After striking a mutual understanding with President Bola Tinubu that aborted the nationwide protest by Organised Labour on day two yesterday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to go on what it termed a ‘nationwide comprehensive strike’ from August 14, if the Federal Government fails to withdraw the court case it instituted against it.

A communiqué issued at the end of the Congress’ National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, yesterday, in Abuja, demanded the immediate withdrawal of alleged litigious terrorism by the Federal Ministry of Justice before the end of work on Friday, August 11.

Signed by the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, the union vowed to embark on a nationwide total strike any day labour leaders are summoned to court by the government through the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).

It alleged that the Federal Ministry of Justice, through the NICN, has continued to allow itself to be used as a vehicle to truncate the dominance of the tenets of democracy and silence the voices of workers. This was after the union was summoned to answer to contempt of court charges on Wednesday, the day it embarked on its nationwide protest.

The NEC-in-Session also supported and affirmed the decision to suspend further protests on the fuel subsidy removal while committing to maintain the required vigilance needed to hold the government accountable for its assurances on palliative spending.

It said after deliberating on the mood of the nation within the context of the suffering and deprivation of citizens across the country, it reviewed the effectiveness of the execution of the mass protest, which it had ordered during the last session of the Council, especially the meetings with President Tinubu and leadership of the National Assembly and resolved to commit to the terminal date of August 19, 2023, within which issues around the petroleum price hike would be agreed, given the assurances of the President and the National Assembly.

While commending the national leadership and all the state officers for the effective coordination of the protest, it urged all affiliates and state councils, including civil society allies to stay further action but remain focused and vigilant.

TUC president, Festus Osifo, said the government has promised that plans are in place to address the grievances of Labour within the next week and they have decided to give the government the benefit of the doubt. He made this known during an interview with Arise News yesterday after NLC and TUC suspended further protests.

“Just as I said earlier, we had a meeting with the President and even before then, there was some level of intervention from the National Assembly with an appeal and also a promise that within the next week that a lot of things will be put in place with some positive outcomes.

“We had that conversation earlier before we now had a meeting with President Tinubu and the President has committed to saying that okay, we should work with their team and propose something that could be for the wage award and that is he is ready to offer it almost immediately. This is in addition to the disclosure we got on the Port Harcourt refinery and the announcement that will also come on Friday associated with the CNG.

“So, we now came back to our secretariat, and we had some sort of conversations across that. We decided to give them some benefit of the doubt because they kept repeating that ‘we are a new government, we promise and when we promise, we must act,” Osifo stated.

When asked about the next line of action if in the next seven days, as promised by the government, there is no positive feedback, Osifo said: “As unions, we don’t just sit down and define this line of actions because we have organs, so this information that the President has given us, we are going to call out our meetings and we will also do the reviews.

“Then after those reviews, we will wait and watch, when nothing is being done, trust that the two label centres will also meet to take a stand to push the government to act.”

An Ibadan-based labour lawyer and activist, Femi Aborisade, yesterday, said the meeting between labour leaders and President Tinubu was not fruitful. In a chat with The Guardian, Aborisade said: “Nothing fruitful in meeting Mr President. The key demand remains unattended to.” He, however, lauded the labour movement for commencing the strike, which he said can be resumed later.
However, in compliance with the President’s directive and as part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited’s commitment to providing cheaper alternative fuel to motorists, the company yesterday announced a strategic partnership with NIPCO Gas Limited to deploy Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations across the country.

This landmark collaboration aims to expand CNG infrastructure, improve access to CNG, and accelerate the adoption of cheaper and cleaner alternative fuel for buses, cars and Keke NAPEP, which will significantly reduce the cost of transportation and engender sustainable national economic growth.

Under the NNPC-NIPCO strategic partnership, 35 state-of-the-art CNG stations will be constructed nationwide, including three mother stations. Once fully operational, the stations can service over 200,000 vehicles daily, thereby significantly reducing the cost of automobile fuel for Nigerians and the cost of transportation.

The project will be rolled out in phases. The first phase, comprising 21 CNG stations, will support intra-city transportation and be ready by the first quarter of 2024, while the second phase, comprising 35 CNG stations, will support inter-city transformation and will be ready by late 2024. This will be further complemented by an additional 56 stations to be deployed by NNPC Retail across the country.

NIPCO Gas Limited is currently operating 14 CNG stations across Nigeria and has converted over 7,000 vehicles to run on CNG. NIPCO’s technical competency and field experience will bolster this initiative’s success and amplify its positive impact on the Nation’s economy.

MEANWHILE, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on Nigerians to bear with President Tinubu and give him a chance to fix the country. The body also commended the President for taking proactive steps to abort the protest over fuel subsidy removal pains.

Speaking during a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman, of the Lagos State chapter of CAN and Methodist Bishop of Ikeja Diocese, Stephen Adegbite, advised NLC and TUC that if there was any need for a call to action, it should be for the judicious and accountable use of the funds that would otherwise have been used to subsidise fuel.

While describing the fuel subsidy as “a misadventure profiting the rich and politically connected,” he said the issue became worsened when regional neighbours and smugglers started enjoying opulent returns at the expense of the citizenry.

According to him, Tinubu’s invitation to the Labour leaders for private discussion, which resulted in a truce, thus ending the nationwide protest, was commendable. He said the President’s action was an indication that he is a listening leader that is interested in getting things done in the national interest.

Also, the apex body of all Yoruba indigenous people, Yoruba Council Worldwide (YWC), has urged NLC and other labour unions in the country, to start engaging governors and heads of various government parastatals in the pursuit of proffering a recipe to the current economic hardship occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy.

The group, in a statement issued by its President, Aare Oladotun Hassan, said organised labour should engage in dialogue and constructive engagement with governors, rather than focusing attention on the Federal Government alone.

He said: “There are different areas to the negotiations. They are just looking at one end of the negotiations. The labour unions should be able to bring to the table engagement with the 36 governors and come up with different solutions to the different layers of the issues. The issue of fuel subsidy removal is constant; the issue of the hike in fuel price and dollar rate are separate issues.”

PENSIONERS in the Southwest geo-political zone have demanded N40,000 minimum pension from governors in the zone. The pensioners made the demand at the end of the meeting of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Southwest zone, held in Ibadan yesterday. The meeting was attended by union executives from Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos and Ogun states.

Addressing newsmen at the end of the meeting, the NUP Public Relations Officer for the zone, Olusegun Abatan, said the plight of pensioners had remained static for years.

According to Abatan, some pensioners in the zone earn as low as N350 monthly pension, while the governors seem not to see anything wrong with it. He said many states in the zone last paid their pensioners’ gratuities between 2012 and 2014, describing it as criminal and unacceptable.

“Governors’ salaries have continued to increase, while some of them still factor in life pensions for themselves after spending four to eight years, without thinking about the lives of pensioners as well as their gratuities and pensions. The Southwest zone of NUP has decided at our meeting that we will not take anything less than N40,000 minimum pension.

“It is disheartening to tell you that while workers have a minimum wage, there is no minimum pension,” Abatan said. He said that the removal of the petrol subsidy had not only affected the citizens of Nigeria but had more effect on pensioners.

The NUP public relations officer said pensioners now found it more difficult to attend to their medical expenses and other needs as a result of low pension.

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