President Bola Tinubu yesterday met with the leadership of the two labour centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with a firm commitment to accede to some of their demands.He immediately promised to constitute a new presidential committee on palliatives, as the labour leaders complained about the existing committee, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, which they described as an aberration.He also acceded to labour’s demand for wage award, since negotiation of a new minimum wage would not come on till next year, in accordance with constitutional provisions.
Recall that organised labour had embarked on a strike to protest the removal of fuel subsidy, with its attendant hardship on the people in the country, despite offer of palliatives by the president in his nationwide broadcast on Monday, which they considered not far-reaching enough.The protests took place in virtually in states of the federation, with various state NLC and TUC councils mobilising workers for the actions. From Lagos to Ogun, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Enugu, Abia, Bayelsa, Imo to Rivers, among others, the workers said the removal of fuel subsidy, which led to a sharp increase in the price of goods and services, had made life unbearable for them.In Ogun State, the statew government promised to convert vehicles to Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, to make transportation affordable to the people.
Others states also mpromised to do same and give hardship alloawances to workers.The President’s promise came barely hours after protesting workers stormed the National Assembly and pulled down its gate to gain access into the complex, and after the federal government had filed a contempt proceeding against NLC and TUC.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the brief meeting with the President, the President of the NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said they deepened their discussions with the President on palliatives for workers.He disclosed that the President explained certain things hitherto not in his nationwide broadcast to them at the meeting.On whether the President urged them to call off the strike, Ajaero said no one person could do that, disclosing, however, that the National Executive Council, NEC, of the NLC would meet today (Thursday) to decide on the next line.of action.Related NewsTroops rescue 4 kidnapped victims, destroy bandits camp in KadunaTrump to be charged today over 2020 pollsPassenger allegedly steals N1m onboard aircraft, nabbedAjaero said: “We met with him (President Tinubu). The issues we discussed are the same issues that led to the protest today.“He has expressed his position, made some commitments, which were taken side-by-side with what the Senate said, and we’re taking it back to the office with our colleagues to review it and release a document on our next line of action.”On whether the commitments were different from the ones he did during the broadcast, Ajaero, flanked by the TUC President, Comrade Festus Osifo, said: “We have gone deeper into them. The broadcast has broader issues, but there are one or two things that need immediate attention.”Pressed further to state whether organised labour would call off the peaceful protest, he said: “No one person can call it off. That’s why I said we’ll have to go back to the office, so they will look at it. The exco looks at it before they come up. And by tomorrow (today), the NLC will equally have its NEC meeting to look at the bigger picture.”Asked whether the President told them to suspend the protest, he simply said: “The President is a pro-democracy activist, so he understands protests.”The President promised to reconstitute the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives, an immediate wage award to workers, and the distribution of CNG vehicles as another way of cushioning the hardship workers are facing.NLC and TUC in a statement by their presidents, Joe Ajaero and Festus Osifo, said “We want to appreciate the massive solidarity and support of the Nigerian people who thronged the various venues around the country in their numbers, despite intimidations and blackmails by agents of government and forces of retrogression to discourage them from joining the nationwide protest called to ventilate citizens’ outrage at the anti-poor and anti-peoples’ policies of the government.‘’We doff our hats at your determination and commitment to save ourselves and, indeed, the nation from those whose only interest is to foist continuous deprivation and suffering on Nigerians.“The message you have sent today is a strong demonstration of our collective resolve as patriots and owners of the sovereign will to demand that those who occupy the corridors of power must listen to us. You have sent a very strong, loud and clear signal to those occupying the various government houses, be it at the federal or state, that the people remain the sovereign and the barometer for measurement that resides with the trade union movement who have continued to be the bastion of that collective will.“The NLC and TUC also appreciates the timely intervention of the leadership of the National Assembly for their pledge to resolve the issues raised by the Nigerian people and for their deep understanding of the need for government to provide quick wins as succour with short timelines to ameliorate the consequences of the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, on the citizenry.Labour faults contempt proceeding“It is also important that we inform Nigerians that we have just received a court summons purporting to charge us with contempt of court. We urge all Nigerians to be vigilant because it appears that the days of long knives are here with us again.‘’The leadership remains resolute in its commitment to the protection of the interests and welfare of Nigerian people and nothing whatsoever can take our eyes away from this focus nor shake this belief.“Having demonstrated our collective resolve through the strong signal we sent today (yesterday) across Nigeria, we urge vigilance on the part of all workers and masses to protect our nation and our decisions while we await the response of the government through the National Assembly as was assured by their representatives during the protest.“To further show our collective resolve, All Nigerian workers will resume at the courts wherever they may be across the nation on the days of the court sittings to hear the contempt proceedings against the leaders of trade unions.‘’The airports, seaports, hospitals, schools; all public and private sector workers will all appear in court across the nation in response to the contempt charges.“Once again, we look forward to the continuing support of all Nigerians and workers around the country as we continue in this struggle for freedom from the clutches of oppression and impoverishment.‘’We must remain unwavering and together in refusing to allow them divide us so that collectively, we will build a nation where no one will be considered too small to be left behind.“It is pertinent to inform Nigerians that the extent of the success of the protest is underlined by the request of the President, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to meet with the leadership of the NLC and TUC in a closed-door session.