Nationwide Protest Averted, But NLC Warns of Strike If Contempt Charge Stands

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Nationwide Protest Averted, But NLC Warns of Strike If Contempt Charge Stands
NLC Threatens Indefinite Nationwide Strike

In a bid to express their displeasure and demand the withdrawal of a contempt charge filed against them by the Federal Government, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday threatened to embark on a nationwide indefinite strike starting from August 14. The NLC issued the ultimatum at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held to review Wednesday’s nationwide protest.

The Federal Ministry of Justice had taken the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to court, accusing them of embarking on a strike despite an exparte order issued by the National Industrial Court (NIC) on June 5, 2023. The court order had restrained the labor unions from engaging in any industrial action until the hearing and determination of a Motion on Notice scheduled for June 19, 2023.

At the NEC meeting, the NLC leaders called for the immediate withdrawal of the contempt charge and reviewed the outcome of their engagements with President Bola Tinubu and the leadership of the National Assembly. During a closed-door meeting with the labor leaders, President Tinubu pledged to address their concerns and took concrete steps to resolve the issues.

The agreements reached during the meeting include a commitment to restructure the framework for dealing with the consequences of the petrol price hike in line with labor’s input. Additionally, President Tinubu assured that the Port Harcourt Refinery would begin production by December of the same year, and an agreement on wage awards for Nigerian workers would be reached promptly. Furthermore, the government promised to present a workable roadmap for the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative fuel.

The NLC expressed its dissatisfaction with the actions of the Federal Ministry of Justice, which, it alleged, continued to use the NIC as a tool to suppress the voices of Nigerian workers and violate democratic principles. The labor body called for the immediate withdrawal of the “litigious terrorism” by the Ministry before the end of work on Friday, August 11, 2023.

In response to the government’s contempt charge, the NLC resolved to suspend further protests on the nationwide mass action and maintain vigilance to hold the government accountable on its commitments. However, the NEC set a terminal date of August 19, 2023, by which the issues surrounding the petrol price hike should be resolved, given the assurances received from President Tinubu and the National Assembly.

Should the government summon labor leaders to court through the NIC, the NLC pledged to go on a total strike across the country. Moreover, the labor body threatened to commence a nationwide comprehensive strike beginning Monday, August 14, 2023, if the contemptuous court summons were not withdrawn.

While commending the effective coordination of the protest, the NLC urged all affiliates, state councils, and civil society allies to stay prepared and vigilant. The NLC leaders highlighted the prevailing suffering and deprivation across the nation, emphasizing the importance of finding a resolution to the issues at hand.

The ball is now in the government’s court, as the NLC awaits the withdrawal of the contempt charge before the given deadline. Otherwise, a nationwide strike looms on the horizon, potentially disrupting economic activities and pressuring the government to address the grievances raised by the labor unions.

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