Disappointed by the stands of NLC and TUC to suspend the nationwide strike over increase in prices of petrol and electricity tariff slated for 28th September, 2020, the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has issued a statement critical to the position of both Unions.
Recall that the suspension was contained in a communique jointly signed by labour leaders and the Federal Government representatives in the wee hours of 28th September, 2020 and read by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, at the end of a negotiation meeting that lasted several hours.
Below is a full text of CHRICED press release signed and issued to Stallion Times by its Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi on 28th September, 2020.
The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has carefully studied the excuses given by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shelve the general strike and protests, which had been slated to begin 28th September, 2020.
While we are not advocating for a strike action for the fun of it, we make no mistake about the fact that the Nigerian people need to send a strong message to the government that its strangulating policies are unacceptable. It is apparent from the details of the agreement signed with the Federal Government that Labour has once again sold out cheaply.
It is shameful that the leaders of the two Unions have now reduced important and historic struggles of the Nigerian people for social and economic justice to opportunities to grab appointments in various government committees. In fact, judging from the past instances of betrayals of the workers by the leadership of labour since the emergence of civilian dispensation, we are not at all surprised at this last-minute somersault.
It is yet another grand betrayal by labour to have allowed itself to be bought over by the government’s empty promises to take steps to ostensibly cushion the effects of the harsh policies it has unleashed on citizens. It is equally sad that rather than press the government to address the fundamental issues, which necessitated the strike, labour continued its trend of betraying workers by essentially rolling over to allow the government to have its way.
One of the major issues, which labour capitulated on is the hike in the price of petroleum products. Inasmuch as CHRICED does not support an unsustainable subsidy regime, it is clear that Nigeria’s hopeless dependence on fuel importation will keep the nation in a vicious cycle of endless price hikes. As far as we can see, the government has not offered any tangible road map to end dependence on fuel importation. Yet, labour lamely accepted the argument that price should be hiked in addition to the token of 133 buses to serve as palliatives.
Ironically, the important question left unanswered is, if 133 buses would really cushion the multiplier effects of the hike in terms of galloping inflation, higher cost of basic necessities like food, transport, healthcare, school fees; cost of doing business and increase in the rate of unemployment as a result of the strangulating business environment.
Similarly, labour fell flatly for the government’s gimmick of a two-week suspension of electricity tariffs, which are already being collected by the electricity distribution companies. Does labour have a mechanism to verify compliance with this phony directive? What happened to the key demands of the Nigerian people for quality electricity service delivery before even talking of any tariff adjustments. Besides, the issue of VAT increase completely disappeared from the discussion.
It is therefore very clear that the labour leaders who engaged in the negotiations were blinded by the quest for perks and committee appointments that they bargained without a sense of purpose, history and principle.
It is apparent that they went into negotiation with the government using the workers as bargaining power for their selfish interests. And they therefore ended up inflicting further hardships on the Nigerian people in order to sit on the table with oppressors in government.
This unfortunate reality is a reminder that the Nigerian people need to take their destiny in their hands.
To expect these compromised, co-opted and capitulating labour leaders to protect the public interest, is to end up with more betrayals.
CHRICED therefore calls for a grassroots movement, which will focus on not only resisting bad policies, but that would also work to bring good governance to Nigeria.
Aluta Continua! The Struggle Continues.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria