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A week of woes

Posted by ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Abuja (Abuja) on 2007/06/25 | Views: 520 |

A week of woes

Aminu is a staffer of one of the numerous construction companies owned by foreigners in Nigeria. He survives on a daily pay of N450. Like most workers in Abuja, he works in the metropolis but resides in Mararaba, a suburb in Nasarawa State, which is about some 15 km from Abuja city centre.

How Abuja was paralysed

Aminu is a staffer of one of the numerous construction companies owned by foreigners in Nigeria. He survives on a daily pay of N450. Like most workers in Abuja, he works in the metropolis but resides in Mararaba, a suburb in Nasarawa State, which is about some 15 km from Abuja city centre.

Like every other day, he woke up by 5.a.m last Wednesday, a time he considered early enough to enable him catch the long truck, which ordinarily are designed to convey anything but human beings, but which convey them to work every morning.

On getting to the bus stop, Aminu did not find the truck. Sensing that he may have been left behind that morning, he quickly jumped into a waiting bus. To his amazement, a bus that usually charges between N70 and N80 to Area 1, in Abuja, insisted that the commuters part with N200.

Aminu, who had thought that the strike called out by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) would not hold, got to the site in Area 1 disappointed as he later found out that the strike was for real. He ended up sleeping in the site with the security guards as he had no means of returning back to Mararaba.
Aminu's predicament is no doubt a representative of what most artisans suffered in Abuja following the strike called by the NLC. In fact those of them, who went to work on Wednesday, did not contemplate it the next day.

For instance, a motor mechanic told Sunday Sun that he decided not to go to work on Thursday because he felt he wasted the transport fare he used to go to work the previous day, as no customer visited his workshop Wednesday.
A few filling stations that sold fuel in the early hours of the morning, though at N75 per litre (even after the Federal government had announced a reduction in price by N5) had somewhat eased movement of vehicles in the early hours of the morning. But once the union leaders and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), led by the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, began a procession through major areas in Abuja to monitor compliance, a few of the filling stations that had opened for business immediately closed their gates, apparently to forestall any attempt by the labour leaders to picket their business premises.

On why some of the filling stations had to open for business, one of the petrol attendants, who identified himself as simply Ojonugba told Sunday Sun that "You know some of us got our supply based on the fact that we would sell N75 per litre. Now, you know that the government has brought the price down to N70. If we don't come and sell today, we will be running at a loss after the strike because you people will not agree to buy it N75 after the strike.
"Abi you think say we know like the strike? If no be say government reduce the price, my brother, na sleep I for dey sleep for house. Because for this Abuja, especially for people like us and una wey be Journalists wey no dey get Saturday and Sunday, na period like this person dey get to rest. Abi I lie?," he asked rhetorically.

Ibadan: patients shut out of public hospitals

As at late evening of Monday, the people of Oyo state were still hopeful the strike might eventually not be, especially with the announcement that the Federal Government had conceded some grounds to the aggrieved workers. This led to few people preparing for the strike period.
But by Wednesday, it was glaring that the labour group meant business. A survey by Sunday Sun across the state showed that the decision of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Allied Institutions (SSATHRIAI) to join the industrial action worsened the situation at the foremost University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, as Staff Nurse, Nursing Officers and Senior Nursing Officers (SNOs) stayed off duty.

The resultant effect was the closure of the clinic section of the hospital manned by the senior workers. Also, serious cases of accident and other ailment could not be attended to as the senior staff to handle such cases were no where to be found.
Same situation obtained at the state-owned hospital, clinics and maternity centres as workers in these government health centres refused to report for work.

Individual experiences of the strike also revealed lost of huge revenue and productive hours due to the strike as relayed to Sunday Sun by some people in the capital city of Ibadan. Pharmacist Alani Azeez, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alan Pharmaceuticals, Iwo, Osun State, said he was already in Ibadan to book a flight to Abuja for a three-day workshop organized by Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) when he got a call that the workshop has been called off as a result of the impending strike.

Lamenting his loss in term of time and financial commitment to the trip, Alan as popularly called, disclosed that the workshop was meant for Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee of PCN.
“Now, all preparations made for that trip are now waste. By the time the organizers fix another time for the workshop, one has to start fresh preparations again”, he lamented. He also disclosed that a similar event being sponsored by the United Nations’ Drug Control Department in conjunction with NAFDAC centering on drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking had to be postponed at the last minute due to the strike.

Edo: Benin residents brave odds, want strike to continue
By Tony Osauzo, Benin

The fall-out of the lingering labour strike is having a telling effect on Nigerians, but in spite of this, a Benin resident said that his family was n total support of the industrial action.
Mr. Edosa Okunbor, a Correspondent of Midwest Herald said: “I am buying fuel now for N130 a litre. That constitutes a big drain on my purse. Cost of living has taken a toll on the entire family, including my immediate and extended families. Before the increase, we used to spend a minimum of N7, 000 a week on feeding and miscellaneous housekeeping. That amount hardly lasts two days now.

Okunbor, however, supports the strike as he hopes that its outcome would be beneficial. “I am all for the strike. Man dies but once. If the strike will yield good results and make life more bearable, we support it. I want government to revert the price of fuel to N65 a litre and to make kerosene available to the common man,” he said.