“The engagement was fruitful as immense mileage was got with regards to the issues that bogged down the work of the Presidential Committee on Subsidy removal and necessitated the protest viz;*He committed to an immediate restructuring of the framework for engagement, in line with the input of labour leaders *He let out a certainty that the Port Harcourt Refinery will commence production by December this year.*He pledged to ensure that agreement is reached on the wage award for Nigerian workers immediately.*He promised to unveil a workable roadmap to the Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, alternative next week.“On the strength of the President’s pledge and commitment, we have decided to return to a new and reinvigorated dialogue process to allow for full implementation. Once again, we thank Nigerians while we wait for the government to fulfill its own part of the understanding as agreed with the President.”Cut down cost, use made in Nigeria vehicles, Labour tells NASSBefore meeting the President, organised labour during its protest to the National Assembly, where protesting workers pulled the gate to the complex, had told the lawmakers to cut down cost and allow Nigerians breathe as they were being suffocated.Security agents had earlier blocked roads leading to the national secretariat and the city center, an action labour said was an attempt to frustrate their efforts.Besides, police at the entrance to the National Assembly complex had also locked the gate to prevent the protesting workers from gaining entrance but the resilient workers pulled down the gate and forcibly entered the complex.With placards of different inscriptions and their musical instruments, the organised labour submitted about seven points demands to the leadership of the Senate.The protesters also complained that in the last two months, members of the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives had been meeting wihout progress made.They had started the peaceful rally at the Unity Fountain and terminated at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, where they submitted their demands to the Senate.The protest is in respect of the removal of petrol subsidy and the hike in fuel pump price that has caused untold hardship to Nigerians with the increase in goods and services. They equally warned that the country should not be turned into a police state in a democratic dispensation.Addressing the Senate leadership, represented by the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume, the President of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said: “We are here to bring our frustrations, our grievances to the National Assembly, to the Senate to see whether this should be the last resort.‘’For almost two months now, we have been engaged in discussion, movement without motion, we got frustrated. A day after the last increase of the pump price of petroleum product, some people, some Nigerians protested to the National Assembly to support it and that is allowed in democracy.“Now we gave notice that we are equally going to protest, at least to speak, to our leaders to tell them how it’s biting us, that the poor can no longer breadth. What we have been getting have been threat, threat from the Ministry of Justice that it’s contempt for Nigerians to protest.‘’We have told them of various cases, especially the one of ANPP versus the Nigerian Police, where the Appeal Court ruled and eloquently that no court can stop Nigerians from protest rally and that’s the law.“The Appeal Court went further to argue that Nigerians don’t need Police permit to do their rallies or protests and that it is the duty of the police to protect them, that is we have expressed here today.“This morning (yesterday), while workers are trying to come out for protest, police and army blocked our members coming from Mararaba, they couldn’t access the venue of the protest, this is a democratic government.‘’All of us were involved in the fight against the military for democracy to come and we should not be victims in this democratic dispensation.“To worsen it comrades and we have to explain this to the National Assembly at the gate of the National Assembly, for almost one hour, the police refused us entry. All the entreaties made to them that we came to deliver our letter fell on deaf ears. Nigeria is not a Police state and can never be.“We can’t degenerate to that position and its our duty by what we have displayed today to show that Nigeria is a free state where workers can express their views. There are a lot of distractions, a lot of threat that we are passing through”Labour visits demandsAjaero listed the workers demands to include immediate implementation in good faith of all resolutions of Congress jointly signed with the federal government and TUC; the immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of government, including the recent hike in PMS, school fees and VAT.“Now when we talk about hike, there was a hike of N550 in which a committee was set up by government, upon which the government went to court and got an injunction, upon which the court announced that status quo should remain and two adjournment between that time and now, the court has not met and one of the parties went ahead to increase again to N617.“We have come here to protest that very issue because we have not gone on strike for N617 and we are going to consider that option after now because the issue of strike and court order are all around N550 and we have not even addressed it, one party went ahead to increase again.“In the entire statement by Mr. President, no statement was made on the fixing of the country’s local refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna and we can’t continue to run an import-driven petroleum or energy system. They depend on what they call vagaries of the market.”Other demands are wage award, appropriate recognition and support to the presidential steering committee and the work of its sub-committees as well as a stop to inhuman actions and policies of the governmentAjaero regretted that the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives had not been inaugurated after about two months it was set up.He said further: “In the history of this country, labour negotiation is headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Never in the history of this country has Chief of Staff to the President headed such a committee. The chief of staff is very busy, he doesn’t have time because of state matters.“Mr. President talked about N1trillion saved, the committee told us in a meeting that no one kobo is saved, so who do we believe? Is it the committee? Is it Mr. President? We are going to believe Mr. President. This inconsistencies in pronouncement is not the best.’’Nigerians have been battered — TUCOn his part, TUC president, Festus Osifo, called for a reduction in the cost of governance, saying it was insensitive that the National Assembly members would want to share billions among themselves while the masses suffer.“The Nigerian masses have been battered, they have gone through excruciating pains but, in all of this, we have not heard what the President has to say about the cost of governance.“We want you in the National Assembly to make sacrifice. We want you to cut down your budget. We want you to buy Nigerian made cars, not imported vehicles because you are creating jobs over there and importing poverty here. We want you to show leadership because we elected you to work for us” Osifo stated.Senate calls for calm.
