Nigeria’s labour unions have slated Wednesday, January 9, 2011, for the commencement of its planned nationwide strike in protest of the federal government’s sudden withdrawal of the contentious subsidy on petroleum products.
The decision was reached after a meeting of union leaders held on Tuesday.
A source familiar with deliberations at the meeting of leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) said that the bodies would press ahead with the strike unless government rescinds its decision.
The federal government had constituted a committee led by former CJN, Justice Alpha Belgore to dialogue with union leaders, activists and stakeholders, but labour has opted not to have any dealings with the committee.
President Jonathan has been under fire since the sudden announcement to cut subsidy was made on New Year Day. An emergency meeting Wednesday with members of the federal executive council is expected to debate extensively on the subsidy savings plan.
A source familiar with the workings of the Presidency said on Tuesday that “President Jonathan remains committed to the transfer of subsidy from petroleum products to the construction of critical infrastructure.”
It is however unclear how the federal government would react to labour’s ultimatum.
Meanwhile, the NLC in a statement Tuesday by its President Abdul Waheed Omar, announced the death of one protester, who it said was shot dead by the police.
“It is with a heavy heart that the NLC announces the murder of an anti-fuel price hike protester, who was shot dead by the police today, Tuesday, January 3, 2012.
“The victim was shot dead near the Post Office in central Ilorin, Kwara State. The perpetrators of this crime were armed policemen from the Area ‘A’ Division, close to the UBA, Ilorin, and the State Police Command on Sulu Gambari Road, Ilorin.
“The NLC had cautioned the Goodluck Jonathan administration against the use of brute force and arms against unarmed Nigerians who protest publicly their rejection of its murderous policy of hiking fuel prices by between 120 and 200 per cent.
“The police are directly under the control and command of the Presidency and it is the Jonathan administration’s inhuman policy that has resulted in the murder of an innocent citizen. The NLC holds the Jonathan administration liable for this murder and advises it to fish out its agents who shot at protesters in Ilorin and bring them to justice.”
The NLC in the statement also praised all those that joined the protests nationwide.
On the committee set up to negotiate with stakeholders, the NLC said, “The Presidency, on Monday, January 2, set up a committee, headed by the retired Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alfa Belgore, purportedly to dialogue with Labour. We think this is an afterthought and meant to give Nigerians the impression that the Government wants to consult Nigerians.”??Making its position on the Kolade-led committee known, it said “Labour is seeking legal opinion as to the constitutionality of spending public funds without appropriation by the National Assembly.
“No one would have believed that the revered office of the President could stoop so low to tell a lie. In a bid to defend the Presidency on the misleading and callous imposition of astronomical increase in fuel prices on Nigerians, the Special Adviser on Media to President Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati told the media that Labour was in support of the subsidy removal.
“His claim that Labour was consulted and had given support to whatever government does on the issue of removal of subsidy is a blatant lie. In the first place, the leadership of the Labour Movement had held only one meeting with the Federal Government on the issue of oil subsidy. This was on Tuesday 20th December, 2011 and that meeting was not conclusive, as it was agreed that a follow-up meeting will be called by the Presidency.
“Secondly, the outcome of that meeting was immediately made public through a press statement, and up till now, the presidency has not disputed its content. At the meeting, the Labour Movement had noted that it was not only impossible for the Federal Government to implement a fifth of the projects outlined in the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE), but that the presentation by the Presidency on the issue of oil subsidy was simply a repetition of the presentations made by the Babangida and Abacha regimes and the Obasanjo administration, and that none of those promises were kept.
“The report of that meeting as we have stated, is in the public domain. We reiterate what we told Government, that Labour and the people stand opposed to fuel subsidy removal and hikes in the price of fuel. No amount of blackmail, propaganda or intimidation will deter Nigerians from reclaiming their country.
“Tomorrow Wednesday 4th January, 2012, the NLC and TUC will issue a clear directive on the date coordinated nationwide general strikes, mass rallies and street protests will commence, and the methodology of the protests,” the NLC stated.
It is however gathered that the strike has been slated for January 9, 2011 except government reverses itself on the policy.