After Relative Success at Day One of Nationwide Protests, NLC Suspends Rallies

•Workers defy clampdown threat, troop out 

•Ajaero: FG should tackle hunger, poverty 

•State by state situation reports

By Our Correspondents

After recording nationwide relative success at day one protest rallies against hunger in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), last night, suspended further street protest, earlier scheduled to continue today. 

But in spite of the subtle threat by the federal government and its effort to discourage the organised labour from going ahead with the plan, workers defied every hurdle in their way and trooped out en mass.

This, nonetheless, President of the National Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has urged the federal government to urgently address hunger and economic hardship in the country.

But a state-by-state situation report of the protest rallies proved a relative success overall, even though the turnout in some states did not do justice to the intention of the rallies.

However, in a communique at the end of a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of  NLC held in Abuja, yesterday, the congress said after reviewing the first of the protest, it decided to suspend street action for the second day of the protest.

This, it claimed, followed the success recorded at day one, and by extension, attained the key objectives of the second day protest on the first day.

The communique signed by Ajaero and the Acting General Secretary, Comrade Ismail Bello,  expressed appreciation to the Nigerian workers and masses for sending a strong message to the powers-that-be on their united resolve to demand accountability from them.

The communique read: ” The NEC-in-session therefore reviewed the execution of the first day of the nationwide protest to assess its effectiveness and take decision on further necessary action to guide Congress in its effort at engaging government to protect the people and Nigerian workers from the increasing scourge of hardship.

“To this end, NEC commended Nigerians, all NLC affiliates, state Councils, Workers and Civil Society Allies across the Nation for trooping out in large numbers to peacefully demonstrate their outrage on the hardship imposed by the government and its twin altars – the IMF and the World Bank.

“It believed that the message has strongly resonated. Consequently, NEC-in-session resolved as follows:

“To suspend street action for the second day of the Protest having achieved overwhelming success thus attained the key objectives of the 2-day protest on the first day.

“However, nationwide action continues tomorrow with simultaneous Press Conferences across all the states of the federation by the state Councils of the Congress including the National Headquarters.

“To reaffirm and extend the 7-days ultimatum by another 7 days, which now expires on the 13th day of March, 2024 within which the government is expected to implement all the earlier agreement of the 2nd day of October, 2023 and other demands presented in our letter during today’s nationwide protest.

“To meet and decide on further lines of action if on the expiration of the 14 days government refuses to comply with the demands as contained in the ultimatum.

“Once again, NEC recommits the NLC to continuing defending and promoting the interests and desires of Nigerian workers and the downtrodden masses.”

But amid fears of likely crackdown by the authorities to try to prevent the national protest from happening, workers held the protest against biting hunger and food crisis.

The workers thronged the Labour House, headquarters of the apex labour centre in Abuja to begin the protest over high cost of living in the country.

Thousands of workers besieged the Labour House as early as 7am chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards, urging the government to do something to arrest worsening hunger, inflation and to take effective measures to check insecurity.

The protesting workers carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Tax the rich, subsidise the Poor”, “Make our refineries work before removing subsidy”, “Let the poor breathe” and “Pay us our 35k wage award”, among others.

The labour movement is actualising its 14-Day ultimatum earlier issued for government to do something to check the food crisis and hunger in the land which it attributed to the sudden removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal government.

On Feb. 16, NLC at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting declared a two-day nationwide protest from Feb. 27 to Feb. 28, over the worsening economic hardship and insecurity in the country.

In response, the Department of State Services (DSS) had warned the NLC not to embarked on the planned protest for the fear that it would be hijacked by unscrupulous elements.

However, addressing journalists shortly before commencement of the rally, NLC president Joe Ajaero said workers were determined to protest the growing hardship and poor response by government to their plight.

When asked about the outcome of last night’s meeting with the federal government’s team, Ajaero said all the government intended to achieve with the meeting was to stop the protest by NLC.

