The national executive councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress on Wednesday night suspended their nationwide strike over an alleged assault on the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero.
The unions said the suspension followed the intervention of the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu.
However, the organised Private Sector and the maritime operators carpeted the NLC and TUC over the industrial action, stating that it was ill-timed and misconceived.
The OPS comprising critical players in the economy noted that the strike would affect the Federal Government’s ability to meet its yearly revenue target.
Our correspondent gathered that the organised Labour meeting which commenced a few minutes past 7pm lasted for close to one hour during which various affiliates and state chapters reviewed the outcome of the meeting held between the leaders of the organized Labour and the NSA.
The National Deputy President of the TUC, Tommy Etim, explained that the strike was suspended based on the trust the unions had in Ribadu.
He stated, “The NECs of the NLC and the TUC have suspended the strike. We did this based on our trust in the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu who gave us his word. We also saw that he wasn’t playing politics with our demands and he was ready and promised to follow up with everything.”
Asked whether the suspension of the strike was indefinite, Etim said, “It is a temporary suspension. We are going to give them some time after which we will meet and if they fail to meet up, the strike resumes.
“We listened to the NSA and he listened to us. He noted that Ajaero didn’t do anything wrong by going to Imo State. We must commend the NSA and it is because of him that there is a suspension of the strike.”
The labour leaders had earlier on Wednesday met with the NSA who announced the arrest of two suspected involved in the attack in Owerri, Imo State on November 1.
The NSA revealed this during a meeting with labour leaders in Abuja on Wednesday- the second day of the strike.
He also apologised to the organised labour over the attack on the NLC president.
Consequently, the labour movement gave the Federal Government an ultimatum to arrest the perpetrators among other demands, to avoid a strike.
To prevent the labour action, the Federal Government secured a restraining order against the unions at the National Industrial Court but the labour leadership mobilised the workers for the strike which commenced on Tuesday.
NSA begs Labour
In a statement signed by the Head of Strategic Communications in the Office of the NSA, Zakari Mijinyawa, issued after their meeting, the NSA urged the unions to rescind their decisions on the strike.
Ribadu noted that the Federal Government regretted the incident that happened in Imo and condemned it in its entirety, adding that it was against the rule of law and the principles of freedom of association and expression subscribed to by President Bola Tinubu and his administration.
The statement read, “The Office of the National Security Adviser is concerned by the declaration of a nationwide strike by the leadership of the Organised Labour led by the NLC and TUC.
“The NSA is particularly worried about the implications of the strike action on the livelihood of ordinary Nigerians and its potential impact on economic security and other strategic national interests.
“As attested by the NLC leadership, the NSA immediately intervened on learning about the travails of the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Joseph Ajero who was assaulted in Owerri, Imo State.
“The NSA regrets the incident and condemns it in its entirety as it was against the rule of law and the principles of freedom of association and expression subscribed to by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his administration.
“The Federal Government will never condone such an act. As fallout of the incident, relevant authorities were directed to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assault and bring to book the culprits. An available update indicates that some arrests have already been made in this regard. The outcome of the investigation will be made public as soon as it is concluded.
“The Federal Government, through the Office of the NSA, therefore, appeals to the labour leadership to call off the current strike action and allow the dialogue process underway to be exhausted.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, has expressed optimism that the industrial action would soon be called off.
Giving an insight into the parley with the NSA, the Deputy President of the TUC, Etim, told The PUNCH the NSA also briefed the leadership of the organized Labour on the steps taken so far in implementing the demands of the labour
He also noted that the union leaders secured the commitment of the NSA, adding that the union leaders were satisfied with the steps taken so far by the government.
Meanwhile, the NLC has listed six demands that must be met before labour unions before it can call off the strike indefinitely.
It listed the six conditions in a post via its official X handle (formerly known as Twitter) on Tuesday.
The NLC said a special adviser to the Imo governor on special duties who allegedly led the attack on the NLC president and other workers in the state must be arrested and prosecuted.
The union also said all police officers as well as thugs involved in the attack on the labour leader should be arrested, prosecuted, and dismissed.
Ruing the costs of the strike on the economy, the OPS noted that the strike was coming at a time when the naira was struggling to stabilise.
On his part, the Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, described the decision of the organised labour to go on strike over an assault on the NLC President as an abuse of power.
According to him, it is self-serving for labour to shut down the national economy merely because of an assault on the president of the labour union.
He said, “It is unfortunate that labour unions in Nigeria have degenerated to the kind of self-seeking impunity that the functionaries of government are always accused of being guilty of.
“Because an individual is assaulted, then the economy of a country is shut down; it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter who the individual is, even if it was the president of the country, he is still an individual. So, labour thinks that because it has the power to go on strike, any reason is sufficient to exercise that power.’’
A facilitator with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Dr Ikenna Nwosu, said, “For me, the impact is coming at a very bad time when the exchange rate is trying to find its way back to some level of stability; that is the worst part of it. So, it is coming at that good time when the currency is about stabilising.”
Nwosu added that the strike would affect the government’s ability to meet its yearly revenue target.
He added, “Secondly, it is also going to affect the ability of the government to meet its revenue target. They are losing money, the ports are closed and ships can’t berth to offload their cargoes.’’
The National Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small-Scale Industrialists, Segun Kuti-George, disclosed that businesses were already feeling the shocks of the strike.
“There is already difficulty in transportation hindering workers from reaching their workplaces. This, in turn, is expected to lead to a decline in productivity, potentially affecting both small and large businesses,’’ he pointed out.
Kuti-George emphasized the need to understand the situation and acknowledge the complexities at play.
The strike, according to him, posed a tough situation that demanded careful consideration and resolution.
The President of the West Africa Specialty Coffee Association, Larry Segun-Lean expressed the uncertainties faced by the union members due to the strike.
While recognising the unions’ right to strike, he questioned the timing, stating that not every situation warrants such an action.
Segun-Lean urged the NLC to consider the broader issues affecting the economy and advocated a strategic approach.
Two days into the strike, licensed customs agents operating in the nation’s maritime sector, said that the country had lost between N10bn to N20bn following the lockdown of the ports by the Maritime Workers Unions of Nigeria.
One of our correspondents observed that as of Wednesday, access to Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports was restricted as workers were denied entry into the facilities.
Giving an update on the development, the Deputy National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Mr Nnadi Ugochukwu said, “The country is losing and the individuals are also losing. I have a customer here who was supposed to take delivery of his vehicles yesterday (Tuesday) but he couldn’t, having to pay demurrage of about N500,000 on a car for two weeks.
“He is paying N30,000 daily. He had paid today (Wednesday) and he can’t take it today so he will still pay for another day tomorrow. So, everybody is losing but I can’t equate how much that is being lost.’’
Also speaking, the Chairman of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Tin Can Island Chapter, Abayomi Duyile, said that so far, the economy had lost between N10bn to N20bn in the sector within the two days of the strike.
He said, “The cost for these days now should be in billions. Let’s just say they have lost about N20bn in these few days. You know a day you do not work in our clime, you know the cost implications.
“It is painful when you want to work and all the contractual agreements are disrupted, it is painful. Even manufacturing companies are also affected. The unfortunate thing is that most guys that come to the port for their daily bread can’t feed any longer.”
The Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Adewale Oyerinde, sued for peace between the labour and the government, pointing at the consequences of the ongoing strike.
“The strike is quite unfortunate, more so at a time when job losses are on the high; business shutdown is becoming a daily occurrence and inflation is riding high.
“It is no gainsaying that the cost of this strike, again, is humongous and cannot be appropriately quantified.”
“We hope that reason will prevail, and the government and labour will get to the discussion table. Organised businesses cannot sit by and watch both parties turn into undertakers of legally established and responsible businesses,” Oyerinde admonished.
Meanwhile, offices in Niger, Bauchi, Rivers, and many other states were still under lock and key on Wednesday as the industrial action entered its second day.
The Niger State Civil Service secretariat which was shut down on Tuesday remained under lock as the security men at the gate continued to turn visitors back.
Workers did not turn up for work and patients were turned back at the public hospitals.
While workers in the public schools observed the strike, private schools carried on with their academic activities.
Banks in the state did not fully observe the strike.
The Niger State Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Abdul Mohammed, stated, “ASUU is complying with the strike action. We want the Federal Government to be aware that we are not happy with the treatment being meted out on Nigerian workers and they must take urgent steps to address our demands.”
In Bauchi, there was a near total compliance to the strike, The PUNCH reports.
Our correspondent observed that some banks that operated skeletal services on Tuesday, the first day of the strike, complied fully on Wednesday, as they were under lock and key.
Schools were shut just as the Federal High Court, the Jos Electricity Distribution Company, and the Federal and State Secretariats were all shut.
Also, government ministries, departments, and agencies did not open.
Filing stations visited were also closed down. The AYM Shafa Limited filling stations which were opened on Tuesday, were closed down.
In Warri, Delta State, labour activists continued to lay siege to the entrance gates of the Warri Port.
The aggrieved labour activists had padlocked the gates Tuesday preventing vehicular or human traffic into the complex.
It was a similar scenario at the Warri South Local Government Area as the secretariat remained locked.
Also, public primary and secondary schools in Warri and Effurun remained shut to the pupils and students as labour activists turned back teachers from work for the second day.
However, commercial and social lives in the twin cities continued to bubble as markets and shops were opened to members of the public.
Transport workers, including commercial buses and tricycle operators, did not suspend operations.
The strike has grounded academic activities at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto as the ASUU members joined the labour action.
At the state secretariat, staff members were seen doing skeletal work.
The secretary of the labour union in the state, Hamisu Yanduna, confirmed that the monitoring team of the union had embarked on an enforcement drive.
In Kano, the effect of the strike was palpable as it had grounded socio-economic activities in the ancient city.
Most commercial banks, private and public schools as well as hospitals have shut down their operations.
As early as 8am, labour union officials were seen compelling schools and other organizations to observe the strike.
The state NLC Chairman, Kabir Inuwa, explained, ‘’The team was able to visit some banks, JAMB state office, some schools and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and other places where they were able to advise them to comply with the directive,’’ he explained.
In Edo State, the strike action embarked upon by the workers continued on Wednesday as banks, schools, and secretariat remained closed.
The state NLC officials, who were at the secretariat, said they were there to ensure compliance, noting that the government must address the issue for the strike before it would be called off.
Most banks were still locked but the First Bank on Ring Road offered skeletal services and their ATMs dispensed cash.
Government schools were also locked while some teachers at George Idah Primary School, GRA were seen around the school premises.
There was total compliance with the strike order by NLC in Osun State on Wednesday, as workers stayed away from their duty posts across the state.
Many offices in the Government Secretariat, Abere in Osogbo, and Olorunda LGAs located within the metropolis were under lock, while public primary and secondary school teachers were not also at their duty posts.
Staff of Osogbo Region Transmission Company, Osogbo were also observed under a canopy at the entrance to the premises of the company, as they joined the national strike.
Commercial banks across Osogbo did not open to customers.
Armed police operatives were observed at strategic locations across the town as commercial activities progressed unhindered within the state capital.
The same scenario was observed in Kaduna where the labour leaders went around organisations to enforce compliance.
The state secretariat along the ever-busy Independence Way which was opened to workers on Tuesday, was locked by labour officials.
The Secretariat houses many ministries which include the Ministry of Health, Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency, and Ministry for Local Government Affairs, among others.
Organised labour officials also lockdown the Kaduna Geographic Information Service, Office of the Head of Service, Kaduna State Facilities Management Agency, Obasanjo House.
Commercial banks and other financial institutions hitherto opened for business at the commencement of the strike on Tuesday, were shut while some private schools’ pupils were seen attending classes.
However, the headquarters of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company on Bank Road by Ahmadu Bello Way in the city centre remained under lock and key. Staff and customers were shut out completely.
The power supply was disrupted across the company’s franchise states, forcing the management of the company to apologise to its teeming customers.
According to the Head of Corporate Communication of Kaduna Electric, Abdulazeez Abdullahi, the outage within the franchise was a result of the nationwide strike.
In a statement titled, ‘Outage Within Our Franchise Due to Strike Action,’ the firm said, ‘’The action has necessitated the shutting down of all 33KV feeders by the striking workers. We hope the impasse between the Federal Government and the unions shall be resolved soonest so that the power supply can be restored. We regret all inconvenience.”
Workers in Plateau State on Wednesday continued to observe the strike declared by the Organised Labour.
At the University of Jos, the entrance gate was shut to workers on Wednesday, unlike the first day of the strike on Tuesday.
Day two of the strike recorded partial success as the Asaba Airport was still in operation as of Wednesday morning.
All banks visited were shut down but our correspondent observed that customers were stranded and hanging at the gate of the banks with hope of transaction.
Our correspondents, who visited some public schools in Lagos on Wednesday, observed that public schools have joined the ongoing nationwide strike called by the NLC.
A secondary school teacher who craved anonymity said students and teachers were sent home around noon in compliance with the strike directive.
The Lagos State chapter of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria also told our correspondent that the association is part of the ongoing industrial action.
The President of the association at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Taofiq Adele, while responding to an inquiry by our correspondent, said, “Yes, we joined yesterday (Tuesday).”
Our correspondent also observed that the offices of Ikeja Electric around Ikorodu, where he visited, were closed to business.
