Labour Breaks Strike For Weekend Rest, Vows To Continue Nationwide Protests On Monday
The labour movement and its civil society allies have suspended their one week strike and street protests to enable protesters rest and garner more strength for a renewed action on Monday should the government of Goodluck Jonathan fail to revert the price of fuel to N65 per litre from the N141 it imposed on the nation on January 1, 2012.
Millions of Nigerians have been on the streets of cities across all states of the country from Monday January 9th protesting the removal of subsidy from the pump price of petrol. After, direct talks with Mr Jonathan ended in a deadlock on Thursday night, the labour unions issued a statement at the end of street protests today, commending Nigerians for their determination to go full length in the struggle and called for a weekend break to enable protesters come out for greater action on Monday. The release reads:
“The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Action Front (JAF) commend the Nigerian people for turning out in their millions since Monday January 9, 2012, to protest the astronomical increase in the price of PMS (Petrol). We commend them for their resolute stand and insistence in struggling for a better country.
The Labour Movement and its civil society allies after nationwide consultations has decided that this weekend, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th January, 2012, will be observed as strike, protest and rally-free days.
We ask Nigerians to utilize these days to rest, restock and get re-energize for the continuation of the strikes, rallies and protests from Monday 16th January, 2012.
Discussions with Government
The NLC, TUC and their allies in the Civil Society Movement on Thursday 12th January, 2012 met with the Senate leadership, Nigeria Governors Forum and the Executive Arm.
At the meeting, Labour asked the Presidency to suspend the new petrol (PMS) price increases announced on January 1, 2012. In return, we offered to suspend forthwith, the strikes, mass rallies and street protests. We also suggested that an expanded committee be set up which would discuss the fuel subsidy issue and pricing for petrol.
The Government side presented a counter proposal asking Labour to negotiate new fuel prices. Since we had no such mandate, Labour declined and decided to return to its National Executive Council meetings which will be held on Saturday 14th January, 2012 for a possible expanded mandate.
Labour commends the National Assembly for its intervention and further urges the Presidency to be more reconciliatory towards the people and show more understanding and sensitivity to their feelings and collective interests.
Owei Lakemfa John Kolawole
NLC Acting General Secretary TUC Secretary General
Speaking earlier at the Abuja rally today, the NLC president, Abduwaheed Omar explained all that had happened in discussions with government to the mammoth crowd and lampooned government for making fruitless efforts to break the ranks of labour and the citizenry. His words:
“Yesterday or day before yesterday, I swore to you that we are people of honour and integrity. I swore to you that we will do that which we are asked to do by the people. For if anybody is practicing true democracy we are the people practicing true democracy. The capacity to go and sit in the air-condition with those in position of authority. Again it’s a privilege to shake with Mr. President, Vice President, Senate president, Minister and everybody but it will be easy for us also to say okay, we are representing you so whatever they say then we agree on behalf of the people. But are we being fair? No. this is exactly what we are saying that because people put us here and they have given us mandate. We must have to carry out the mandate of the people and do you remember the mandate people gave us? What is the mandate? N65 or nothing! I tell you comrades this is exactly the message we have sent across to the government.
We are aware that there are a lot of rumours going round. Some people will say labour has compromised. They have given them money, given them this and that. I don’t know comrade who will have the courage after taking somebody’s food, you will still look at him in the face and abuse him, is it possible? We went and told them that the mandate we have from Nigerian people is that you have to revert back to N65. And when government insisted and they keep saying they are not ready to come down and reduce the price. We told them that we have principals but because we have a system, it is just by calling the people who gave us the mandate. We said the highest thing we can do is to go back to our principal. We will give them the message and it is up to them to give us either a new message or say what are you talking, go back and maintain our position.
By the night, we could not agree yesterday with the government. Despite all their pleas and what they told us that our economy will collapse, we told them we have a mandate and our standing mandate is reverse back to N65.
we have discussed here and I told you times without number that some government agencies have been trying all they could to destabilize us in Abuja. And the only way they think they can do is by sending people to create certain problem then government will now make a broadcast that because of the security threat in Abuja, there is going to be 24 hours curfew from dusk to dawn so that they will not allow us to come out to meet again. But we believe our strength is always lie with our unity and collectivity. We must continue to come out. We are very grateful to you that you are not getting tired, in fact more and more people are coming and we will continue to come but comrade please you must also bear with us. As your leaders we will never lead you astray by the grace of God but please take it that all plans to create problem, we must avoid them.
We have a committee that plans everything we do everyday. That is why we take different route everyday. Today, in consideration of so many factors, our planners said the only way we can get relaxed during the weekend so that by Monday if government is yet to change cost of fuel from N145 per litre to N65, we are going to come out on Monday very strong. Please those who have never come here before, inform them maybe they are your brothers, sisters or your friend or even your parent because in Lagos, all ladies came out to the streets and protested. So tell everybody that we should start coming in such a way that we must be noticed. If Nigerian government will not notice us, we would be so large that the international communities will notice us and they will begin to talk to them.
We want to make sure that people will get refreshed by the weekend but Monday morning, it is going to be mother of all crowds. Do we agree? Yes, Do you agree? Yes. I must say again on behalf of my colleagues that we are grateful. Several agencies of government attempted hired crowd, where they will say they will give them N5, 000 each and get 1, 000 people. The 1, 000 would disappear in less than 1, 000 seconds. As soon as they have taken the money they will go away nobody is giving you anything but you are here because you are patriotic, because you love Nigeria and you want your welfare to improve. Therefore, this is something we must continue to do. I want to assure you to relax tomorrow and next tomorrow. We will get ready for greater struggle beginning from Monday.”