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Labour replies Senate President Akpabio

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has responded to the Senate President, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, after his statement that follows the union’s joint strike with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on 3rd and 4th June.

During the strike, Organised Labour shut down everywhere, including Airports and National Grid putting the entire nation into total darkness.

Akpabio in a statement on Tuesday berated Labour’s action, saying it’s economic sabotage.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate after a motion sponsored by Diket Plang, Senator Representing Plateau Central, on the indefinite strike by the Labour, Akpabio said: “One of such excesses was the shutdown of the national grid, which is more of an economic sabotage than agitation for a new minimum wage.

“The disruption of hajj flights by some other labour unionists as said by the deputy president of the senate, is also not palatable as a religious exercise.

“Disruption or prevention of students from writing their West African School Certificate Examination by some labour unionists during the strike was bad because the examination is not organised by Nigeria but by West African countries.”

Responding to Akpabio, the NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero Esq, via a statement signed by Benson Upah, Head of Information and Public Affairs of NLC, on Wednesday, said Akpabio’s accusations are baseless and deeply troubling for Nigerian patriots and democracy advocates.

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The statement titled “MR SENATE PRESIDENT: THE TRUE ECONOMIC SABOTEURS ARE IN THE MIRROR – NLC TO SENATE PRESIDENT“, read in full:

“The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) strongly refutes Senate President Senator Godswill Akpabio’s recent claims that the indefinite nationwide strike by the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) constitutes economic sabotage. Such accusations are baseless and deeply troubling for Nigerian patriots and democracy advocates.

The strike, initiated on June 3rd, was in response to the federal government’s refusal to conclude the national minimum wage negotiations, reverse electricity tariff hikes, and end discriminatory consumer classifications. This legally conducted strike reflects the frustration of Nigerian workers facing economic hardships and deteriorating working conditions

Senator Akpabio’s statements undermine the democratic principles the Senate professes to uphold. The National Assembly, being the closest arm of government to the people, should understand the people’s sentiments. This ought to guide their actions and pronouncements accordingly.

Strikes are not only legal but a civic duty and a critical tool for holding those in authority and power accountable. It is a democratic right, essential for preventing dictatorship and social collapse.

For the past 25 years, the political elite wilfully sabotaged Nigeria through acts of corruption and abuse of power, not the workers. The true economic saboteurs are those looting national resources, not the labour force.

We, therefore urge, patriotic members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to distance themselves from these damaging remarks. Nigerian workers have the constitutional right to strike in response to unfair labour practices, and the NLC and TUC have exercised this right lawfully.

The economic issues prompting the strike, like electricity tariff hikes and unfair consumer classifications, are burdens that exacerbate poverty and inequality but from which the political elite are insulated. The NLC will continue to advocate for fair economic policies and a national minimum wage that is realistic.

Labour unions played a crucial role in restoring democracy to Nigeria, from which current lawmakers benefit, therefore, they will not sabotage it. The NLC remains committed to protecting workers’ rights and calls on government representatives to address the underlying issues leading to the strike-through constructive dialogue and genuine efforts to improve living standards instead of indulging in eye-service criticism.

The Senate President should be concerned about the militarisation of a purely trade union dispute instead of this unhelpful blame game. Let those who are inviting the military now remember when tomorrow comes. Nigerian workers cannot operate under military conditions in a democracy, we will resist this with everything we have. Doing this on time will avert another round of industrial crisis.

The Senate President’s subtle threat that the Senate will move into Executive Session to address the issue of our strike smacks of contempt for open and transparent debate which ought to be the bedrock of parliamentary proceedings. As he goes into the “coven”, the Senate President should realise that the right to strike is now settled by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) despite Senator Lalong as Minister of Labour voting against it. We call on him to retrace his steps and know that he is the President of the Senate and not Chairman of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria.

We remain open to dialogue with the government for sustainable solutions benefiting all Nigerians and expect proactive interventions to prevent anti-worker policies. We will not be intimidated by such unfortunate statements from the hallowed chambers of the Senate and we expect due apologies if it was a slip. Any attempt to undermine legitimate labour actions will not be acceptable to us.”

Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom is an experienced Journalist, Blogger and Writer with several years of experience. His stories are based on community development and have brought positive change across board.

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