Labour unions commence nationwide protests

THE protests declared by organised labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), over economic challenges in the country occasioned by the removal of petrol subsidy commenced in Abuja on Wednesday, August 2.

NLC President Joe Ajaero told journalists at the Unity Fountain in Abuja on Wednesday morning that the protests have also commenced in other states across the country.

He disclosed that the Police have tried to stop the protests in some states.

But the labour leader vowed that nothing will stop the exercise.

“The protest is on; it has taken off in all the states of the federation, barring some constraints, including police efforts to equally stop it in some areas.

“But to be candid with you, there is nothing stopping the protest. Not even an overture or promise of commitment or offer from the government. So I don’t understand why people feel that it will not hold. The protest is on and it will hold,” Ajaero said.

The protesters, including affiliate unions of the NLC and TUC, gathered at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, where the protest kicked off on Wednesday.

The ICIR observed that the protest is taking place amid heavy heavy security beef up. The Inspector General of Police had on Tuesday warned labour against embarking on protests that could be hijacked by hoodlums.

The NLC President, who did not clearly state how long the protests would last. He suggested that the demonstration could go on for as long as the Congress decides.

Ajaero noted that the protest was necessary because negotiations between the Federal Government and labour have not yielded any positive results.

“It is equally in our own enlightened self-interest, based on the interest of the state, to determine whether the protest will be for today or tomorrow or next or till thy kingdom come.

“It is not by mere using forces to stop people from expressing their views.

“So we are here for the protest and to make a statement to Nigerians that since we started even negotiations, there is nothing we have in our hands,” he said.

However, the organised private sector is warning against prolonged protests.

Speaking in an interview with Channels Television on Wednesday, Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) Muda Yusuf warned against prolonging the protests to avoid disrupting small businesses and limit the risk of violent outbreaks.

“The nature of protests is such that most times, you cannot predict how it will end because labour was not specific about the number of days and from experience, the longer the number of days, the greater the risk of losing control of the whole protests, and we know what the consequences are for businesses, especially for small businesses.

“So making the protest peaceful and keeping it as short as possible, I think it something that we need to stress in the interest of everybody, both of the economy and the citizens themselves. Of course, that will not diminish the effectiveness of the messaging that labour is trying to put forward,” Yusuf said.



    Ahead of the protests, Acting Inspector-General of Police Kayode Egbetokun warned that violent protests would not be tolerated.

    In a statement on Tuesday, August 1, Egbetokun expressed concerns over the planned protests and urged parties involved to ensure that the demonstrations remain peaceful.

    The protests come after deadlocked negotiations between organised labour and the government over the effects of removal of petrol subsidy.

    Although Nigerian President Bola Tinubu assured that measures will be put in place to mitigate the hardships in an address on Monday, July 31, NLC insisted that the promises made were not in tune with the hardships confronting citizens.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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