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Strike paralyses cities across the country

Posted by OUR REPORTERS on 2007/06/25 | Views: 397 |

Strike paralyses cities across the country


The nation was virtually brought down on its knees as labour on Wednesday commenced an indefinite strike to force government to meet fully its demands, particularly total reversal of the pump price of petrol.

The nation was virtually brought down on its knees as labour on Wednesday commenced an indefinite strike to force government to meet fully its demands, particularly total reversal of the pump price of petrol.

Reports across the federation indicated overwhelming compliance with the directives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to workers to stay away from work.

The development is coming as the Senate President, David Mark, again appealed to the workers to temper justice with mercy and call off the nationwide action. However, the Federal Government, in a statement issued in Abuja, expressed disappointment that despite its positive overtures and concessions to its demand, labour still went ahead with the strike.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, said government was convinced the action had ulterior and political motives. He observed that government had substantially satisfied the four-point demand of the workers and further urged labour to give the newly inaugurated government time to study all aspects of the issues raised before arriving at a responsible decision, but its request was rebuffed by the labour leaders, who insisted on an immediate response, failing which they would declare an indefinite general strike.

"The Labour leaders further indicated that being new themselves, much as they appreciated government’s need for time for a thorough study of their positions, they needed to take a militant stance in order to maintain their credibility with their members," it stated.
Regardless of all these, government said it continuously engaged the leadership of the unions in consultations and by Sunday, June 17, had taken its decisions on the issues raised and had informally given indications of these to the union leaders.

"Government went further to invite the labour leadership to inform them formally of these decisions before they went into executive session to take their final decision.
"Government was, therefore, surprised to learn that rather than honouring the invitation, the National Executives of the NLC and TUC, together with JAF, the latter having never participated in the negotiations, had met and taken the decision to embark on a strike which they announced at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

"Any well-meaning Nigerian, in whose name labour purports to speak, can see that the tone and content of this press statement clearly indicated a political, rather than an industrial agenda," it further pointed out, noting that labour had, in its press statement, widened the scope of their demands to include elements which they never raised in the course of their engagement with government.

"Government wishes to make it clear that it is ready to engage any individual or group in constructive discussion of any issue aimed at promoting the welfare and well-being of the Nigerian people. It is in this context that government is reviewing and re-evaluating all policy decisions, which in the light of experience may require refinement and further adjustment.

"Government, therefore, urges all law-abiding Nigerians and members of the international community to go about their businesses and resist any attempt by any individual or group to use them to attain political objectives masked as agitation in defence of the public interest. All steps have been taken to ensure the safety and security of any citizen or foreign resident going about their lawful business," it added.

Labour, on its part on Wednesday expressed satisfaction at the level of compliance with the nationwide strike, which paralyzed business and commercial activities in Abuja, the Federal Capital, though with heavy presence of armed security personnel at strategic locations to prevent breakdown of law and order.
Ecstatic labour leaders hailed the workers and the people for heeding the directive to embark on the nationwide action and declared that the action continued indefinitely until government brings down the petrol price to N65 per litre.

Union leaders and members of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), led by the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, carried out procession through major areas of Area 1, 3, Wuse, and Central Area to monitor compliance with the strike.
At some points, few filling stations caught selling fuel quickly closed their gates while some commercial vehicles with the traditional solidarity green leaves affixed to their front bumpers, on sighting the procession, also quickly detoured.

Some commuters, who came out, were stranded at bus-stops while banks closed their offices to customers in compliance with the stay at home directive.

Briefing newsmen at the Labour House, after monitoring the exercise, Mr. Omar thanked the people for obeying labour, saying the level of compliance was satisfactory and that it indicated that Nigerians appreciated that "we must make collective efforts and sacrifice to ensure that government acts in accordance with public welfare and the will of the people."

He commended the people and members of the civil society groups for their steadfastness and solidarity so far, saying, together "we would continue to share the burden of providing leadership for Nigerians to fight for improvements in their condition of living as citizens"

Omar also thanked members of the National Assembly for their concerns and intervention, but said the ball was in the court of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who should be prevailed upon to back down and exercise the authority necessary to return the price of petrol to N65 per litre, in the interest of the people.
Earlier in the day, FCT Commissioner of Police, Haruna John, led a detachment of policemen in trucks and pick-up vans, to the NLC secretariat, but said they had come to offer security to the protesters so as to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the strike to unleash violence.

