Nigerian civil society groups and other stakeholders on have strongly dissociated themselves from the country’s major labour unions for calling off their nationwide strike.
At a press briefing at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, the activists, led by Mr. Dino Melaye, a one-time federal lawmaker, accused the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of orchestrating a “charade” with the intention of deceiving Nigerians they were fighting in the interest of the masses.
“We dissociate ourselves from the leadership of organised labour,” Melaye said. “We cannot forget that every day they vowed and promised Nigerians in all languages and chanting songs that they will not cave in to pressure from the government until the price of fuel is returned to N65 per litre.”
Melaye, along with several other professional, religious, youth and labour leaders across all sectors of the economy who had condemned the government’s sudden removal of fuel subsidies on January 1 remained resolute in insisting the federal government reverse to N65 per litre of petrol.
After a week of nationwide demonstrations called by labour since January 9, which led to the death of numerous protesters and a freeze in economic activity across the country, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan went into negotiations with the leadership of organised labour headed by NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar and TUC President-General, Peter Esele. The outcome saw President Jonathan pegging the fuel price at N97, and labour backpedaling on their promises to millions of Nigeria.
“It is our firm belief that someday these men and women who chose to ignore the cries of the common people of this land and the promise they made to the trusting people but rather aligned with the conquering class will answer to the people of Nigeria,” Melaye added.
The social change activists, including Ezenwa Nwagwu (the Joint Action Front), Dr. Yunusa Tanko and Roz Ben-Okagbue (the Save Nigeria Group), Azeenarh Mohammed, Olaonikpekun Ademyemi, Kate Pam (Occupy Nigeria), Hon. Oyetakin Ebenezer (the Nigeria Advance Party), Pastor Sarah Omakwu (the Family Worship Centre), Dino Melaye (the Anti Corruption League) and Willy Ezugwu (CNPP), thereafter jointly presented a signed petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission calling for a probe of the petroleum sector. They also submitted to the anti-corruption agency a copy of the 2010 forensic report of KPMG, the international audit firm, which exposed the gross corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The coalition of the civil society groups also called on Nigeria’s petroleum minister and managers of key petroleum agencies to resign their positions pending investigations into alleged fraudulent payments on subsidy to fuel suppliers. Should they refuse, they said Nigerians expect President Jonathan to order them to “proceed on indefinite leave”, as an assurance of his genuine desire to fight corruption.
“The petroleum minister is well aware that a probe of the Petroleum Industry is a probe on her. We call on the minister to step aside during the period of probe so as not to influence the exercise knowingly or otherwise,” the statement from the civil groups read. “In the same vein, we call on the Group Managing Director of NNPC to step aside and also for the Executive Secretary of PPRA to do the same.”
While calling for a total reversal of the fuel pump price to N65 “before any deregulation of the downstream sector begins”, Occupy Nigeria, a movement of Nigerian citizens sharing the ideology of ensuring government officials are accountable and transparent to the citizenry, announced they would keep up the protests across Nigeria despite several threats by government officials on enforcing arrests of protesters. The members are scheduled to occupy spaces tomorrow by 4pm at Wuse 2, a highbrow area in Abuja.
“The statements and threats issued by the Minister of Information, Minister of Labour and the Attorney General of the Federation can in the least be described as misleading, blatant blackmail and an infringement on our fundamental right to legitimately and peacefully express ourselves,” Occupy Nigeria said in a statement. “Occupy Nigeria is only going to use democratic means as guaranteed by the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria to achieve our goals.”
The demands by Occupy Nigeria from the government and legislators, as signed by the Nigerian Youth League, the Youth Alliance Against Subsidy Removal, the Initiative For Transparency & Accountability, Reclaim Nigeria, the Youth Democratic Front, and the Nigeria Youth Leaders & Entrepreneurs Initiative, include:
• To set up a Judicial Panel of enquiry to investigate the human rights abuses and killings that took place during the protests;
• For the government to pursue with the same zeal security challenges facing the nation as it did fuel subsidy removal;
• To mandate the National Salaries and Wages Commission to effect a 50% cut in the salaries and allowances of members of the Executive and Legislative arms of government;
• To effect an immediate reduction in the unwieldy size of government;
• To make public the agreement reached between the government and NLC/TUC;
• To amend the constitution forthwith to the effect that at least 60% of our budgetary allocations shall cover capital projects; and
• The immediate replacement of Gordon Oboh, the Chief Security Officer of the President, and his trial for his involvement in unprovoked attacks on members of Occupy Nigeria on 9th of January 2012.