Confirming the reason for the closure, the Undertaking Manager of Igbogbo Undertaking, Augustine Okolie, who was responding to a fault complaint on a platform, said their offices were closed in compliance with the ongoing strike.
“We acknowledge your complaint, however, we are currently constrained by the ongoing NLC/TUC strike action as our offices are currently under lock and key. By so doing, we are unable to access our work tools to clear faults promptly,” Okolie wrote.
However, our correspondent observed that banks are still operating at a full scale. Also, private schools and general hospitals visited are open for full operations.
In a telephone chat with The PUNCH, the Lagos State spokesperson of the NLC, Ismail Adejumo, said there was improved compliance with the nationwide strike directive, adding that Lagos is a sensitive state.
“Lagos is a sensitive state. However, as you can see, there is improved compliance with the directive compared to yesterday (Tuesday). More of our affiliates have joined the strike today and we are still monitoring compliance and mobilising more to join,” Adejumo said.
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc said the current blackout being experienced in some parts of South-East states is due to the ongoing nationwide strike by organised labour.
A statement issued by the organisation’s Head of corporate Communications, Emeka Ezeh, indicated that the NLC and TUC task force team visited the Transmission Company of Nigeria stations on Wednesday and forced workers out.
Ezeh added that the task force also chased out the interface Distribution Substation Officers and shut down the stations.
He added that the action resulted in the loss of supply from the New Haven, Abakaliki, Ugwuaji, Oji River, Agu Awka, Nibo, Ohiya, and Awada TCN stations, which serve some states in the South-East region.
The EEDC is the distribution company that serves the South-East states of Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi, with electricity.
The statement read, “This action resulted in the loss of supply from the New Haven, Abakaliki, Ugwuaji, Oji River, Agu Awka, Nibo, Ohiya, and Awada TCN stations.
“Consequently, the entire Enugu, Ebonyi, and Anambra states and Umuahia District in Abia State are without electricity supply. Currently, Nru TCN Station, Nsukka, fed from Otukpo axis is the only station still with electricity supply in our entire network.’’
The strike also paralysed activities in Ogun State.
Schools and hospitals remained shut while only a few workers were sighted at the state secretariat, Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan.
Our correspondent gathered that in compliance with the strike action, patients at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, were on Wednesday left unattended to by doctors and nurses.
Doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory officials, record keepers, and other staff of the teaching hospital were also said to have returned home to join the strike.
Some schools visited like Lisabi Grammar School, St Anne’s Primary School, and Oke-Ilewo among others all within the Abeokuta metropolis remain deserted.
However, banks continued to open for business.
The state Chairman of NLC, Hammed Ademola-Benco hailed the level of compliance by the workers describing it as very impressive compared to the first day.
To enforce compliance, the Kebbi State chapter of the NLC Wednesday stormed offices within the metropolis and forced the workers to leave.
The NLC chairman in the state, Murtala Usman, said he led some members of his executive team to enforce the strike.
On Wednesday, the labour leaders in Kwara State Council picketed some establishments that had yet to comply with the directive of the national body.
As the strike entered its second day on Wednesday, public schools, government offices, and law courts, among others, remained shut in Ilorin, the state capital.
Some private educational institutions and commercial banks, however, opened for business even as the strike paralyzed socio-economic activities
It was also observed that some banks offered skeletal services to their customers early on Wednesday.
State NLC Chairman, Saheed Olayinka, said, “Although the available report on the strike is a success story, however, in places where there is no compliance, we try to force them out.”
The nationwide strike recorded more compliance in Rivers State on Wednesday.
The Judiciary complex, comprising the State High Court, Court of Appeal and other courts was shut, as workers and litigants were stranded.
Also, the entrance leading to the State Secretariat in Port Harcourt was shut in compliance with the directive by the national body of the labour unions, as neither staff nor vehicles were allowed into the premises.
All banks in the old Port Harcourt township axis to Azikiwe and Bank Roads in Port Harcourt were shut, though some staff were seen in the premises, even as customers were using the Automated Teller Machines.
Meanwhile, banks along the Aba Road were still working as of the time of filing this report on Wednesday afternoon.
Pupils, students, and teachers of primary and secondary schools in Makurdi, Benue State, reported to school on Wednesday.
The Nigerian Association of Nigerian Students has described the strike as needless and disheartening.
In a statement by the Vice President of External Affairs, NANS, Mr Babatunde Akinteye, on Wednesday, the union also criticised the ASUU for joining the strike.
It added, “We, at the Nigerian Association of Nigerian Students National Headquarters, express our profound resentment and disappointment at the recent decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to embark on a nationwide strike.”