DIVIDED LABOUR: TUC FIGHTS NLC OVER COST OF LIVING PROTESTS

The Trade Union Congress has warned that the planned protest on February 27 and 28 being championed by the Nigeria Labour Congress may lead to anarchy.

This is as the union stated that the country was too volatile and tense because of the prevailing hunger in the land.

This warning was made by the Deputy President of the TUC, Dr Tommy Etim, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH.

The Organised Labour plans to embark on a two-day strike on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the hardship currently being faced by Nigerians following the dramatic hike in the prices of goods and services due to the removal of fuel subsidy and the free fall of the naira, among others.

Pockets of protests had broken out in Kano, Niger, Oyo and Osun, among other states, with protesters urging the government to take decisive steps to bring the hardship to an end.

Nigeria’s annual inflation rate climbed to a near 28-year high of 29.9 per cent in January, up from 28.9 per cent in December and above market forecasts of 29.5 per cent.

Food prices are at an all-time high, with a bag of long-grain rice hitting N77,000.

Several videos online have shown netizens lamenting the increase in the prices of consumer goods like toothpaste, butter, and tin tomatoes, among others, and asking the President, Bola Tinubu to intervene.

Many have also expressed their willingness to join the NLC protest to press home their demands for a change in the economic trajectory of the country.

However, the TUC backed out, saying that it was not aware of the planned rally. This caused a crack in the wall of the Organised Labour.

Although the NLC has insisted that the two-day rally must be held, the TUC has stated that it will not be part of the demonstration.

Etim, while commenting on the planned rally, stated that it was ill-timed and urged the NLC not to plunge the country into anarchy.

Speaking on why the TUC backed out of the proposed protest, the labour leader accused the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, of running a one-man show by failing to carry members of the TUC along in his decision to declare a two-day strike.

Etim said the NLC had slighted the TUC in making unilateral decisions four times, adding that it was now a deliberate act.

He said, “When one claims that a mistake is done and it is one that a mistake can be accepted as a mistake, but, when it is up to four times, it is now a deliberate action.

“The first thing is that when you issue an ultimatum to the government, the NEC is supposed to meet to review it. When they do, they will then make a decision.

“In this case, the ultimatum given to the Federal Government was still on and the NLC president decided to announce that they would be going on protest as though he had not been in industrial relations practice or law. It baffles us. We cannot take that.

“What is the essence of unionism if you don’t come together for a particular cause? So, adopting a situation where two centres have been on the ground and one feels it has superior knowledge is not a good one at all.

“I feel that he should be sensitive to know that the struggle is not a one-party affair and we must save the country. We have to be a united force. And we have also said that a people united cannot be defeated. The President must leave up to his responsibility.”

No going back – NLC

Reacting, the Head of Information for the NLC, Benson Upah, in a chat with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, insisted that the planned protest would hold, adding that the congress was in touch with the TUC.

“We are going ahead with the protest come February 27 and 28. There is no reason for us to change our minds on that,” Upah noted.

On Etim’s statement of the TUC being sidelined by the NLC, Upah simply said, “We are in touch with the TUC. We are one family.”

However, Etim said the TUC had not received a letter of apology, adding that the NLC must understand that it could not carry out such a national assignment in disunity.

He further stressed that the disagreement between both labour unions would not affect the workers’ needs.

“Whatever happens now will embolden us. There is no organised labour trade centre that cannot fight on its own, but we decided to come together. We feel that fighting alone without unity will not give us the result,” he added.

Protest ill-timed – TUC

Etim said the Organised Labour could get its demands without protests, adding that all it needed to do was strategic engagement.

According to him, if the protest goes on as planned, it may be hijacked by anarchists and turn chaotic.

He said, “If we carry out a protest in this time of hunger and we may meet anarchy. A hungry man is an angry man, and any protest at this time can snowball into a revolution, which we cannot contain.

“Take what happened in Imo State where Ajaero himself went there after several warnings. If not for the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, the NLC leader would have been killed.

“When there is tension in the land, we must be very sceptical and strategic in our agitation. We are not babies; we have been long in this struggle. I, for one, have been in this struggle for 35 years. Sentiments and pride don’t pay.”

On rumours that the TUC might have been compromised by the Federal Government, Etim said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion but the thing is for sure, hunger knows no religion, political party or ethnic sentiments.

“Whether you are a big man or not, your family members are also feeding on you; and if they are parasitic, you will know that one rich man in a community is poor.

“Whatever we are doing, we must recognise that it is time to rescue Nigeria and we cannot just sit down and say a protest will solve the matter.

“Yes, we can mobilise. Yes, protest is our right. But, I think we should be strategic to know that we must carry everyone along rather than thinking we can do it alone. A fight of this nature is not a one-man fight.

“We at the TUC don’t issue threats and back down. The NLC is synonymous with issuing protest threats and backing out, and we don’t want to be a part of that. Any day we issue a notice of action, we carry it to the letter. If you follow our trajectory, you’d know that we always walk our talks.”

Police warn anarchists

The Taraba, Kaduna and Rivers police commands have warned hoodlums to steer clear of protest grounds during the rally proposed by the NLC.

The Taraba State command, on Friday, said it had placed its personnel on high alert to ensure that hoodlums did not take advantage of the protest to ferment trouble.

Though the Police Public Relations Officer, SP Usman Abdullahi did not take his calls, a senior police officer in the command, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone, said the Commissioner of Police in the state had deployed enough personnel for the protest to prevent the breakdown of law and order.

“In our meeting earlier today (Friday), we deliberated on security issues in the state, including the planned protest by the NLC. I can assure you that our personnel are on red alert to prevent any break down of law and order,” the senior officer said.

In Kaduna, the state police command appealed to the leadership of the NLC to shelve the planned two-day nationwide protest.

The command’s Public Relations Officer, ASP Mansir Hassan, said the plea became necessary because of the precarious nature of the state, which has been enjoying relative peace for a while now.

The police spokesman, however, noted that if the organised labour decided against the appeal, the command would provide adequate cover for the protesters.

He, however, warned the NLC to ensure utmost civility and be law-abiding.

According to him, members of the Organised Labour should know that their rights end where other citizens’ rights begin.

Hassan also warned hoodlums against infiltrating the protest, which he insisted must be peaceful.

The police chief said, “We are appealing that the protest should not even hold. They should understand the nature of Kaduna that it is not everywhere they should come and protest.

https://punchng.com/cost-of-living-protest-tuc-faults-nlc-says-action-may-bring-anarchy/?amp

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