Organized labour went too far shutting down national grid, airports—Presidency


 The presidency has castigated the organised labour for shutting down the national grid during the week in its bid to pressure government to increase minimum wage for workers.

President Bola Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga said the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, enjoy much freedom because Nigeria is not under a military regime.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that the TCN had announced the complete shutdown of Nigeria’s power grid by labour unions as the strike by the labour unions began.

NLC and the Trade Union Congress commenced a nationwide industrial action on Monday in protest against the N60,000 minimum wage proposal of the Federal Government.

Announcing the shutdown of the national grid in a statement issued on Monday morning by TCN spokesperson, Ndidi Mbah, the transmission firm said the action was deliberately done by the workers.

But the NLC said Nigerian workers would not be intimidated by any form of falsehood dished out by TCN or any other agency or organisation of the government.

The strike was, however, called off after the Nigerian Government and labour agreed to increase the minimum wage and continue further negotiations.

Labour demanded N494,000 while government proposed N60,000; but the agreement reached might see the latter paying between N60,000 to N100,000.

Featuring on TVC, Onanuga said labour should not have shut down the airports and national grid to enforce nationwide strike.

However, Onanuga urged labour to be responsible in their demands.

According to Onanuga: “Labour should view itself as a partner with the Federal Government, not as an adversary to the Federal Government.

“Labour should be thankful to God that we are not in a military regime. We are in a civilian regime that allows for freedom of expression.

“I think that labour overstepped their bounds by shutting down the national grid. At a time when we are complaining about the lack of power, I think that act is extreme. You’re not supposed to shut down the airports on everyone else. Joining the strike should be voluntary.

“I will appeal to labour to be more responsible in their reaction. They cannot be asking for what they are asking for. It is unrealistic.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress has justified the decision of workers in the electricity sector to shut down the national grid.

In a statement made available to journalists, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, faulted the Transmission Company of Nigeria over claims that the monitoring and compliance team of NLC attacked workers manning their facilities.

The NLC statement reads: “The Nigeria Labour Congress categorically states that Nigerian workers will not be intimidated by the management of any organisation or government entity over our rightful decision to withdraw services through the indefinite nationwide strike that commenced earlier this morning.

“The spreading of outright falsehood to mislead the public instead of working with other stakeholders to resolve the issues raised by Nigerian workers via the NLC and TUC is not helpful in any way.”

The statement further said, “It will rather inflame the anger of the suffering masses who are already burdened by the cruel policies of the federal government.

“It is important that we address the press statement by the Transmission Company of Nigeria where they made false claims regarding the indefinite nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress.

“The Transmission Company of Nigeria should understand that the company is not the only one impacted by the massive withdrawal of service across the nation by Nigerian workers. It should therefore not make it a TCN affair, as other organisations also suffer from one breakdown in service or the other as a result of the nationwide industrial action.

“The management of TCN ought to have realised that the NLC and TUC issued a notice to the Federal Government since the beginning of May 2024 on the issues of non-completion of the National Minimum Wage negotiation exercise and passage into Law and the vexatious hike in electricity tariff.

“We had demanded the completion of the wage-setting process and a reversal of the hike in electricity tariff back to N66/kWh without any positive response from the government.

“One wonders whether TCN’s management needs education on the dynamics of industrial action?

“It is not true that we manhandled anybody in any TCN location. Maybe, TCN in its effort to scuttle the strike tried to force workers to be at work not realising the resolve of all workers to stay away.

“Why would the grid not go down when the workers who operate them decide to withdraw their service? That is how it works and it further demonstrates that without workers, no wheel can turn; no work can take place anywhere.

“Nigerian workers, led by the NLC and TUC, have exercised due caution and unusual patience in our engagement with our social partners, and this restraint has been grossly abused, unfortunately, which has led us to the present impasse.

“Trying to buck-pass instead of accepting blame and taking necessary steps to put its house in order will not allow the Transmission Company of Nigeria to make discernible progress.

“We would like the organisation to take adequate measures to ensure that it discharges its responsibilities to Nigerians, especially in the Electricity sector, instead of dissipating its energy on trying to insult Nigerian workers by its deliberate peddling of falsehood.

“We have been duly informed that the TCN management has resorted to the use of the military in its effort to intimidate and harass workers in its employ who are carrying out their lawful and democratic duties at various TCN plants around Nigeria.”

The NLC said the management of TCN would be held liable for any injury inflicted on any worker by their resort to the use of the powers of the military.

The statement added, “It is also important that we inform TCN that deploying military men to its locations is a clear abuse and insult to the military, especially in a democracy.

“We are sure that members of the military so misused by this deployment are not happy with the management and the authorities who have authorised the deployment.

“The NLC and TUC remain steadfast in their commitment to the emancipation of downtrodden Nigerians and will persist in the struggle for a fair and just living wage, as well as the reversal of the excessive electricity tariff hike.

“We call on all Nigerians to stand in solidarity with us as we demand the implementation of policies that prioritize the well-being of the people.

“We will not back down, and we will not give in to any blackmail, intimidation, or harassment,” the organized labour insisted.

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