Despite a court order restraining the organised labour from embarking on any form of strike, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) have resolved to proceed with their planned nationwide strike today.
The decision came at the end of the joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the NLC and TUC in Abuja yesterday.
Last week, both labour centres issued a final notice to all affiliates and state councils to prepare for a total nationwide shutdown following unmet demands in the aftermath of the assault on the NLC national president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, in Imo State.
Labour has specifically issued a six-point core demands to include: the immediate removal of the commissioner of police, Ahmed Barde, from Imo State; removal of the area commander, arrest and prosecution of the adviser to state governor on special duties, Nwaneri Chinasa, and other state government officials fingered in the alleged brutalisation of Ajaero and other workers who were humiliated in the assault.
The labour leaders also demanded an immediate, independent and thorough professional medical examination of Ajaero in the light of the physical and psychological injuries inflicted on him.
They also resolved that other workers and journalists subjected to the alleged inhuman treatment by the police and the Hope Uzodimma’s goons be treated by the state and that all the properties lost be restored immediately.
They equally demanded the immediate implementation of all the outstanding industrial relations issues as previously agreed with the Imo State government.
Comrade Ajaero was assaulted in Owerri, the Imo State capital, last week when he led a labour march in the state to demand that the state government comply with certain welfare issues concerning workers in the state. He and other leaders blamed the Hope Uzodinma administration for sponsoring the attack on Ajaero.
The police, however, said they arrested Ajaero to save him from danger during the protest march.
LEADERSHIP reports that although Justice Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip of the National Industrial Court (NIC) had invoked sections 17 and 19 of the NIC Act to issue the restraining order against labour following an ex-parte application brought by the federal government, the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, the labour leaders have insisted that they would not back down until their demands are met.
TUC national president, Comrade Festus Osifo, who addressed journalists after yesterday’s NEC meeting in Abuja, said the demands remain unmet and maintained that those who brutalised Ajaero in Imo State must be arrested and prosecuted.
He said, “We want the government to meet all demands regarding the brutalisation of the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress. So we set some conditions and those conditions were very clear without ambiguity whatsoever. We said those people that brutalised our president must be arrested, and they must be prosecuted.
“We also stated that the area commander that led the police to carry out the brutalisation should be relieved of his duty and he should be prosecuted. Then, Chinasa, who everybody knew, that led the thugs should also be arrested and prosecuted.
“So, the two Labour centres have resolved to stand firmly by the decision of the joint NEC that was held last Tuesday: that effective, 00:1 hours on the 14th November, we shall declare a nationwide strike. So, effective from midnight today, a nationwide strike is going to commence.
According to him, all affiliates of the TUC and the NLC, and all state councils of the two centres had been mobilised adequately for an indefinite strike until governments at all levels woke up to their responsibilities.
“This is the decision of the joint NEC of NLC and TUC and we are going to carry it out to the letter,” he added.
Importers To Accrue Demurrage As Maritime Workers Shut Down Apapa, Other Ports
Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) yesterday directed all workers operating in the nation’s seaports to stay away from work from today.
With this, cargoes destined to be moved out of the ports will be trapped and importers will accrue demurrage charges from shipping companies and storage charges from terminal operators.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the directive to shut down the port was due to the assault on the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, and other Union officials by the government of Imo State, as well as other demands made by the NLC against the Imo State government.
According to a statement by the head of media, MWUN, John Ikemefuna, the nationwide strike will commence from midnight, Tuesday 14, 2023.
The statement read, “The MWUN will, midnight Tuesday 14, 2023, commence a nationwide strike. The strike is coming on the instructions of the NLC after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held Monday, November 13, 2023, directing all affiliates of the Congress to strictly comply.
“As an affiliate of the NLC, the MWUN is geared to commence the nationwide strike as directed by the NLC.”
Labour Unions Must Respect Subsisting Court Order -FG
The federal government has, however, told the labour leaders that they must respect the laws of the country.
The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, yesterday reminded the striking unions that there is a subsisting court order barring them from embarking on strike.
A statement yesterday by Kamarudeen Ogundele, special assistant, Communication and Publicity to the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, read in part: “The interim order was granted on November 10 by the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice B. B. Kanyip.
“The unions have been served the court order and, therefore, must surrender themselves to the authority of the court which is already seized with the facts of the case. Any action taken contrary to the order will be tantamount to contempt of court.”
It urged workers to report for duties and not to entertain any fear as their safety will be protected within the ambits of the law.