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Northern Group rejects suspension of NLC, TUC strike

…Insists on massive protest.

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna 

Northern civil society, known as ‘Coalition of Northern Group’ (CNG), on Tuesday rejected entirely, the suspension of the NLC and TUC national mass action earlier scheduled for Monday, 28th September, 2020, against hike in petrol price and electricity tariff.

The Coalition has directed all her state chapters to intensify outreach with all sections of the Civil Society and credible NGOs and prepare for massive protest on a date to be announced soon.

They also directed state CNGs to prepare all the components of the northern society for the massive protest aimed at forcing the reversal of hike in petrol and electricity tariff and all other harsh economic policies pursued by the government. 

In an address at Arewa House in Kaduna, Tuesday, the group’s spokesperson, Abdul Azeez Suleiman, publicly condemned Labour Union leaders for “betraying the trust of the public” by compromising the expectations of the Nigerian general public. 

He said “The CNG and affiliates had indicated readiness to participate actively in a national mass action agreed to be spearheaded by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), from Monday, September 28, 2020, to force the Federal Government to reverse the increased prices resulting from downstream sector deregulation and tariff adjustment in the power sector.

“After sufficiently mobilizing Nigerians, NLC and the TUC surprisingly announced a 2-week suspension ostensibly following an agreement at a meeting with government officials on the eve of the planned action.

“The announcement said that the labour leaders had agreed that the hiked electricity tariff be suspended for 2 weeks, while the new pump price of petrol remains unchanged, at the expense of the majority of toiling Nigerians.

“Government was said to have committed to a set of vague promises of reactivating the nation’s refineries in addition to the following general interventions as palliative,” he said.

Suleiman, in company of many other members of the coalition, stated that government also committed to “Unveil a specific amount in two weeks’ time isolated from the Economic Sustainability Programme Intervention Fund to be accessed by Nigerian workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC for agricultural ventures. 

“Facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage to cushion the impact of the policy on the lowest vulnerable and provide to labour unions 133 CNG/LPG-driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale-up basis; thereafter, to all states and local governments before December, 2021.

Accordingly, they also stated that CNG is aware of promise by government to “Allocate 10% of housing to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative through the NLC and TUC.”

CNG said it “wishes to join the vast majority of Nigerians, whose interests were not in any way reflected or protected in the Labour/FG agreement, in arriving at the agreement.”

The body further observed that “The agreement reflected the concentration of negotiation on only the electricity tariff, which was just one demand out of many concerns raised by Nigerians, such as exploitative taxation, insecurity, infrastructural decay, massive unemployment and poverty.

That, “Even at that, no representation was made about the existing wide discrepancy between the electricity tariffs obtainable in the north, and those in the southern parts.

“That the agreement did not bind the Federal Government to a definite time-frame within which to revive the capacities of the national petrochemical refining assets.

“That the entire ‘palliative package’ does not reflect the overall interest of the mass of suffering Nigerians outside the fold of the NLC and TUC, which collectively accounts for only about 0.5%  of the total national population.

“That the package merely offers temporary relief to a minor section of the population with the vast majority condemned to suffer the harsh realities perpetually, as prohibitive fuel prices inadvertently reflect on other commodities.

“That this capitulation by the labour leadership signals the need for the formation of an alternative unified, more confident, and consistent national front  for undertaking further autonomous actions outside the workers’ unions,” they stated.

Our Stand – In line with the above observations, the group said:

“The fact that the Federal Government can no longer be trusted with its consistently inconsistent promises for the reactivation of our refineries since inception, the CNG hereby declares to demand the unification of the electricity tariffs between the North and the South, which must also be affordable.

“To reject the agreement reached by the Nigerian Labour leaders and the Federal Government in its totality, as it does not address the major grievances of Nigerians, nor reflect the interest of the vast majority of the population.

“To resist the deregulation of the downstream oil sector and insist on the immediate, unconditional and total reversal of the fuel and electricity tariffs to their former states before the increase.

“To liaise with other credible sections of the civil society to work for the creation of a stronger alternative or parallel platform for pursuing national grievances.

“Directed all CNG state chapters to intensify outreach with all sections of the civil society, credible non-governmental organizations and prepare every significant component of the northern society for a massive protest on a date to be announced soon, to force the reversal of this and all other harsh economic policies pursued by the government.

“To publicly condemn the Labour Union leaders for betraying the trust of the public by compromising the expectations of the general population of Nigerians,” CNG stated.

“If Nigerians, today, need to hear the truth, they should be told that they have leaders, who have lost the energy and courage to work to solve our basic socio-cultural problems, our regressing economy or address our precarious future; leaders, who prefer to leave the bulk of Nigerians in poverty, fighting each other, so that they can continue to manipulate us during elections.

“The Senate and House of Representatives in particular are, today, occupied by people poorly-prepared and ill-equipped, except for their ambitions for power and fantastic wealth, while abandoning the people at the mercy of armed crime and unforgiveable poverty.

“Everywhere in the world, the mass population and not labour unions, stand as the legitimate and natural claimants to staging protests for shaping the destiny of their societies.

“It therefore follows that, with the latest shameful drama by the Nigerian Labour leaders, the Nigerian masses, as major stakeholders in whatever happens in, and to Nigeria, are left with no option but to raise their level of vigilance over the direction and fate of the nation.

“We must collectively look ahead, be conscious of the present, and draw inspiration from the fact that we – and only we – can make our future better or worth.

“We conclude with the saying that, ‘Movements move congress and politicians, and not the other way around,’ to urge the mass population of Nigerians to be ready for a long haul, one that must continue until leaders are forced to enact meaningful change in the society,” it stated. 

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