The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has said that labour leaders in Nigeria deliberately compromised Monday’s planned nationwide strike against fuel price hike and electricity tariff because they were induced with positions by the federal government.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Monday withdrew at the last minute from the planned nationwide strike action to compel the government to reverse hikes in the price of petrol and electricity tariff, saying they have agreed with government officials on a two-week period within which government will make some adjustments.
CHRICED said on Monday in a press release signed by its director which a Nigerian online medium, Nigerian Sketch, said it obtained that it has carefully studied the excuses given by the two labour unions to shelve the general strike and protests.
Its executive director, Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said “While we are not advocating for a strike action for the fun of it, we make no mistake about the fact that the Nigerian people need to send a strong message to the government that its strangulating policies are unacceptable.
“It is apparent from the details of the agreement signed with the federal government that Labour has once again sold out cheaply. It is shameful that the leaders of the two labour centres have now reduced important and historic struggles of the Nigerian people for social and economic justice to opportunities to grab appointments in various government committees.
“It is yet another grand betrayal by labour to have allowed itself to be bought over by government’s empty promises to take steps to ostensibly cushion the effects of the harsh policies it has unleashed on citizens. It is equally sad that rather than press the government to address the fundamental issues, which necessitated the strike, labour continued its trend of betraying workers by essentially rolling over to allow the government have its way.
“One of the major issues, which labour capitulated on is hike in the price of petroleum products. Inasmuch as CHRICED does not support an unsustainable subsidy regime, it is clear that Nigeria’s hopeless dependence on fuel importation will keep the nation in a viscous cycle of endless price hikes. As far as we can see, government has not offered any tangible road map to end dependence on fuel importation. Yet, labour lamely accepted the argument that price should be hiked in addition to the token of 133 buses to serve as palliatives.
“Ironically, the important question left unanswered is, if 133 buses would really cushion the multiplier effects of the hike in terms of galloping inflation, higher cost of basic necessities like food, transport, healthcare, school fees; cost of doing business and increase in the rate of unemployment as a result of the strangulating business environment.
“Similarly, labour fell flatly for the government’s gimmick of a two-week suspension of electricity tariffs, which are already being collected by the electricity distribution companies. Does labour have a mechanism to verify compliance with this phoney directive? What happened to the key demands of the Nigerian people for quality electricity service delivery before even talking of any tariff adjustments?” he asked.
He also expressed dissatisfaction that the issue of VAT increase completely disappeared from the discussion.
He added that It is “very clear that the labour leaders who engaged in the negotiations were blinded by the quest for perks and committee appointments that they bargained without a sense of purpose, history and principle. It is apparent that they went into negotiation with government using the workers as bargaining power for their selfish interests. And they therefore ended up inflicting further hardships on the Nigerian people in order to sit on the table with oppressors in government.
“This unfortunate reality is a reminder that the Nigerian people need to take their destiny in their hands. To expect these compromised, coopted and capitulating labour leaders to protect the public interest, is to end up with more betrayals.
“CHRICED therefore calls for a grassroots movement, which will focus on not only resisting bad policies, but that would also work to bring good governance to Nigeria”, he suggested.