to comply with the laws of the land.
It also stated that it considered the willingness of the government to dialogue on the issues, the general mood of the nation after the last elections, and the need to pursue national stability.
The NLC explained in the communiqué, “Taking into account that the federal government has procured a court injunction restraining Congress from proceeding with the proposed nationwide strike, as the NEC-in-session had ordered to begin, Wednesday, the 7th of June, 2023;
“Recognising the willingness of government for continuous engagement through dialogue and to offer reasonable palliatives in due course to cushion the effect of its policies and some levels of understanding reached.
“Considering the mood of the socio-polity after last elections and the need to pursue national stability and, consequently, the NEC-in-session resolved as follows:
“To commend and applaud the diligence of the Congress’ leadership in carrying out the assignment given to it by NEC.
“To demonstrate to the federal government the need to comply with the laws of the land, especially as it concerns obedience to the rulings of the courts and their brazen disregard to the 2023 Appropriation Act.
“To, therefore, support and accept the decision of the leadership of Congress to suspend the proposed strike action in compliance with the flawed rulings of the NIC and also allow negotiations to flow freely and enable final agreement during or after the 19th June, 2023 negotiation round with the federal government.”
NLC, however, disapproved of the ruling of the National Industrial Court (NIC), describing it as continuous weaponization of the instrument of ex-parte injunction in favour of the government against the interest of Nigerian workers. It said the action of the industrial court was in defiance of the position of the Supreme Court on the use of ex-parte injunction.
“All Affiliates and State Councils of Congress are hereby directed to suspend further action and mobilisation until the outcome of the final negotiations,” NLC said.
It urged its branches and affiliate unions to remain vigilant and be on stand-by, in case there was a need to continue the strike.