“Yes we met late Sunday and also late Monday but all the agenda pushed by the government was to urge us not to protest today. Government said we should not protest and that some of us have a date with history today if we defy that plea to come out.

“The government used peaceful means and the used threats but we are in God’s hands,” he said, urging the federal government to urgently address hunger and economic hardship in the country.

His words: “We are here to tell the federal government that Nigerians are hungry. The rally is also to make Mr President to know how Nigerians feel. We are the ones who know where it is pinching us.

“We are also out to do a protest and to register before Nigerians and the international community the level of sufferings  and that there is  hunger in the land.

“We want to call on the federal government to immediately address the issue of hunger in the country. There is nobody that does not know that bag of rice is over N70, 000 or more, we cannot buy Indomie and bread is out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians.

“With N30,000 minimum wage, if you eat a loaf of bread everyday, you will be spending over N40,000,” he said, noting also that the International Labour Organization specified a minimum of two Dollars for feeding of each family member.


Defiant NLC, Pro-Govt Protesters Clash

The NLC made good its threat yesterday, commencing its initial two-day protest against the hardship in the country.

But as the NLC was protesting, pro-government protesters under the auspices of Network of Civil Society for Economic Sustainability also rallied support for the polices of President Bola Tinubu.

While the union commenced the procession from the Labour House, through the Ministry of Finance to federal secretariat and terminated at the National Assembly, the pro-government protesters took off from Unity Fountain to the federal secretariat and also ended up at the National Assembly.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, Convener of the group, Kabiru Matazu, said inasmuch they respected the right of the NLC to legitimately and freely exercise and express itself, they disagreed with them and their method.

He said while the reasons NLC was protesting including implementation of a new minimum wage, escalating hardship, insecurity, rising poverty, hyperinflation, and soaring prices of essential commodities, were genuine and demanded the attention of every citizen and stakeholder,  protests were not and would never be a viable solution.

Matazu noted that Tinubu’s administration has demonstrated commitment to address the challenges with the urgency they deserve.

The group, therefore, urged the NLC to engage in a constructive dialogue with the government instead of grounding economic activities, exacerbating the issues and further making life hard for the common man.

Lagos State

Police Share Biscuit, Water to Protesters

The Lagos State Police Force, yesterday, showed their human side as they shared free water and biscuits to protesters in a show of solidarity.

NLC members had stormed the streets of Lagos to express their grievances over the current economic hardship in the country, and also to protest against government’s alleged failure to implement agreements reached between both parties on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy

But the policemen consciously calmed nerves were seen in a moving vehicle sharing water and biscuits to the protesters around the Alausa area of the state, as they chanted “Up Nigeria Police.”

The NLC members in their numbers, alongside other Nigerians, stormed the Ikeja under-bridge area of the state as early as 7am yesterday, and were seen singing and dancing while calling on the government to give listening ears to their demands.

The protesters were also seen carrying placards with inscriptions such as #End Hunger and Poverty Now! Stop the Looting! Tax the Rich, Subsidise the Poor, among others.

Ogun State

Protest Crucial Considering Economic Hardship

Amid security provided by men of the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and officers of the Department of State Security (DSS), the NLC, in Ogun State, yesterday, joined  the protest because it was critical to do so.

The NLC leadership and other workers, marched through some streets in Abeokuta carrying placards of various inscriptions lamenting the hardship in the country.

The NLC, said the protest became important considering the prevailing economic hardship currently ravaging Nigeria.

This hardship, they claimed, was occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy and continuous fall of the naira against the dollar.

Speaking with journalists during the protest in Abeokuta, Chairman of Ogun NLC, Comrade Hammed Ademola-Benco, stated that the rally was hinged on getting good deals for Nigerians.

“This protest is about getting good deals for the people of the country. The truth is that people are suffering, many Nigerians are hungry, and the price of food has reached the rooftop,” Ademola-Benco said.

Rivers State

Protest Witnesses Low Turnout

The Rivers State chapter of the NLC, yesterday, joined in the two-day national protest to express concern on the economic hardship faced by Nigerians.

