Fed govt kicks as oil, electricity workers begin strike

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Sunday said loading of products, including aviation fuel, would stop from today as affiliates of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, begin an indefinite strike.

Also, electricity workers, on the platform of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, and National Union of Railway Workers, have also asked members to down tools and join the strike.

However, leaders of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Employees, NUBIFIE, said members may not effectively join the strike today because the union just concluded its delegates conference weekend, warning, however, that members would fully join should the strike persist.

But the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, insisted that the ULC was fake, since it was not recognized by government, and urged Nigerians to ignore the group.

Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Labour also held on to its earlier position that the ULC was not recognized by the Federal Government.

The Presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said last night that the Presidency stands by the Labour Minister’s position that the ULC is not recognised by the Federal Government.

However, leaders of Steel and Engineering Workers of Nigeria, SEWUN, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ISSSAN, National Union of Lottery Agents and Employees, Nigerian Union of Mine Workers, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Metal Product Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Fitters Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees and Academic Staff Union of Research Institute, among others, said their members would fully comply with the strike directive by the national leadership of ULC.

Lagos State Chairman of ULC and Lagos zonal chairman of NUPENG, Tokunbo Korodo, said though there was skeletal loading of products weekend, there will be total shut down of all loading activities by members today.

“What that means is that we are not going to load products across the country, including aviation fuel, from today until there is counter directive from the national leaders of our umbrella body, the ULC,” he said.

Similarly General Secretary of NAAPE, Ocheme Aba, said members will fully comply with the strike, noting that that the strike would be handled strategically.

“We are not going to confront anybody, but I can assure you that you will definitely feel the impact of the action,” he said.

In the same vein, Delta State Council of ULC has directed all affiliates in the state to immediately commence total withdrawal of services from today, in compliance with the resolutions of national leadership of the labour centre.

Chairman of the council, Comrade Williams Akporeha, said “We are not deterred but only very worried to hear this sort of comment from respected government officials who allowed undemocratic forces to corrupt and cripple the NLC.

“On behalf of the national leadership of congress, all our members in Delta State are hereby directed to proceed on an indefinite industrial action with immediate effect without fear of intimidation and harassment.

“We shall continue to monitor compliance and effectiveness until the Federal Government meets our demands already sent to the appropriate agents of government.”

Meanwhile, dismissing comments attributed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, that ULC has not been registered and is therefore an illegal body, President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, said that “ULC does not have any intention of joining issues seriously with the Minister or any other persons but the only thing we can tell them is that they should wait till when the strike commences, for action speaks louder than words.

“He (the minister) has unfortunately not realised that we have to save him and his Ministry which he has allowed to be rubbished by interest groups averse to honest engagements in the sector and the freedom of Nigerian workers by this action.

“We are sure that the minister must have been misquoted. We are not surprised. Let it be placed on record that the laws of our land – the Constitution and the Trade Union Act are on our side and fortunately, Ngige holds no judicial powers which he pretends to wield and cannot pontificate on the legality of ULC.

“He cannot be the person saying this because he knows what the law says on this. Nigerians should remember that TUC operated without certificate for 27 years and that was within the ambit of the law and Ngige knows this, unless he is saying this tongue-in-cheek. We, therefore, pronounce his comments as not only unfortunate but also illegal and should be ignored by all Nigerians.

“This strike on Monday must, therefore, go on, no matter their shenanigans. We must join hands to make it compelling! Don’t allow the ATMs to work, let the banks be closed and let us demonstrate the collective strength of Nigerian workers.

“Let us show once and for all that we can neither be intimidated nor purchased! Let us show them that it is only by meeting our demands that we can back down.”

It will be recalled that the ULC had earlier issued a 14-day ultimatum and and another seven-day notice to the Federal Government over an 11-point demand, threatening a nationwide strike should government fail to address the demands.

The seven-day strike notice which was termed “Final Notice”, expired last Friday. The group is demanding, among others, “that the Federal Government bans the stationing of the soldiers and Policemen in our workplaces and factory premises. This will stop employers who are now colluding with the Army and other security agencies from setting up garrisons in our factories for the purposes of intimidating and harassing workers in order to deny them their rights and privileges.

“The Army and the Police should immediately withdraw their garrisons in the different workplaces where they are currently stationed,” among others.

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