Subsidy war: Expect mother of all strikes from Monday –– Labour

•NLC, TUC take final decision today •People’s will must prevail

Nigerians should brace up, from Monday, for what the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday called the “Mother of all strikes”.

The President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, said yesterday that  Nigerians should  prepare for a prolonged strike from Monday if the government does not reverse the pump price to N65 per litre.

The NLC boss did not elaborate on what he meant by “Mother of all strikes”.

However, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) on Thursday threatened to shut down operations in the upstream and downstream sectors, including export terminals, if by Sunday the Federal Government refuses to revert the pump price of petrol to N65 per litre.

At a briefing in Lagos, PENGASSAN President, Babatunde Ogun, said, among other implications, Nigeria would default in its contractual obligations to the international community as there would be no crude and gas supplies.

According to him, it would cripple telecommunications, power and healthcare delivery to Nigerians and the country will not meet its crude production quota for the next six months.

His words: “PENGASSAN remains committed to the ongoing popular and nationwide protests, and will continue to work with all concerned groups to sustain the struggle, until the Federal Government respects the will of Nigerians. 

“The resolution of the House of Representatives and the Senate  has said it all. 

“All branches of PENGASSAN in the downstream, refineries and upstream sectors have been and shall remain fully mobilised in the actualisation of NLC/TUC directives on the on-going strike.” 

The Federal Government on Thursday night at a meeting with Labour insisted on full deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.

But the Labour insisted on the mandate from workers that  government must reverse the pump price to N65 per litre.

Apart from the reversal  to N65 per litre, Labour is also asking for a 90-day moratorium to allow a window for discussion between the government and stakeholders. The stakeholders will look at the challenges of subsidy withdrawal, pump price and ways for appropriate pricing for the PMS.

Both the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC), led by Comrade Peter Esele, are scheduled to  take a final decision today on whether to continue with the ongoing nationwide strike action or suspend it.

A labour leader, who spoke with our correspondents, said: “Saturday’s session will define the next stage of the strike. The NECs of the NLC and the TUC will meet to take a final decision on the negotiation offers from the government.

“After the NEC session, the labour leaders will also meet with the government on the same day. So, the strike might either be called off or continue.”

The General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, said: “Labour is giving Nigerians an opportunity on Saturday and Sunday to refresh and stock their homes with foodstuffs in readiness for a prolonged strike action from Monday.”

Notwithstanding, the Labour yesterday held a three-hour rally at Julius Berger Roundabout in Abuja.

At the rally, the NLC President insisted that the people’s will must prevail and “there is no retreat, no surrender on the demand for N65 pump price.”

He also asked Nigerians to prepare for the “Mother of all strikes” from Monday should  government fail to  reverse the pump price to N65 per litre.

Omar said: “They say in the definition of democracy, there are three sides. They say it is government of the people for the people and by the people. This word is true, no be so? Na so! But do you know the largest group of the people? No! That is the people. This means if you run government, it is people who will run government that is by the people. But if it is run for the people, therefore it is among the people that you choose another small number of people to go and do government.

“But when the large number says this is how it will be, is it justifiable for the small group that is working for this large number to say No? No! Therefore, the people’s will must prevail. I want to talk today very briefly but let me start, comrades, by telling you about where we are today.

“We have a committee that plans everything we do everyday. That is why we take different routes everyday. Today, in consideration of so many factors, our planners said the only way we can get relaxed is  during the weekend so that by Monday, if government is yet to change the 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 friends or even your parents 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”.

Omar added: “We want to make sure that people will get refreshed by the weekend, but Monday morning, it is going to be the ‘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 crowds, 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 Sunday. We will get ready for a greater struggle beginning from Monday.”

The NLC President debunked the insinuations that labour leaders have compromised. 

The NLC President said: “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.

“If anybody is practising true democracy, we are the people practising true democracy. We are saying that because people put us here, 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, comrades, 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? No!

“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 principals.

“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.

“If anybody is sending a text message to you, saying whatever, I want to assure you that as far as we are concerned, it is just blatant lies and nobody will intimidate us with those text messages. If anybody has given any money to anybody, let that person come us and say I have given a particular sum of money and we shall pray with everybody to say that whoever has done this, Holy Ghost fire!”

He added: “And to our Muslim brothers, we will also ask them to do Alqunut. That is to tell you that, as far as we are concerned, it is not about money. If it is about money, I tell you by now, we would have been exceedingly rich and we would also become part of the cabal but that is not our will. We have undertaken for ourselves that we must always stand by the masses and by the grace of the Almighty, so shall it be.

“Comrades, we have discussed here and I told you time without number that some government agencies have been trying all they could to destabilise us in Abuja . And the only way they think they can do that 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  always lies in 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, comrades 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.”

On his part, the President of the TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, said: “I want to say a very big thank you for all your support. The other people give them money. Did we give you any money? If they give you money, collect it because that money is your money that they have stolen. That money means the education of your children. That money means good roads, that money is your healthcare.

“One thing you must know, it is time for change. We must always seek good governance.  What do we want? Good governance.  It is only good governance that will change this country. The reason we are here is that we love Nigeria. If we love Nigeria we must love one another. It is for the love we have for Nigeria that is why we are here.”

The Vice-President of the NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu, said: “As the President of NLC has said, without your struggle, without your sacrifice, the Federal Government of Nigeria could not have met with the NLC and TUC yesterday.

“And for the first time in recent times, our President, the Vice President, the Senate Government and ministers have to meet to address the plights of Nigerians.  It is due to the struggle, which you have put up in Abuja , Lagos , in Kano , in Port-Harcourt and virtually in all the 36 states of the Ffederation. Let’s give them a hand of applause.

“We should not give up in this struggle. The struggle is not over until it is over. As Comrade Omar has said, please don’t let us lose our focus. We have to be organised, we have to be focused and we have to be purposeful. And we should not forget what is our demand. We don’t want other forces to add other agenda that are not our own. “Government itself is also spreading propaganda so that they can divide our ranks. This propaganda is what the NLC president has said that your leaders are being compromised. And I am happy he has addressed that”. 

He added: “There are also some forces who are not in government, who have different professions and they want to have a different agenda. I don’t want to mention names because now we have emergency comrades. Don’t you know what we call emergency comrades? Those who used to be in government and even oppressed workers.  They are now identifying with us. I don’t want to mention names but you know them.

“So we must be focused about our agenda. Now the second thing I want to raise is that there are those that are against the masses. Please, let us give one special Gbosa! to the House of Representatives Speaker for being with the masses and convening a meeting on a Sunday to address the plights of Nigeria and they passed a resolution to revert to N65. And they also called on Labour so that we can suspend the strike. I think we need to commend them on that.

“So, let also give the Senate President applause.  That is Senator David Mark. I also want to say that there are some of the governors but there are some terrible governors. And I want to say the governor of Enugu State,  we need to give a special boo to the Governor of Enugu State, Governor Sullivan Chime. He was not just pushing for the removal of subsidy but he was also attacking those that are protesting. He has a mobile court. This is a governor we will not only take to the judicial process in Nigeria.   

“So today we want to reaffirm solidarity to the people of Enugu State . I want to declare that we are fully in solidarity with them. And we call on President Jonathan that what he cannot do to Nigeria is that we have our right of freedom of assembly.  This is because no governor has the power of a president. Yet, we are peacefully protesting in Abuja . 

“So I want to say, comrades, forward ever and backward never. Stay with your leaders and your leaders will stay with you. Together with you, we are going to achieve victory.  We have decided to save Nigeria and there is no going back.”

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Subsidy war: Expect mother of all strikes from Monday –– Labour