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Labour ends strike

Posted by PATRICK ASONYE, KAYODE FASUA (Lagos) & FRANCIS AWOWOLE-BROWNE (Abuja on 2007/06/24 | Views: 375 |

Labour ends strike

After four days of stand off, a breakthrough was last night achieved in the negotiations between Federal Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), signalling the end of the five-day old nation-wide strike.

After four days of stand off, a breakthrough was last night achieved in the negotiations between Federal Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), signalling the end of the five-day old nation-wide strike.

Though labour leaders were still at the round-table with the government team at the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) as at press time last night, labour sources told Sunday Sun that the NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, had already been mandated by the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the NLC earlier in the day to accept government’s offer of N70 per litre of petrol and call off the action following the intervention of some elder statesmen.

The government had Monday reduced petrol price from N75 to N70 as well rescinded the upward review of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 10 percent. Similarly, government announced that the implementation of 15 percent increase in wage would be backdated to January.
Following the expiration of a two-week ultimatum issued Federal Government Tuesday, organised labour and civil society groups had Wednesday called out workers on an indefinite strike.

Another of labour’s demands was the reversal of the sale of the Port-Harcourt and Kaduna refineries.
Before yesterday’s compromise, prominent Nigerians had made passionate calls on the government to come off its high horse, even as they urged the labour not to be too rigid.

Noble Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, said of the situation: “I am very reluctant to make any comment right now because it looks as if nobody learns anything from the past. And, it is for me a disappointment that the new government failed to learn from our recent past history; that it’s not been able to break completely with the past, especially the horrendous legacy left by the departing regime. At this stage, that’s all I can say. I am just tired of issuing warnings. I am really bored of issuing warnings. But I am disappointed that the previous warnings were not being heeded. I’ll have more to say later on, but right now, that’s all I want to say.”

For Alhaji Lateef Adegbite, Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, it was time to appeal to the combatants to resolve the issues at stake in the interest of the country.
Said he: “Very importantly, the Federal Government should seriously consider going back to the N65 per litre price for petrol. That is the wish of the people. And under a democracy, the wishes of the people must prevail.”

He continued: “It makes no difference if certain other adjustments are to be made to put the economy back on track, but people should also reason with the government. Both sides should shift grounds.”
Sounding business-like, the Islamic Scholar said: “If you calculate the loss that the nation has suffered through this strike, a N5 addition to fuel price can never make up for it. The government should act immediately.”

Similarly, Second Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, admonished “both sides to the conflict to negotiate in order to end the strike as soon as possible.”
Ume-Ezeoke drew attention to the hardship that the situation had brought to the country, saying: “People are suffering and the economy is also suffering. Government should listen to labour because their demands are legitimate. Labour, in turn, should listen to government, to ensure that the economy does not collapse, and more importantly, to avert anarchy.”

In his own reaction to the stalemate, Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said it was not surprising to him that this problem was rearing its head early in the life of Yar’Ardua’s administration. Said he: “Yar’Adua already told the nation that he would implement the policies of his predecessor. He retained the aides of Obasanjo and the ones he (OBJ) appointed at the twilight of his administration.

“So, the allegation that Yar’Adua is a surrogate to Obasanjo has been confirmed by Yar’Adua himself. He has started with what characterized the eight-year administration of Obasanjo. There was always workers’ strike each time Obasanjo displayed arrogance and indifference. And it is very unfortunate that he is doing the same thing so early.”
According to Musa, “The workers have made a modest and patriotic demand but government is adamant. For Yar’Adua, this is the consequence of policies imposed on him by Obasanjo at the time he was handing over.”

Going back in time, Musa said: “In 1999, (General) Abdulsalam Abubakar implicated Obasanjo by taking controversial decisions and awarding bogus contracts while leaving office. But Obasanjo reversed the whole thing and revoked the contracts.
“However, Yar’Adua cannot do the same thing now for two major reasons.
One, he has no legitimacy as he came to power through fraudulent means.
Secondly, he has no courage and cannot take decisions on his own. Obasanjo who put him there is very much around, tele-guiding him.

“So, nobody should expect anything from Yar’Adua. Things will continue to grow from bad to worse.”
Without sounding totally different from others, former governor of old Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said: “I think the strike is unfortunate. The new government has received a rude welcome. Management of the strike from the side of government is also unfortunate. It would have been good for government to scrap VAT and fuel price increases.

“The government of Yar’Adua does not at all need this very embarrassing situation. My personal view is that petroleum product pricing politics should be rescued from whatever mafia is controlling it and returned to solid economics.”
Notwithstanding, Ezeife still had some nice words for Yar’Adua: “I think Yar’Adua is a progressive. He cannot be anybody’s puppet. But then, he has to show that he is not. His action and inaction on petroleum price and VAT increases have not shown that he is not.”

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