BY OUR REPORTERS
A national protest called by the Organised Labour over alleged “anti-people” policies of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration broke out as scheduled on Wednesday, 2 August, 2023 with protesters storming the National Assembly (NASS), Abuja which gates they brought down and barraged their way into the vast complex.
The development forced the Senate which was screening ministerial nominees at the time into a closed-door session.
Reports also have it that the Organised Labour, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliate unions also held the protests in other states of the Federation including Lagos, Abia, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Rivers, Zamfara, Katsina, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kwara, Ogun, Imo, Ondo, and Edo.
The Abuja protesters started off at the Unity Fountain from where they marched to the NASS Complex.
Before storming NASS, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, told the media at the Unity Fountain that there “is nothing stopping the protest, not even an overture from the government,” stressing that the Organised Labour would not shelve the protest until there is a desired response from the government.
Ajaero added that response from the states will determine “whether the protest will be from today, or tomorrow or next or till thy kingdom come, it is not by using force. We are here for the protest and to make a statement that since we started negotiation, that there is nothing we have in our hands,” he said.
The protest was called because President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had removed subsidy on petrol during his inauguration speech on May 29, 2023, with a litre of the petrol jumping from N184 to over N620 and food prices and general inflation galloping at an unprecedented rate.
Last week, the NLC issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government and demanded “the immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the federal government including the recent hike in PMS (Premium Motor Spirit) price, increase in public school fees, the release of the eight months withheld salary of university lecturers and workers”.
The union also demanded an upward review of the minimum wage from N30,000 to N200,000, saying that Nigerians have lost their peace of mind since the President’s “subsidy is gone” inauguration speech.
Several meetings between the Presidency and the unions on palliatives for Nigerians suffering hardship in the wake of the petrol subsidy removal proved abortive.
Also, the intervention of the Senate and the House of Representatives achieved no success as the unions insisted that the government’s palliatives’ package was out of touch with the economic realities that Nigerians face.
In a last-minute move to placate the aggrieved unions, President Tinubu, in a broadcast to Nigerians on Monday night, promised to review workers’ salaries and minimum wage.
He also announced a N75 billion palliative for the manufacturing sector, saying 75 businesses would benefit within a nine-month period spanning the third quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of next year. Tinubu went on to declare a N125 billion fund to energise “this very important sector”. According to him, provision has been made “to invest N100 billion between now and March 2024 to acquire 3000 units of 20-seater CNG-fuelled buses”.
However, the NLC immediately faulted the palliative measures announced by the President to cushion the biting effect of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians, saying the programmes to be rolled out by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government are totally out of touch with economic realities and hardship currently being faced by poor citizens.
The union said “the promises and assurances made by President Tinubu is not the silver bullet that Nigerians expected.” The NLC said the President was expected to tell Nigerians his plans to resuscitate public refineries which have been lying comatose for years but he was completely silent on the issue.