The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is pressing ahead with its nationwide protests in solidarity with university unions to force the Federal Government to meet their demands.
It insisted that the protests would hold in states today as planned.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the Congress would commence a three-day warning strike immediately after the protest.
According to him, an indefinite workers’ strike may follow should the government fail to resolve the issues that caused the strike.
Wabba spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing 18th NLC Rain School 2022 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
He said: “The protest happening tomorrow (today) is not a solidarity protest but a protest of NLC against government actions that lead to our universities being shut down and our kids staying at home instead of going to school.
“All the unions directly involved in the strike are NLC affiliates and their members are part of NLC.
“We have taken three levels of decision. First is the protest which is going to be nationwide.
“After the protest, a three-day national warning strike will start, and if they fail to resolve the issues and bring back our kids to school, we go on indefinite strike. That is the decision of our National Executive Council.
“What will be helpful for them is to check the timeline we have given for them to resolve the issues.
“We are optimistic that they will be willing this time because we are also willing to get our children back to school.”
Wabba decried the worsening economic conditions.
He said: “I never knew that the exchange rate has moved within a week from N630 to N670. This is very frightening and it erodes the purchasing power of workers.
“There is no way we can continue in this direction and expect that there will be shared prosperity.
“Importantly is the issue of our children that are out of school for five months.
“What is even more worrisome is the fact that they keep posting the graduation of their children in universities outside the country on social media and then the universities where the children of the working class study are closed down.
“I was told today that we have three sets of students that ought to be in the university but unfortunately they have not even sorted out their admission challenges.
“So, it is a very frightening future for Nigerians, particularly the youths.
“The irony of it is that most of the political elites today benefited from free public education. Why is it impossible for them to fix our public education system? Is it about the class divide?
“It honestly beats somebody’s imagination. That is why all of these issues resonate that we need to engage politically. We have also realised the fact that they have used different approaches to divide Nigerians.
“Unfortunately for them, NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation that cannot be divided.
“Workers should not allow themselves to be divided along ethnic or religious lines. This is just a diversion of interest. Their division tool is happening now.
“Workers should be wiser, citizens should be wiser. We should work assiduously to unite Nigerians and not to divide them.”
State chapters of the NLC have expressed readiness to join the protest.
Imo State council of the NLC directed workers to join the rally.
State chairman, Phillip Nwansi and Secretary, Ken Onwuemeodo, urged members to appear in their trade union straits and banners for proper identification.
The take-off point is the NLC Secretariat, Labour House, new Owerri.
The Oyo State chapter of the NLC said it was ready.
State secretary, Adebayo Aribatise, said the state executive council, civil society groups as well as the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANs) had been mobilised.
The protest which will take off from the NLC State Secretariat, Labour House, American Quarter, Ibadan and will terminate at the Oyo State Secretariat, Agodi Ibadan.
He added that adequate security measures have also been put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property while the protest lasted.
The Bayelsa State Police Command said that there was no cause for alarm concerning the NLC solidarity protest over the ASUU strike.
Spokesman for the command Asinim Butswat said the police authorities had made adequate security arrangements to ensure that hoodlums do not hijack the protest.
NLC chairman in the state, Mr Bipre Ndiomu, did not respond to phone calls.
Workers in Enugu State said they were set for the pro-ASUU rally.
The workers, who condemned the government’s stance on the prolonged university strike, said they would troop out in their numbers for the protest.
NLC chairman, Virginus Nwobodo, said security arrangements had been made.
“We will all assemble at the Labour House, Enugu and march from there to the Enugu State government house,” he said.
The Rivers branch of the NLC declared its readiness for the two-day solidarity protest.
The Chairperson, Beatrice Itubo, confirmed that security agencies had promised to monitor the protest.
“There is no threat to the protest. We are calling on all the workers to come out en masse,” he said.
The NLC in Delta State Chapter said members had been mobilised.
The Secretary, Innocent Ofoyandi, said the union had interfaced with security agencies, promising that the protest will be peaceful.
It will commence from Labour House in Asaba, the Delta State Capital.
NLC State Chairman in Ogun, Emmanuel Bankole, said arrangements towards mass participation of members and affiliates have since been concluded, adding that they are battle ready for it.
“It is on topmost gear now. We are battle ready for the protest. Everything is set in Ogun State. All our affiliates are joining us except the Trade Union Congress.
“They have just conducted their delegates conference and are trying to first settle down and put their house in order,” Bankole said.
About 5,000 Osun State workers are expected on the streets of Osogbo, the state capital, for the protest.
State Chairman of NLC, Jacob Adekomi, met with several union leaders and stakeholders in Osogbo yesterday.
“It’s going to be a big rally. We are taking off from Ogo-Oluwa towards the secretariat to drop our letter of demand. We are moving by 9:30 am,” he said.
Pupils of Sunshine Nursery and Primary School, Ile-Ife, Osun State, yesterday staged a solidarity protest for ASUU in front of the Obafemi Awolowo University.
The pupils, accompanied by their teachers, held placards and chanted solidarity songs.
The inscriptions read: “Stand up for ASUU, stand up for us”, “I am the future ASUU make no mistake about it”, “Don’t borrow our future away”, and more.
They urged the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the incessant industrial action in the interest of their future.
One of the pupils, Eyinimofe Lawal, told reporters that they were pained by the prolonged strike and were out to express their grievances so that the Federal Government can find a solution to the imbroglio.
He said: “We are here to beg the government to listen to ASUU and open the gate of universities for learning to resume for our elder brothers and sisters”.
Nasarawa State chapter of the NLC directed all its members to mobilise for the protest.
Chairman Yusuf Iya, in a statement by Assistant Secretary Usman Mohammed Musa, said all workers in the state are to assemble at the state Secretariat of the union by 8 am to match to the government house.
The Adamawa chapter of NLC said it was set.
State NLC chairman, Emmanuel Fashe, said the protest would be peaceful.
“We are mindful of miscreants coming to take advantage of the protest to cause problems.
“We have put in place measures to check it should there be any,” he said.
Plateau restates ban on protests
Labour in Plateau said it was ready for the rally.
Police spokesman, Alfred Alabo, said: “The Command will deploy enough personnel to ensure peaceful protest or rally in Plateau state.”
But the state government, in a statement by Commissioner of information, Dan Manjang, reminded NLC members that “the ban on is any form of procession under whatever guise is still in force in Plateau State”.
“It is in this light, therefore, that the state government wishes to advise against the holding of the planned protest as it will be in contravention of the existing ban.
“The government thereby advises that such decision if contemplated by the state chapter of the NLC be rescinded in the interest of peace and security of Plateau,” the statement added
The state said it would not fold its arms and watch the peace enjoyed in the state be jeopardised by hoodlums hijacking the protest.
“The office of the Head Of Civil Service has been directed to act appropriately and dialogue with Labour and its officials in the state.
“Similarly, Governor Simon Bako Lalong has directed the security agencies to be on alert in an event of any eventuality and also ensure compliance with the relevant ban that prohibits such procession,” the statement added.