The police boss told the labour leaders that his men would be ready to accompany them on procession without arms, not even tear gas, but for their presence to give assurance of security.
He however, complained that his command had received some reports from the NNPC and some other people that their workers were being harassed from working, while some NLC buses were parked to block entrances into the Abuja city and pleaded with the NLC leaders to do everything possible to direct their members from harassing people.

The NLC president assured the police commissioner that he would investigate the complaint and ensure nobody was harassed in the course of the strike. He said that the Congress leadership did not support violence and that they had done everything to make sure the strike was peaceful. He commended the police for the display of civility in handling the strike, describing it as a clear departure from the past.

The strike also paralysed the city of Lagos as residents observed labour’s call to sit at home.
Daily Sun reporters who went round the city to monitor the strike observed that banks, schools, petrol stations and companies were shut.

In the same vein, the president of the West African Bar Association, Femi Falana, said that the Nigeria Bar Association would offer free legal service to any worker arrested by police in the course of the industrial action. He said that by complying with the strike, Nigerians had expressed their political rights, adding that government must realize that sovereignty belonged to the people.

The strike also took a toll on the people of Enugu State grounding economic activities in the state. Government offices were under lock. Officials of NLC went round to ensure compliance with labour’s directive. Road transport workers mounted surveillance at bus-stops to checkmate recalcitrant members. Those who refused to obey had their passengers discharged.

In Niger State, government offices and public schools were shut. In Minna the state’s capital, commercial banks did not open while union leaders stationed themselves in strategic places to chase away workers.

In Suleja, Niger State, trailers and tipper vehicles were used to block all the entrance to the Federal Capital Territory, making it impossible for FCT workers living in Suleja to report for work in Abuja. Motorists were however, at the few filling stations that had fuel to sell buying fuel at N75 per litre.

In Ondo State, civil servants and banks workers observed the strike, while business activities went on undisrupted in all the markets in the state capital and other major towns in the state.
Shops and major stores as usual had opened for normal business as early as 8 am while most of the filling stations, which had fuel, were seeing selling to motorists.

Also, commercial buses and taxi cabs operators plied the major roads for normal business, there was no restriction of both human and vehicular movement as people were moving freely in the streets without molestation from any quarters.

The chairman of NLC in the state Comrade Buraimon Muhammodu, in a telephone chat with Daily Sun correspondent, said the strike was successful except for the NURTW members who he said, breached labour’s directive.

Workers in Osun State on Wednesday also joined their counterparts nationwide in shunning work. Government offices, schools, banks and public utilities remained closed in Osogbo, the state capital and other parts of the state in observance of the national industrial action. Workers deserted the state secretariat at Abere.

The state chairman of NLC, Mr Femi Taiwo, said that the strike was effective in the state.
Meanwhile, petroleum products remained scarce in the state as a litre sold for between N90 and N110 in few stations that had fuel. NNPC mega station, which sold petrol at the official price of N74 per litre, witnessed long queue of vehicles, which stretched to more two kilometres from the station, while major streets had low traffic volume.

Also, commercial drivers resorted to trip-breaking to maximise the profit.
In Benin, Edo State, the price of petrol went to N110.00 per litre, amid queues in filling stations that had the commodity to sell. Traffic situation in the city was light compared with what it used to be on normal days, even as markets remained open for business.

Commenting on the strike, Labour and Civil Society Group (LASCO) coordinator for Edo State, Mr. Tony Erha, said the body was mobilizing and perfecting strategies to sustain the action, even as he disclosed that about 120 call-groups had been formed and that neighbourhood rallies were being organized in several parts of the cities.

The workers’ strike crippled business activities in major parts of Delta State as virtually government ministries, schools, financial houses and markets places were shut down. Warri, the commercial nerve centre of the state; Sapele, Ughelli and Asaba were hard hit by the fuel shortage.

Due to the biting situation, transport fares rose sharply with four-litre keg of fuel costing N2,000.
Reacting, the former Chairman of NBA, Warri, Barrister Ojo Abijogun, commended NLC, saying the strike was timely. According to him, the action will serve as a deterrent to the new administration to sit-tight and work for the good of the Nigerian popular.

In Kano, the strike recorded a measure of success as most business outfits, banks, courts, market, shops and transporters, among others, stayed away from their business.
Early in the day, the union leaders had staged peaceful demonstration, in the metropolis, chanting solidarity songs, which expressed their grievances.

