The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) may have begun to review its strategy in an effort to ensure fuller compliance by workers and higher level of success of the strike called to protest the recent fuel price increase which enters its second day today.
The NLC had attributed the low turnout that greeted its nationwide strike yesterday to late mobilisation of state councils and critical unions just as the three academic staff unions in the tertiary education sector are set to join the action today.
It also emerged that the NLC did not seem to have done much to convince workers that their jobs would be safe if they defied the National Industrial Court Order banning the strike and joined the action.
Without such conviction, and worried about their jobs, government workers in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, yesterday took their own fate into their hands, as they resumed in their various duty posts despite the strike notice by the NNLC).
Near-normal activities continued in Lagos, Kaduna and Abuja except for rallies along major roads and public spaces as motorists, workers and schools ignored the call by NLC to embark on strike over the increase in pump price of fuel from N86.50 to N145 per litre.
The protest in Lagos which started from the NLC office in Yaba and headed for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport was largely peaceful, as union leaders urged their members to protest peacefully. A combined team of Mobile Police and the Rapid Respond Squad (RRS) followed them to maintain law and order.
Recalling the industrial actions embarked upon during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and court the Secretary to Joint Action Front Abiodun Aremu who spoke on the sidelines of the protest said: “We have never obeyed such an injunction. During the Obasanjo time, there were three of such black market injunctions under the leadership of Adams Oshiomhole, these were never followed up, and we never obeyed them. Nobody can give an injunction to a man that is hungry.”
At the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Kano, three out of the five associations under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), joined the strike while the remaining two did not comply with the NLC directive.
The three associations that joined the strike action were said to be directly under NLC, namely Medical Health Workers Union of Nigeria, National Association of Nurses and Midwives and Non Academic Staff Union.
Also, civil servants in Kaduna State defied the order of the NLC to stay at home as banks, schools, markets and other private establishments in the state capital opened for normal business.
But efforts by airline operators to resume full operations yesterday morning were disrupted for a while by protesters around the Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2), Lagos.
Joint factions of the Nigeria Labour Union, Trade Union Congress and National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) stormed the Lagos Airport Road blocking passengers’ route to catch morning flights yesterday.
The development led to some passengers missing their flights as traffic snarls built inwards the airport, leaving passengers trekking long distances to meet their flight schedule.
With the return of aviation fuel supplies late Tuesday, expectations were high that full services would commence, but the strike impeded some operations until mid day.
On Labour’s efforts to ground operations, General Manager Public Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Yakubu Dati said: “Well, it is a free country but we at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria are committed to ensuring that we give the services that we are being paid for and that is why we are out to ensure that we continue with our operations and we also want to thank the security agencies who have ensured that the operations at the airports across the country are going on as scheduled .” As early as 7:00 a.m., yesterday, many government workers in Lagos and Abuja particularly, were sighted at designed points waiting for their staff buses which arrived on schedule. Many were also at the bus stops struggling for spaces in public vehicles.School buses also moved about freely, picking pupils, students and officials. It was as if they were ignorant of the strike by NLC.Banks and private enterprises opened for business.
At the Federal Secretariat, combat-ready policemen were stationed at strategic places as if expecting trouble.Workers were at their duty posts, many of them scared that government would make true its threat to enforce the ‘no work, no pay rule’.
They arrived at their offices eagerly expecting the attendance registers where they would register their presence as directed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The registers never came.