But the protest witnessed a low turnout, as members walked from the Labour House, in Diobu/Line axis of Port Harcourt and terminated at the Government House, on Azikiwe Road.

At the Government House gate, the protesters were received by Governor Siminalayi Fubara, who was represented by the Head of the Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke.

Addressing the governor’s representative, the NLC state chairman, Alex Agwanwor, said they came to present a protest letter from the national secretariat of the union to the governor for onward presentation to the presidency with the aim to urgently act to tackle the economic challenge biting hard on the nation.

He noted some of the achievements of the governor, especially how he addressed pressing needs of workers in the state. He, however, insisted that the increase of Petrol pump price has affected all sources of living in the country.

Responding, Fubara expressed his confidence in President Tinubu’s ability to address the concerns raised by the organised labour, even as he said the grievances outlined by the protesters primarily fell within the purview of the federal government.

Oyo State

Makinde Seeks Joint Efforts on Nation’s Problems

Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who identified withprotesters, yesterday, in Ibadan, called for calm amid the protests, stating that the difficult times being experienced by Nigerians would soon pass.

Makinde, who declared his support for the protesters, also called for an end to the hardship and hunger being experienced by the people.

He however, warned that the protests must to be peaceful and constructive, in order to achieve the desired result.

Makinde said it was time for the country as a whole to come together and address the challenges and problems facing it, adding that it was, indeed, a trying period for Nigerians.

Meanwhile, workers and residents of the state, yesterday, joined other Nigerians to take part in the nationwide protest called over the hardship in the country.

The protest in Ibadan commenced from the NLC secretariat located at Agodi Government Reserved Area (GRA) and moved to other parts of the city.

Ondo State

Workers Ask FG to Tax the Rich, Subsidise the Poor

Workers in Ondo State, who joined their colleagues nationwide to demand an end to the excruciating pains, hunger and economic hardship confronting Nigerians, said the government should tax the rich and subsidise the poor to end rising cost of living and hardship in the country.

The labour leaders, who led the protest on the streets of Akure and walked down to the Alagbaka governor’s office, said it was high time President Bola Tinubu did something.

The protesters who were armed with placards bearing different inscriptions were escorted by armed Police Officers and the men of the State Security Service (SSS).

Speaking with journalists, state chairman of NLC, Victor Amoko, said their street demonstration became necessary in the face of the economic hardship being suffered by Nigerians under the present dispensation.

He reeled off the demands of labour to include rehabilitation of refineries, taxation of the rich in the country and replacement of students loan by free education among other demands.

“We have tried every possible means to get the government to listen to us but it seems this is the only language that they want to understand. So, we are here to press further and tell the federal government that the entire citizens of the country are suffering. There is hunger and poverty in the land. We have made our demand known and part of it is, that we are saying No to hunger,” he stated.

Niger State

Assembly Suspends Sitting for Two Days

The Niger State House of Assembly has suspended sittings for two days – Tuesday and Wednesday – in solidarity with the organised labour its nationwide protest.

Speaker of the assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, disclosed this when he received the protesters in the courthouse of the assembly.

Sarkindaji applauded the protesters for being very orderly and peaceful throughout the exercise saying, “I can tell you that the house has suspended its sitting for two days.”

The speaker said he would deliver the message of the protesters to the “appropriate quarters” assuring, them that their demands would be attended to.

He said the seriousness of the protest could be seen in the almost 12 kilometers they trekked from the Labour House to the assembly.

Akwa Ibom

We’ve Been Stretched to Limits

Chairperson of the NLC in Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Sunny James, who led the state’s protest lamented that people had been stretched to their limit due to excessive hunger and hardship.

He told the Speaker of the House, Mr Udeme Otong,  to encourage his members to make laws that would address the problems of the people and to enable them to eat on daily basic.

The situation in the country, he stressed, did not need laws that do not have meaning and positive impact, noting that Nigerians were suffering due to unfavorable policies of the present federal government.