Also speaking, former chairman of Newspapers Sales Representatives in Edo State, Mr. Ayo Oisemaoje, said the strike has affected sales of his wares badly. “The strike has affected us badly, especially in sending papers to our outstations. Many of our vendors are not turning up because of high cost of transportation. The reading public is also not responding and sales are low. We are losing heavily,” he complained.

Sokoto: Delayed toll in the Caliphate, environs

In Sokoto, the impact of the action was yet to be fully felt by the third day Friday.
However, Chairman, Sokoto State chapter of NLC, Comrade Garba Liman said that the strike would take its toll yesterday and the days ahead, in the event that it was not called off before today.
Aside from a few banks that closed their offices and some Federal Civil Servants that stayed away from work, all other public offices, schools, business premises including markets remained opened for normal business activities with a litre of fuel (PMS) selling for N110.
A state civil servant who pleaded anonymity said: “I blamed our union leaders here for this lukewarm attitude. They are not very effective. We definitely have a peculiar problem here.”

Plateau:Jos residents face hardship
By Mariam Aleshinloye Agboola, Jos

Life has been difficult for residents of Jos and environs in Plateau State since the beginning of the strike Wednesday.
Business premises including banks, shops, markets and motor parks have remained closed since that date, making it difficult for residents to purchase items or move about.
Apparently caught napping, some residents of the Tin City complained that they did not believe that the industrial action could be sustained that long hence they did not make adequate preparations. “We had taken it that one way or the other labour would settle with the Federal Government and they would not go on strike. We did not go to the bank to withdraw money for use, yet we did not have food in the house,” a civil servant lamented.

Commuters were, in the circumstance, compelled to trek long distances as public transporters withdrew their vehicles from the road.
Where fuel was found at all, a litre sold for between N130 and N140.
Meanwhile the Civil Liberty Organization (CLO) applauded the NLC and NUC for the action.
The CLO in a statement by its President, Titus Mann urged the two parties not to waver on the demand for “total reversal of the cruel and insensitive fuel and VAT rate increases as well as the brazen theft of Kaduna refinery in the name of privatization” as the only condition for ending the strike.

Labour, police clash over enforcement

The strike reached its climax in Enugu Friday as the executives of various industrial unions moved into town to ensure compliance, forcing markets, petrol stations, banks and other private business establishments to close down. The union executives were, however, challenged by the police for forcing people to comply.

Chairman of NUPPRO, Daily Star chapter, Mike Ohagwu, cheated death by the whiskers as the DPO of Awkuananaw Police Station allegedly ordered him to be shot for challenging his orders. But the timely intervention of the State chairman of NLC, Comrade Eugene Ugwu averted the near tragedy.
The union leaders, Sunday Sun gathered, were later moved to the State Police Headquarters on the orders of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Charles Dawodu who after consultation with his lieutenants, interrogated them and later pleaded that the number be reduced as they were constituting a public nuisance.

According to Mr. Gordon Ekeugo, an Enugu based businessman: “Everybody knows what is involved when there is strike. Generally, it has not been easy for me because of the fuel scarcity that has affected every segment of my business.
“The arbitrary increases in the cost of foodstuff and transportation. Everybody is suffering and I do believe that the way I feel is also how every other person feels it in his own home.”

Citizens feel the pinch, lament govt’s insensitivity

The adverse effect of the nation-wide strike took its toll on the residents of Asaba, Ibusa, Agbor towns, and their environs in Delta State, as the action paralyzed economic activities in the state.
Banks, public schools, filling stations and other establishments remained closed while transporters withdrew their vehicles from the roads in compliance with the NLC and TUC order.
At the Ogbogonogo Market along Nnebisi Road in Asaba metropolis, traders were seen lamenting poor patronage.

Operators of Cold Rooms in Asaba also bemoaned their fate as their businesses were being gradually crippled like several other sectors of the economy with unavailability of fuel to power their generating sets and unreliable public power supply.
They lamented “the Federal Government’s insensitive to the plight of the masses” by failing to yield to the demand of labour.

Social, economic activities grounded
In Onitsha, the commercial nerve center of Anambra State, social and economic activities were badly affected by the strike.
Although most private business premises were open in the commercial town during the period, the traders lamented poor patronage.

The major reason was inability for the prospective buyers to access their funds in the banks. A litre of petrol sells for between N130 and N140.
Commenting on the development, President-General of Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Mr. Sylvester Odife (Jnr) said that the markets were opened because the leadership of labour did not sensitize and carry them along.

Commerce, families suffer in P.H
By Henry Chukwurah, Port Harcourt

The story is no different in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State. As at last Friday, the third day of the nationwide strike, commerce and family life in the Garden City had tumbled.
Leading to the scarcity of petroleum products in the State, residents experienced excruciating difficulties going about their private business even as public offices remained closed.
With few vehicles on the road, those who ventured out of their homes either paid as much as thrice the normal fares or resorted to trekking long distances.
A trader, Mrs. Grace Tamuno lamented thus: “Very few people bother to come to the market these days. It is either they bought enough to last them for some time or they have run out of cash.”

Customers shun fast food joints
Activities in Abia State have been grounded to a standstill as the nationwide labour strike prolonged beyond their expectations.

Helpless, most people chose to stay at home, to conserve the little funds they had at the onset of the industrial action.
In fact, fast food eateries that used to have good patronage thinned out while the strike lasted. The reason, Sunday Sun was told, is because of limited cash in circulation.
Dan Okonkwo, a welder at Nkwoegwu said he had cut down their expenses as he was sure when the strike would end.

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Comments (2)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown