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Govt deems strike a failure, Labour reviews plans

Posted by From Martins Oloja and Bethrand Nwankwo (Abuja) and Yetunde Majekodunmi (Lagos) on 2004/10/14 | Views: 1048 |

Govt deems strike a failure, Labour reviews plans

THE Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday got a briefing from the Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Hassan M. Lawal, on the ongoing industrial action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over high fuel price.

THE Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday got a briefing from the Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Hassan M. Lawal, on the ongoing industrial action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over high fuel price.

The Labour organisation's National Executive Council (NEC) is, however, billed to meet today in Abuja to review the first phase of the strike, which crippled different parts of the country since Monday and is expected to end today.

Some federal civil servants that came for work yesterday in Abuja told The Guardian that they were coerced as attendance registers had been opened for them while the streets continued to be deserted across the country. Schools and banks among others remained shut while markets were largely deserted.

At the offices of the Head of Service and the Secretary to the Federal Government, registers were opened to determine those who showed up for work and those who did not. The same measure was effected at the ministries of Internal Affairs, Communications and Aviation, among others.

But to the Labour Minister, the strike has been unsuccessful. He expressed the belief that workers shunned the strike and thanked them for supporting the government on the issue. The Inspector-General (IG) of Police also expressed a similar view and urged banks and other offices in the country to resume operations.

Lawal also explained the inclusion of the NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole, on the 34-member committee headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, to work out measures to cushion the effect of the increase.

The government also denied that NLC President was tricked into attending the inauguration of the committee.

Lawal and three of his colleagues, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu, Information and National Orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke, Minister of Inter-governmental Affairs and Police Affairs Minister, Chief Broderick Bozimo briefed the press on the outcome of the weekly meeting presided over by Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

According to the Labour Minister: "Adams Oshiomhole is a very intelligent person and I don't think he can be so tricked. He did not come to the Villa at gun-point. He was invited with his mind fully functional and with his eyes wide open. He came here and we sat down and we chatted and the committee was inaugurated and its terms of reference enumerated and Adams Oshiomhole went into the committee meeting that lasted for over two and a half hours."

On why the government included the NLC President on the committee when it is pursuing a bill at the National Assembly to dismantle the hierarchy of central Labour, the minister said the bill is yet to be approved by both chambers of the legislature.

His words: "Because the Senate has passed the bill proposed by Mr. President, it does not make the NLC invalid. There are two chambers in the National Assembly and unless and until there is a concurrence on the part of the two legislative houses, that issue cannot be said to have removed Adams Oshiomhole from office. The fact that the FG invited Adams Oshiomhole, you must understand that Adams Oshiomhole by any standard is qualified to be in that group. One, he is a Nigerian and a notable Nigerian for that matter. He has made tremendous amount of contribution to the socio-economic development of Nigeria."

The minister continued: "Adams Oshiomhole has a lot to offer, so I don't see any reason why we should raise any eyebrows. If you believe that Adams Oshiomhole has committed a contempt of court, the government does not go to arrest Adams Oshiomhole and jail him for contempt. But all we are saying is that Adams Oshiomhole is a partner in progress. He is a stakeholder in the Nigerian project. In his own right, he has every right to be invited and he has all along made meaningful contributions. In this regard, we will always invite him. Even beyond his tenure as NLC president, he will continue to remain relevant as far as the socio-economic and political development is concerned."

Making further clarifications on the position of government in the current problem, the Information and National Orientation Minister explained that it is not true that the NLC had pulled out of the Committee of Palliatives, saying instead, the government has received a request from the body seeking more information on the committee, especially on how to enlarge its membership and to include other issues in the mandate of the committee.

Chikelu did not say clearly whether the committee would consider the request made by Labour, saying: "The committee was set up for cushioning, nothing more."

On whether there are still openings for dialogue on the demands raised by Labour before embarking on the strike, the minister declined answers.

Other issues discussed at the meeting include the approval for the acquisition of 10 new aluminium boats for coastal patrol by members of the police operating in the Niger-Delta and the gully erosion control in Kigali community of Kaura Namoda of Zamfara State.

According to Bozimo, the acquisition would complement the 13 earlier bought for marine policing to ensure adequate protection of the Niger-Delta.

The 7.5 metres long boats will cost N280,158,668.40 and will be deployed to other important inland rivers of the country.

On the gully erosion control in Zamfara State, Nweke said the contract cost is N148,937,578.50 and has twelve months completion period.

The NLC leadership will meet today in Abuja to review the national strike it called to protest the recent increase in the price of petroleum products in the country.

The meeting, to be presided over by Oshiomhole, is also expected to evaluate the success of the sit-at-home order of the congress, which enters its fourth day today.

The Guardian learnt that the NEC is also to suspend the four-day nation-wide strike.

Speaking with newsmen in Lagos yesterday, the congress's acting secretary and head of its Lagos mobilising unit, Mr. Owei Lakemfa, said the NEC after today's deliberation would come out with a master plan on the next line of action for the second phase of the protest.

Evaluating the success of the four-day strike, Lakemfa said reports from all parts of the country showed that Nigerians were committed and steadfast to the struggle.

He also acknowledged inputs of students throughout the period of the peaceful protest, saying their involvement in the struggle was a welcome development.

Meanwhile, the United Action for Democracy (UAD), a Civil Liberty Organisation, in its own evaluation of the four-day strike said its success clearly showed that Nigerians were implacably opposed to the government policy of incessant increases in the prices of petroleum products.

According to the president of the group, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, (UAD), Labour and other civil society groups would not be deterred in the cause to ensure that the will of Nigerians prevail.

"After today, October 14, Labour and other popular mass organisations, including the UAD, will go back, as it were, to the drawing board in order to re-strategize for the next phase. The mode, duration and logistics of the next phase will be worked out in such a way to ensure that only the will of Nigerians prevail," Aturu said.

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