He also noted that the nationwide protest would be domesticated in Akwa Ibom State such that the governor, Mr Umo Eno, should ensure that workers’ peculiar demands were addressed.

“If the leaders are not willing to change the situation, we will force them to change the situation, how can we be buying a bag of rice at N95,000 and a cup of garri N500?” he asked.

Bauchi State

Protest Peaceful Amidst Tight Security

The Bauchi State NLC, yesterday, joined the nationwide protest amid tight security and peacefully conducted themselves.

The State NLC had converged at the secretariat of the Congress at 8.00 am for a procession to the Emir’s Palace and later terminated at Government House, Bauchi, where a message was delivered.

At the Government House, the Deputy Governor, Hon Mohammed Auwal-Jatau, while addressing the union disclosed that decisions regarding labour matters had not been taken by the state government without consultation and collaboration with the Labour Union.

Auwal-Jatau, however, assured them that he would deliver their message to Governor Bala Mohammed for onward transmission to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“There wasn’t any decision taken as far as my knowledge is concerned without collaboration, without consultation, without working together with the Bauchi state Labor union,” he said.

Plateau State

Subsidy Removal Cause of Hardship

The Plateau State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), has said the soaring food prices and escalating economic hardships across the nation were fueled by the removal of subsidy.

Chairman of NLC, Mr. Eugene Manji, while addressing the press at the Secretariat Junction venue of the protest, expressed grave concerns over the dire economic situation, attributing it to the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy in May 2023 without recourse to the implication on the citizens.

“Today, I can tell you that fuel now sells for N700 per litre as against the N197 per litre it sold for, before the removal of the subsidy.

“This has consequently affected the generality of the lives of workers in Nigeria, especially as the cost of foodstuffs has skyrocketed.

“In the midst of all of these, the salaries of workers have remained the same, thus, making lives miserable for Nigerian workers,” he said.

Osun State

We’re Angry over State of Nation

The Osun State NLC, has expressed grievances over the current economic hardship in the country.

The labour union also voiced its displeasure over government’s alleged failure to implement agreements reached between both parties.

 The NLC members in their numbers converged at Freedom Park and marched through Old garage, MDS, and terminated their procession at Olaiya Under bridge, singing solidarity songs while calling on the government to listen to their demands.

Chairman of Osun NLC, Christopher Arapasopo, stated that protest was as a result of the federal government’s failure to meet up with the 14-day ultimatum issued by the labour union.

He, however, said the “federal government should iron out the issue of high cost of living in the country, even if there is food in the market people don’t have the money to buy.”

Bayelsa State

Diri Seeks Restoration of Naira’s Value

Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, yesterday, commended workers in the state for their peaceful conduct during the protest and sought the restoration of the value of naira.

The governor, who stated that the president would not deliberately inflict hardship on Nigerians, reiterated that the solution lay in fixing the economy and restoring the value of the Naira.

“Seeing you protesting across the whole country, the power of government belongs to you the people, that’s why in anything I do, I see the people as number one. In any project I do, in any policy we bring out, we look at the effect on the people.

“But I believe that the President will listen to this protest. It is not out of place, you have done this protest for me also and for every other Nigerian,” he said.

Workers in the state embarked on the peaceful procession along the Lambert Eradiri drive through the Melford Okilo Road, terminating at the Government House at Onopa in Yenagoa to press home their demands.

Kano State

Workers Demand Tax Holiday

Protesting workers in Kano, yesterday, demanded among others things, a tax holiday, as parts of measure to cushion the current hardship.

Delivering an address at the Government House, Chairman of the state NLC, Kabiru Inuwa, handed over a letter to be delivered to President Bola Ahmad Tinubu through the Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf.

Some of the demands included “An Immediate Tax holiday to all workers earning from N100,000 per month and below including a reduction in PAYE for all workers earning below N500,000/Month.

“Direct the purchase and the use of Made in Nigeria goods and services to stimulate local production and save jobs. Immediate reduction in the cost of governance in Nigeria at all levels to reflect the nation’s tight fiscal position.

