The planned nationwide strike by organized labor against the financial hardship in Nigeria was postponed yesterday.
After the government allegedly refused to abide by the seven-point demand made by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to alleviate the suffering of the masses caused by the removal of the petrol subsidy, the labor had earlier instructed its affiliate member unions across the nation to mobilize and shut down the country starting today.
The federal government had invited the organised labour to a meeting to avert the strike.
But in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) issued and signed jointly by representatives of the government and the organised labour yesterday, an accord was reached to temporarily suspend the strike to monitor the implementation of deals struck so far.
“All parties commit to henceforth abide by the dictates of social dialogue in all our future engagements.
“The NLC and TUC accept to suspend for 30 days the planned indefinite nationwide strike scheduled to begin, Tuesday, the 3rd of October, 2023.
“This Memorandum shall be filed with the relevant court of competent jurisdiction within one (1) week as consent judgment by the federal government.”
The MoU was signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong; the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, for the government team.
The NLC president, Joe Ajaero; NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja;
TUC President, Festus Osifo and TUC Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, signed for the labour.
The MoU stated that the two reached the deals as a result of a dispute arising from the withdrawal of subsidy on the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
Lalong, who read the MoU to journalists after the meeting, said the federal government granted a wage award of N35,000 only to all federal government workers beginning from the month of September pending when a new national minimum wage was expected to have been signed into law.
He said the agreement reached included the decision of the federal government to suspend the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) on diesel for six months beginning from October.
Lalong said the government also accepted to vote N100 billion for the provision of high-capacity CNG buses for mass transit in Nigeria, adding that provisions were also being made for an initial 55,000 CNG conversion kits to kick-start an auto gas conversion programme; while work was ongoing on state-of-the-art CNG stations nationwide.
The rollout, he said, would commence by November with pilots across 10 campuses nationwide.
The minister also said the federal government planned to implement various tax incentive measures for the private sector and the general public.
On the leadership crisis rocking the NURTW and the purported proscription of RTEAN, he said the government committed to handling labour matters in line with relevant ILO Conventions and Nigerian Labour Acts and that a resolution of the ongoing impasse was expected by or before October 13.
Lalong said the issue of outstanding salaries and wages of tertiary education workers in federal-owned educational institutions had been referred to his ministry for further engagement.
The minister added that the government committed to pay N25,000 per month for three months starting from October to 15 million households, including vulnerable pensioners.
He also said the government would increase its initiatives on subsidized distribution of fertilizers to farmers across the country as part of agreements reached at the meeting.
Lalong said the meeting also agreed that the government should urge state government through the National Economic Council and Nigeria Governors Forum to implement wage awards for their workers, while similar consideration should also be given to local government and private sector workers.
While answering questions from reporters, Ajaero said if the agreements were not implemented, the strike issue would be revisited.
Asked if the agreements applied to the states, he said the fuel subsidy removal that propelled labour’s action affected all Nigerians, including those in the states and the private sector.
He, however, observed that some states had already commenced the attempt at alleviating the effects of the subsidy removal by introducing various palliative measures.
Ajaero added that the agreements in the MoU would equally serve as a benchmark for state branches to negotiate.
Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, the Joint Action Front (JAF), a coalition of civil society organisations, had advised the labour unions to resist the pressure to suspend the strike until the fuel price hike and increase in university school fees are reversed.
JAF Chairperson, Dr Oladipo Fashina and secretary, Abiodun Aremu, pledged “the unwavering solidarity of the Joint Action Front (JAF) for the struggles of the labour movement.
The coalition assured the NLC and TUC of the readiness of all workers and those it called “oppressed Nigerians” to join the general strike.
According to the group, if the leadership of the NLC and TUC decides to suspend the general strike prematurely due to the concessions the federal government is proposing, “this would only be a postponement of the struggle.”
The coalition stated that “the current balance of force shows that labour can win far more if the general strike continues.”
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