Angry members of the NLC on Wednesday gave airline workers at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos the shock of their lives when they stormed the place to chase out both ticketing and operational staff that were preparing to carry out flight operations.
The NLC members, it was learnt, had expected that some airlines will want to sabotage the strike and went to picket the saboteurs.

When Daily Sun got to the domestic wing of the airport, airlines’ staff were disorganized as passengers swooped on them asking for refund for tickets purchased.
However, some passengers were lucky, as some airlines had carried out early morning flights prior to the arrival of the striking NLC members, Chanchangi Airlines also had flights from Kaduna and Abuja.
The strike was however, partially successful in Kaduna State as only government offices, banks and some petrol stations were shut, while most private businesses opened for business.

Commercial vehicles carried people from one end of the town to another, but with slightly increased fares, while people went about their normal business.
Armed security men patrolled the streets apparently, to forestall any breakdown of law and order, while the Sheikh Mahmud Gumi Central Market, the major market in the state and other satellite markets opened for business.

Economic activities were grounded in Aba, in Abia State. Daily Sun checks showed that in some offices, like NITEL, staff sat quietly in their offices without attending to customers.
At the neighboring NIPOST, the main entrance was bolted with a big chain while the lobby turned to a parliament of sorts where workers engaged each other in arguments on national issues.
Also, civil servant in Kogi State complied with the NLC directives.

Most of the government ministries and parastatal corporations were under lock and key, while NLC officials in the state manned the gates of such offices to ensure compliance.
At the state secretariat, however, few civil servants, who reported to work early in the morning were turned back by the NLC officers, who barricaded the road leading to the state secretariat.

Although, the strike action was generally peaceful in the state, some political office holders, who reported at their various offices, including the secretary to the state government and some aides to the deputy governor were politely told by NLC officials to vacate their offices for the strike action to have effects.
The Benue State NLC, led by its chairman, Comrade Simon Anchaver, took to the streets early in the morning to stop people from opening their shops, while students who had resumed at their different schools were made to return home.

Anchaver, who thanked the Benue people for the success recorded so far in the state, noted that the strike would continue for as long as the Federal Government decided not to respond to the demands of NLC, stressing that the struggle was for the positive development of Nigeria.

The strike was successful in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital as both federal and state government offices remained closed. So also were some private workers who heeded the NLC call and stayed at home.
Few taxis and commercial motorcycle drivers risked plying the roads, even though there were only few people in the streets to patronize them. Similarly, only few people were sighted at some daily markets in the ancient city.

Although some banks attempted to open for business, they were compelled to close as some labour officials, who described them as saboteurs, threatened to deal with them.
Most shops at Sapon and Ibara, the commercial nerve centres of the city, did not open.
The federal and state secretariats as well as courts were without the usual beehive of activities as the strike paralyzed the usual commercial and administrative.

Students of higher institutions in the state capitalized on the strike to embark on a peaceful protest, urging the Federal Government to see reasons with ASUU, which has been on strike.
The students, in their hundreds, cordoned off some areas in the town, such as the Onikolobo, Panseke, Sapon areas, appealing to few cab operators who worked then to join the strike.
Civil servants, commercial drivers and bankers in Bayelsa State joined the national strike.
Government hospitals and the law courts were also not left out. Few medical personnel were seen at the Federal Medical Centre, while the Federal High Court was locked firmly.

When Daily Sun moved around Yenagoa, government offices and parastatal corporations, including the state secretariat, were under lock and key as those that reported for duty were sent back.
Like their counterparts across the country, workers in Bauchi State joined the nation strike. At the state secretariat, armed security personnel ensured that there was no break down of law and order as workers who had earlier turned up for work were chased away by the leadership of the NLC accompanied by a handful of security operatives.

Federal, state and local government employees in Oyo State, on Wednesday gave teeth to the strike. Commercial banks and public schools in the state also closed their doors in compliance with the directive of the labour, while fuel stations refused to sell their products.

Apart from the governor's office, where some skeletal jobs were offered, offices within the state secretariat complex were under lock and key as none of the civil servants reported at their duty posts.
Nigerian Labour Congress, Kwara State also observed the ongoing industrial action with Comrade Emma Ayeoribe, the State chairman, describing it as a struggle for the past heroes in Nigeria.
Declaring the national strike as the most successful in the history of labour in Nigeria, Comrade Ayeoribe appealed to Nigerians to endure as hunger does not kill.












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