FG begs NLC, TUC to withdraw strike ultimatum

Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Minister of State, Labour and Employment,

Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Minister of State, Labour and Employment,

..NLC President Ajaero insists on ultimatum

By Joan Nwagwu

The Federal Government on Tuesday appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to withdraw the 14-day ultimatum issued to the government on the non-implementation of the 16-point agreement reached with them on 2 October 2023.

Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Minister of State, Labour and Employment, made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of NLC and TUC on Tuesday in Abuja with a promise that the Federal Government will fast-track implementation of the agreement.

Onyejeocha said the government had stepped up efforts to complete the implementation of that agreement.

She added that payment of wage awards to workers will begin this week. The Minister added that the government has shown good faith on the agreements, considering the urgency of the issue at hand.

“I called this meeting because dialogue has always been the best way out, and we are all for the well-being of our people. I am here to show good cause on why some agreement has not been met,” she said.

Onyejeocha noted that the reaction of the Labour organisations was not unwarranted in the face of government’s non-completion of the agreement.

She said that some items in the agreement could only be achieved in stages.

She, however, expressed the hope that the discussion would lead to the withdrawal of the ultimatum by labour.

The minister assured labour of Mr President’s sincerity of purpose and unflinching dedication to the implementation of that agreement.

Onyejeocha also assured them that President Tinubu would leave no stone unturned to satisfy the demands of the labour organisations.

According to her, “I want to promise that the government would keep working towards the complete implementation of the agreement and I therefore request the Labour unions to withdraw their ultimatum.

“I plead with you to sheath your sword. We have been showing good faith; it is just that it is not commensurate with your expectations

“But I promise you that we will surpass your expectation this time, and I believe that everything will go well,” she said.

Also, Mr Michael Oluwagbemi, Programme Director and Chief Executive of the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) initiative, who spoke virtually noted that government had made 70 per cent payment for the new the CNG buses and kits.

Oluwagbemi said that some of the buses were ready. They expect to start assembling others locally, including the tricycles, between March and April 2024.

Speaking, Mr Joe Ajaero, the NLC President, called on the Federal Government to be committed to beating the deadline of the 14-day ultimatum that started on Feb. 9, 2024, by ensuring the implementation of that agreement.

No Going back on Ultimatum

Ajaero insisted on their resolve to stand by their ultimatum.

He added that every party to the agreement should endeavour to live up to expectation for the interest of Nigerians and the government.

Ajaero said that organised labour would always fulfil its part of the bargain, so long as the federal government would do same.

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Also, Mr Tommy Okon, First Deputy President of TUC, also expressed disappointment on the federal government’s gradual approach to the implementation of the signed agreement.

“We have a lot of respect for you, Hon. Minister, that’s why we are here. We don’t need to beg government to do what is right.

“Let me tell you, we, the organised labour, are the ones managing crisis in this country for the government; if not, we wouldn’t be here today discussing these issues,” he said.

The meeting agreed on an immediate joint inspection visit to the Port Harcourt Refinery.

This will enable Labour to confirm the reported progress made in getting the refinery back to operation.

Organised labour on February 8 issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement 16-point agreement it reached with the Federal Government on Oct. 2, 2023 to address the hardship caused by removal of fuel subsidy removal and other issues in the country.

Agreements Not Implemented

The ultimatum begins on Feb. 9, according to a statement jointly signed by the NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, and Mr Festus Osifo, President, Trade Union Congress (TUC).

NLC and TUC had in the statement accused the Federal Government of failure to implement majority of the agreements, a situation they said was indicative of disregard for the principles of good faith, welfare and rights of Nigerian workers and Nigerians.

“Government’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain is deeply regrettable and unacceptable to the working people and the citizenry.

“Recognising the imperative of ensuring and protecting the rights and dignity of Nigerians, the NLC and TUC hereby issue an ultimatum to the Federal Government to honour its part of the agreement within 14 days.

“The ultimatum begins to count from Feb. 9,’’ the labour leaders stated.

They noted that the agreement focused on addressing the general harsh socioeconomic consequences of the hike in the price of petrol and the devaluation of the naira.

They noted also that the dual policies had dire economic consequences for the masses and the Nigerian workers.

“Widespread hunger is now ravaging millions of Nigerians, with workers’ purchasing power significantly eroded, while insecurity has assumed an increasing dimension.

“Nigerians are left wondering where their next meals will come from and what tomorrow might bring.

“The level of panic and anxiety amongst the populace has become nightmarish,’’ they stressed.

The labour leaders demanded that everything must be done within the two weeks to avoid a situation where further proper appropriate steps would be taken to protect Nigerian workers and the masses.

“We call on the Federal Government to honour its commitments without delay. The time for empty promises and excuses has passed.

“The time for action is now. Our patience has worn thin and the situation has become unbearable for workers and masses all over the federation.

“Further silence amounts to committing mass suicide and this remains the only feasible course of action left for us and Nigerians to compel remedial action by government,’’ they also stated.


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