The Joint Action Front (JAF) has tackled the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) over the suspension of the nationwide strike on the removal of fuel subsidy by the President Bola Tinubu government.
This was contained in a press statement jointly signed by Dr Dipo Fashina, JAF Chairperson, and Comrade Abiodun Aremu, JAF Secretary, while expressing their disappointment on how the NLC leadership failed to understand the current economic hardship most Nigerians are facing due to the removal of fuel subsidy.
The statement reads: “The Joint Action Front (JAF) receives with disappointment the suspension of the strike that was scheduled to commence on Wednesday, July 7 by the Nigeria Labour Congress against the criminal hike in petrol price under the guise of fuel subsidy removal. We feel strongly that the NLC should have gone ahead with the action in compliance with the resolution of its NEC of June 2 as the government had not met the demand for the reversal to petrol prices, which was rightly made as the condition precedent for any further negotiation.
“At the moment, millions of workers and poor Nigerians are finding it hard to go out daily to earn their living. Society is in a state of semi-paralysis and the worsening socio-economic situations have forced governments in Kwara and Edo States to direct their workers to only come to work thrice in a week. In other states, workers are trekking to work. This is aside many others, who depend on generators to carry out their socio-economic activities at work and domestic activities at home, in order to endure darkness because they cannot afford the new petrol price.
“This deplorable state of hardship cannot continue for long before a social explosion, would inevitably occurs! Unfortunately, the trade unions leadership’s capitulatory approach of negotiating for palliatives, which even, if granted, will not cushion the effect of the subsidy removal for the majority of the population! The tradition of the Labour movement is to stand firm in a principled struggle, by insisting not only on the reversal of the hike in the petrol price but to advance the demand for public ownership of the oil and gas sector under workers' control and democratic management!”
Hence, JAF urged Nigerians, particularly the poor masses not to be silent while facing the heat of the hard economic situation the newly inaugurated government of Bola Tinubu imposed on them.
The statement continued: “In view of this, JAF hereby calls on Nigerian workers, youth and the poor not to be demoralized by the highly condemnable surrender to the Government’s intimidation of black market court injunction, without any iota of commitment to fight in defence of the working people and poor! Even, the new Government and its hurriedly packaged negotiators of ex-trade union bureaucrats in admixture with NNPC and private individuals on the Government’s team were alarmed to have an easy ride to victory! The Government’s had a price on which to negotiate, as a fall back position, but nothing the leadership of the trade unions could have negotiated in the absence of adequate organising, en-mass mobilisation and materials readiness to inspire the workers and the population, other than to surrender to the regime and its IMF-World Bank deceptive imposition!
“We consider it even more worrisome the reason given in the communique of the NEC of the NLC of June 6 for the suspension which was the need to obey the black-market injunction procured by the government in the name of a so-called rule of law. We are of the opinion that this decision has set a bad precedent that will be exploited by the government whenever workers embark on a strike forced on them by the refusal of the same government to fulfil its own obligation or meet the legitimate demands of workers. We already saw this with the last strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. We hold that even on the basis of the principle of reciprocity given the blatant breach of the 2023 Appropriation Act, which makes the provision for petrol subsidy up till the end of June, by Bola Tinubu’s government, the NLC had a solid ground to disregard the injunction procured by the same government. The same bourgeois rule of law has a maxim that says one who comes into equity must come with clean hands. So, as against the suggestion in the communique of the June 5 NLC’s NEC, going ahead with an action aimed at defending the interest and living conditions of the vast majority of Nigerians does not amount to encouraging lawlessness.
“We in the JAF and other organisations of the people should be prepared to provide leadership should the mass of Nigerians decide they want to take their destinies in their own hands. To this effect, mass meetings need to be held and democratic committees of struggles need to be set up at all workplaces, communities and campuses. And such a series of activities should be linked up across cities and states in order to provide a powerful lever for the struggle against this criminal policy of fuel imposition. Through consistent but determined mass protests and demonstrations across the length and breadth of the country, we can compel the regime to reverse this criminal policy,” the statement concluded.