The protesters urged President Tinubu to “Halt immediately the implementation of all IMF and World Bank Policies in Nigeria. They have not only not worked anywhere but have brought extreme hardship which imperils our nation’s security and undermines our sovereignty.”

Edo State

Obaseki Empathises with Nigerians

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has empathised with people of the state and Nigerians over the incessant rise in prices of goods and services and overall cost of living in the country.

Obaseki spoke when he received members of the Edo State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other concerned Nigerians, who were on a peaceful protest, at the Government House, Benin City, to register their displeasure over the high cost of living occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal by the federal government.

Obaseki who was represented by the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Hon. Chris Nehikhare, in company with the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media Projects, Crusoe Osagie, said the government stood with the people in this very challenging times.

“The Edo State Government supports the protest. We identify with you because this hike in price has affected everyone. We are doing our best to see how this hardship is reduced or limited for Edo people.

“The important thing is to ensure that we are able to feed Edo people. We will do our best in terms of feeding but we don’t have power over fuel. We are doing our best to ensure all the filling stations in Edo State sell fuel at the agreed prices.

“We are concerned about the hardship facing Edo people that was why few days ago, the Edo State Government had a meeting with market women, farmers, traders, civil society groups and a host of others in the food chain at Urokpota Hall in Benin City.”

Ekiti State

Protest Disrupts Activities, Seeks End to Hardship

The NLC protest in Ekiti State, yesterday, disrupted vehicular movement for about two hours in the state capital.

Unfortunately, TUC did not join the protest.

Members of the NLC in the state who converged at the Fajuyi Ado Ekiti to express their displeasure over the high cost of foods and other commodities hold placards with various inscriptions such as “Ebi Npa wa”, “remove tax on drugs”, “we say no to slavery”, “end insecurity”, “Address high cost foods”.

Speaking with newsmen, Chairman of NLC, Comrade Kolapo Olatunde, said the peaceful protest became necessary to send signal to governments at all levels that people could no longer endure the current economy situation.

He called on President Tinubu to find lasting solution to the ugly development in the interest of average Nigerians

“In May last year, President Bola Tinubu withdrew the fuel subsidy and because of this, we have been telling the government  that if this is done, it will result to hunger among Nigerians, prices of goods and services skyrocket, our market women and traders will be experiencing little or no patronage if at all they have goods to sell, then we protested against it but no step was taken.

“But on 2 October, 2023, the federal government called the leadership of the organised labour  to a meeting to dialogue with and pacify Nigerian workers and they signed a 15-point agreement with us.

 “But as I am speaking now, they have not done anything about the agreement signed with the labour. One of the major part of the agreement is that the refineries will be fixed and will be made to work effectively and nothing has been done about this.”

Kaduna State

Poor Turnout Mar Protest

The nationwide protest against economic hardship by the NLC recorded poor turnout in Kaduna State as only a few workers participated in the peaceful exercise.

The workers converged at state  secretariat of the NLC, located at Angwan Rimi, off Independence Way, as early as 8am for the protest. The protest was led by the state chairman, Ayuba Suleiman.

The workers marched from their secretariat to Lugard Hall Roundway also along Independence Way amid heavy police protection.

They were carrying placards, calling for an end to insecurity, hunger and poverty in the country.

The workers also said the current minimum wage cannot buy a 50kg bag of rice and demanded for a new minimum wage.

Massive security was deployed to strategic areas within Kaduna metropolis to curtail any attempt to hijack the protest. The protest was peaceful and lasted for about an hour.

Kogi State

Our Protest Isn’t Coup against Govt

The Kogi State NLC has said the rally was a peaceful one and not a coup or a threat against government of the day.

Chairman of Kogi NLC, Comrade Gabriel Amari, said, “You are all aware of the current untold hardship that Nigerians are passing through. This protest embarked upon nationwide is in the interest of the entire citizens.”

Amari directed members to carry out the protest in a peaceful and orderly manner, warning that they should not allow hoodlums to hajack the process and cause havoc to the innocent citizens.

