Though, the governors endorsed the fuel subsidy removal, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday in Abuja warned that the ongoing protest would last for weeks until government heeds its demands.
The peaceful march by the labour union and its civil society allies in Abuja witnessed more turnout yesterday, as more unions joined the protest.
The protesters started from Berger roundabout at about 9 am and terminated at Garki Area 1 roundabout in the Abuja metropolis.
NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, stated that the union would sustain the protest for weeks, adding however that labour was “open to dialogue anytime government deems it fit to negotiate with us”.
While addressing the protesters, Wabba explained that the protest was aimed at opposing obnoxious policies that are detrimental to the generality of Nigerians.
“This is about policy engagement, this is about resistance of a policy that has been imposed on us and therefore we have made the point clearly that
NLC must be seen to be consistent by standing by the truth and by the people, because these policies are not consistent with the ideas of ensuring social justice,” Wabba said.
He stressed that NLC would continue to resist the N145 price of petrol because it is exploitative.
“We will continue to resist the N145 fuel pump price, which is being imposed on us; this is a further exploitation despite the hardship in the country
. We were also told that the increase never had a bar.
“Therefore we thought that we should make this position known, so NLC should make the point known. We are not worried that we are fighting this battle alone, because historically NLC has always stood with the people,” he added.
On the court injunction obtained by the federal government stopping the protest, Wabba still maintained: “We have not been put on notice, but when we were meeting with government they tried to bring up that issue but as for today, I want to say clearly, we have not actually been served.”
Asked if labour will return to the negotiating table, the NLC president said: “We are open to dialogue anytime government invites us back to the table, but I am not sure that we have received any further invitation from government.
“The protest for now is going to be for at lest one or two weeks then we can now review our position and look at how best to look at a lot of other options.”
Supporting the NLC yesterday was the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), which cut short its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting to join the protest.
The National President of the association, Mr. Samson Ugwoke, said: “We have been directed by NLC that we should proceed on an indefinite strike. We stood by the NLC led by Wabba during the election and he was declared winner of the election.
“My organisation cannot be different from the position of the NLC. We belong to NLC. Whatever they say, is what we are in line with. We cannot be different NLC, even if we have a different opinion, that will be subsumed by the general opinion of the NLC.
“We are against the increase of N145. From the look of things, it will cause hardship and the government have not engaged the labour leadership properly. If they had engaged them and let them know the nitty gritty, purpose and problem that may arise, labour may go along with them.
“You know that labour is asking for N56,000 minimum wage and what we have now is N18,000. N18,000 cannot be useful to a worker. What are you going to do with N18,000 per month?
“And now that they have increased the petrol price to N145, you can see the hardship on workers?”