The Federal Government and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, may be on a collision course over the labor movement’s nationwide protest scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday over the five-month-old strike launched by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other university unions in response to the federal government’s failure to meet their demands.
While the government declared the NLC’s proposed nationwide protest in solidarity with the striking members of the university-based unions illegal, the NLC claimed that no law in the country prohibited it from protesting without permission.
In fact, the government also stated that civil aviation workers should not participate in the proposed two-day nationwide protest, despite the fact that the Nigerian constitution and the UN charter on human and peoples’ rights both guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and protest.
Remember that the NLC announced a nationwide protest on July 26 and 27 to emphasize the importance of ending the country’s four university-based unions’ five-month strike.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT are the four unions.
Briefing State Department correspondents The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said yesterday at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber in Abuja, that because the NLC had no dispute with the government, its planned street protest was illegal.
The Minister observed that the NLC was acting in its own self-interest, noting that it should completely isolate itself from politics.
In response to a question about the proposed strike by organized labor, Mohammed stated, “While we’re still on Labour, I think we should start interrogating what labor is doing.” The NLC is not a political organization. If the rights of NLC members are at stake, the NLC may go on strike or protest.
“What the NLC has planned for the next two days is about generating interest.” There is no disagreement between the NLC as an organization and the federal government. Yes, there is a dispute between some members of the NLC, ASUU, or whatever and the federal government that is being investigated, and the NLC is a party to the committee investigating the solution.
“By calling out people on the streets, you begin to wonder what the NLC’s motivation is in this matter.” But, as you can see, we do not question what the NLC is doing. The NLC is not even allowed to distribute pamphlets under its own rules. The NLC is supposed to be completely independent of politics. Yes, you can go on strike if you have a disagreement with us.
“Even that one would depend on whether or not certain steps were taken.” But this NLC, you know, asking and mobilizing people to strike on July 26 and 27, is clearly for nothing.”
When reminded that the NLC was concerned about the ongoing strike, which is affecting their children, he stated, “The federal government is as concerned as the NLC and everyone else, but the law is the law.” What we are saying is that, rather than protesting, I expect the NLC to work with the federal government to find a solution.
They are a part of the three-way agreement being negotiated with the federal government on the ASUU issue. So why are they going out to pick sides now? I believe you are also questioning it. I believe it is popular to bring the NLC out and show support, but ask yourself how this solves the problem.
“What you’ll end up with is more anarchy.” And I believe the NLC should reconsider their proposed strike in solidarity with ASUU. It appears that the federal government is doing nothing to address ASUU. No. And they’ve been involved in this negotiation since the beginning, so why now?”
Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, responded to a question about how concerned he was about the threat of the aviation union joining the ASUU strike by saying, “I’m naturally concerned about this if the aviation union will shut down in support of ASUU.”
They don’t need to, in my opinion. I’ll also say that we should start thinking about civil aviation as a critical national security enterprise. It has all of the ramifications.
“We should not even think about an aviation disaster.” We should also consider the general activity on the Nigerian economy in the absence of civilization. It’s fine. This is democracy; you can press for demands, but you must be reasonable in your demands.”
“So, civil aviation workers, I believe, should not be included in this.” Yes, I am concerned, and yes, we have spoken with them; however, I do not believe they will join because they understand the weight of life on their shoulders.
“It involves national security if you’re an air traffic controller.” It entails the ability to repel external aggression, among other things. I believe they are well aware of the enormous responsibility that they bear in civil aviation and should continue to do so in order to be as law-abiding as we expect.”
When asked if he had spoken with the aviation union, Senator Sirika replied, “Yes, it is an ongoing thing.” So, in civil aviation, we talk to them almost every day. They are a part of who we are. They are employees, just like everyone else, and we interact with them.
“In the ministry, we have their own representatives who speak to me on a regular, if not daily, basis. Yes, we have spoken, and I do not believe they will join, and yes, we are concerned, but we are also reminding them of the enormous responsibility that rests on their and our shoulders.”
When asked if the President’s two-week directive to resolve the issue was achievable, Senato4r Chris Ngige said he proposed one week to resolve the issue but noted that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, volunteered to resolve the issues with ASUU in two weeks, adding that he hoped the issue would be resolved on time.
He advised the unions to take their case to the Ministry of Education, which had been tasked by the President with resolving the issue.
Meanwhile, Ngige has told journalists that the media report that President Buhari ordered him to halt renegotiations with the striking unions on Tuesday was false.
“Anyway, I saw one of the dailies writing something like that today (Wednesday), but the truth of the matter is there is no such thing, it’s just a categorical untruth, there is nothing like handsoff,” Ngige said, describing the report as false.
However, organized labor stated that it would not fold its arms if some of its affiliate unions had disagreements with the government.
It also stated that the law requires no permission for any peaceful assembly or protest.
While reacting to the federal government’s position on labor’s participation in the proposed solidarity protest, NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba stated, “It is elementary knowledge that the right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, the UN Charter on human and people’s rights.”
“Our current crop of political elites has revoked this right.” Second, because the NLC is directly involved in the current dispute involving four of its affiliate trade unions in the university education system, namely SANNU, NASU, NAAT, and ASUU, Lai Mohammed is economically on the right track.
“As citizens, our children have been absent from school for five months, and their futures are being shattered.” It’s reason enough for a national outcry. According to the law, no permission is required for any peaceful assembly or protest. In a democratic society, Lai Mohammed’s statement is illegal and lacks legal foundation.”