He explained  that the protest was strictly under security cover to ensure hitch-free and peaceful rally.

Also, the Chairman of TUC, Comrade Sule Ahmed Tijani, stated that, peaceful protest was a channel through which labour communicate to the government, noting that, labour was the hope of a common man.

Kwara State

Tinubu Should Find Capable Hands to Fix Economy

Workers in the Kwara State, yesterday, joined other workers in the country to embark on peaceful protest against  the continued economic hardship in the country, saying the president should find capable hands to fix the economy.

The workers  converged at the state secretariat located along Lanjorin area, Ilorin, before they moved en masse across major streets in Ilorin, the state capital.

The workers led by its State chairman of the NLC, Comrade Saheed Olayinka, later moved to the Governor’s Office, to deliver the workers message to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for onward delivery to President Tinubu.

The highlight of the protest was the presence of security agencies like police, Nigeria  Security And Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) the State Security Service (SSS) among others so as to ensure the protest was not hijacked by criminals in the state.

Speaking with journalists  at the Labour House, Olayinka advised Tinubu, to look for capable hands that can handle the issues of economy and insecurity in the country.

He said there were brilliant and intelligent Nigerians, who could change the narrative as the economy of the country took a nose dive.

PDP, Labour Party Back Hunger Protest

*As APC Expresses Fear

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party, have endorsed the ongoing two-day protest by the NLC.

But the All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed fear that it could be hijacked by hoodlums.

Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abdullahi Ibrahim, told newsmen that the populace was always prepared to oppose any policies against the interests of the people.

“Labour has always been consistent in terms of expressing their misgivings because they are the ones interfacing with the workers. So it is not going to be the first time. I doubt if there is any government since Independence that has not contended with the protest or expression of agitation by labour.

“So the NLC is justified. The PDP agrees with labour. The reality on the ground defies human comprehension. You cannot expect Nigerians to fold their hands because it is an APC government that is in place.

“The NLC stormed the streets when it was the PDP. They did the same during the military regime. I don’t see any rationale for anybody to think the NLC is out to frustrate this government.”

Spokesman for the Labour Party Campaign Organisation, Yunusa Tanko, emphasised that people have the right to express their dissatisfaction with anti-people policies.

“Obviously, some policies of this government are anti-people. We are talking about a government that promised people palliatives and failed to provide them. Is it not this same government that promised civil servant increment of salary? The people are yet to see it.

“The question is how long will this government continue to use the instrumentality of law to stifle the voices of the masses? For us, in LP, the protest is justifiable. In fact, the NLC needs to take it further by demanding constitutional review including that of the Electoral Act reform that is not giving us the right kind of leadership we want.”

However, the ruling APC voiced fear that the demonstration could derail if it was hijacked.

APC’s Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim stated that President Tinubu directly addressed the suffering of the people in several of his broadcasts, demonstrating his awareness of their plight.

“The beauty of democracy is that it allows people to register their dismay or dislike where they feel the government is not doing well. But there is a proviso. In doing that, they must know that the right to protest is theirs. But that right stops where other people’s own begins,” Ibrahim said.

Delta State

We Share in Your Plights, Says Govt 

The Delta State Government, has assured protesting members of NLC in the state that it would look at the challenges confronting them with a view to communicating same to the federal government.

Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu, gave the assurance while addressing the protesters, who were at the entrance of Government House, Asaba, for a peaceful protest against hardship in the country.

Emu, who applauded the workers for the peaceful protest, implored them not to allow hoodlums to hijack it, adding that their request would be presented to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori for onward presentation to the federalgovernment.

Earlier, the First Vice Chairman of Delta State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ziko Okwudi, said they were at Government House to register their protest against the present economic hardship in the country.

Okwudi noted that the wage award promised workers by the federal government has not been honoured, stressing that despite all the agreements reached with federal government as it affects the interest and welfare of Nigerian workers, the federal government has been very inactive and insensitive to the plights of the Nigerian people.

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