Speaking on behalf of the Senate, the Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume, said: “Please, let us take what we are doing seriously. Let us not just come here to wave flags and sing solidarity songs and go back. Let us solve the problem that is in this country.“In response to what your leadership has been saying, we have keenly followed what is going on. When we realized that there was a breakdown in the discussions between the Presidency and the NLC, the day before yesterday, one of our colleagues brought a motion before us, calling on the Senate to intervene.
"We have a problem, the NLC is discussing with the president. I understand now what he is saying. I have said it before that NLC should be discussing with the President or the Vice and if because of their schedule, they are not available, then an acceptable representation should continue the discussion. We stand with you on that.“Please, have confidence in the National Assembly, give us a trial and let the leadership of the Senate be involved in the negotiations.“Let us find a permanent solution to this and the solution can be achieved. Let us find concrete solutions to the issues.’’
Ndume promised to summit letter by labour to the leadership of the Senate for further action. “Like I said, the Senate is going to be involved. Please give us one week and we will make progress and if you are not satisfied with the progress we are making, then you can take further action.“We have formed a committee, I have told the President that between today and tomorrow, we will call the first meeting with labour and start the discussions where they will brief you, and engagements will continue and we will do our best as your representatives to come out with solutions acceptable to you and realistic enough,” he assured.Ndume was accompanied by two Labour Party senators, Tony Nwoye and Ireti Kingibe.FG files contempt proceeding against NLC, TUCMeanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday filed a contempt proceeding against the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, for allegedly embarking on an industrial action, contrary to a June 5, 2023, exparte order by the National Industrial Court, NIC.The “notice of consequences of disobedience to order of court” filed before NIC in Abuja, was addressed to NLC President, Joe Ajaero; Deputy Presidents, Audu Aruba, Prince Adeyanju Adewale and Kabiru Sani; General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja; TUC President, Engr Festus Usifo; Scribe/ Chief Executive, Nuhu Toro.The contempt notice signed by Senior Registrar, Balogun Olajide, read: “Take notice that unless you obey the directions contained in the order of the National Industrial Court, Abuja, delivered by Honourable Justice Y. Anuwe on June 5, 2023, as per the attached enrolled order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to Prison.
”The FG also attached a copy of the exparte order made by Justice Anuwe on June 5, 2023, to the notice of contempt proceeding forwarded to the NLC and TUC officials.The order reads in part: “Having, therefore, considered the totality of this application, I make the following orders: The defendants/Respondents are, hereby, restrained from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice, dated June 5, 2023.“It is ordered that the defendant/Respondents be immediately served with the originating processes in this suit, the Motion on Notice and the order of this court hereby made. The Motion on Notice is hereby fixed for hearing for June 19, 2023. The Hearing Notices to that effect shall be served on the defendants/Respondent along with the other processes.”Lawyers differ on contempt proceeding by FG
But reacting to this last night, Prof. Sam Erugo, SAN, said: “If the FG thinks it has a valid restraining order, it can file contempt proceedings against the NLC and its officials before the National Industrial Court, based on that earlier restraining order. But I doubt that the FG will file such proceeding because it will fail for so many reasons.“It appears that the restraining ex-parte order has not been served on NLC as required by law. Again, and essentially, the ex parte order should have elapsed by effluxion of time. Moreover, such action will not promote peaceful negotiations.“These drawbacks viewed vis a vis the constitutionally guaranteed rights that support peaceful protest as a democratic norm will definitely advise FG against contempt proceedings.”On his part, former Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Kunle Edun, said: “Committal proceedings are commenced when there is a violation of a court order.
The issue is not whether a constitutionally guaranteed right is being disallowed but whether a subsusting court order has been violated.Also, former president, Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said: “If the restraining order is with respect to strike(s), then the issue is simple since NLC never proceeded on any strike but on protest with the civil societies and the Nigerian people.
"The inalienable rights of Nigerians to freely express themselves, including through protests, subsists in their favour S. 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as well as IGP v ANPP (2007).” Vanguard.