● Nigerian workers should prepare for worse, say NLC, TUC
The Organised Labour under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), yesterday condemned in strong terms the federal government’s refusal to grant the Nigeria workers the use of Eagle Square arena in Abuja for the hosting of this year’s May Day, workers celebration.
Reacting to the government’s last-minute decision to withdraw the approval they had earlier granted for the use of the venue, the Trade Unions described as a sign of contempt and disdain for the Nigerian workers.
Speaking to Labour correspondents in Abuja shortly after the May Day Lecture delivered by an economic analyst, Sam Amadi, the NLC General Secretary, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, said that the move is also a sign of what to expect going forward, noting that it’s obvious that hardship and deprivation is not going to end anytime soon in the country.
The Federal Government, through the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), had earlier granted approval to use the usual venue (Eagles Square) for the Workers Day celebrations.
According to Ugboaja, it was surprised when the congress received a letter from the FCT Minister, Malam Mohammed Bello, notifying it of the cancellation of the permit to organise rally at Eagles Square, saying that rehabilitation is being carried out in readiness for the May 29, presidential inauguration.
“They have withdrawn the permission and they don’t want to talk to us, the Minister of FCT has withdrawn our permission to use equal square for the Mayday and clearly he is speaking for his government, it means the government doesn’t want to address the workers, so they don’t appreciate the work the workers have put in over the years.
“The reason they gave was that they were renovating the Eagle Square for usage on May 29 and we’ll find it to be ultra lame this is not the first time there will be an inauguration we have had more than five to seven inaugurations in the past two decades and we have always held May Day celebrations at the Eagle Square.
“It’s a workers’ day. We had sought permission to use a venue, and it was granted to us and later withdrawn, so it has nothing to do with the Minister of Labour. The Minister of FCT, through his agents, sent us a letter yesterday.” Ugboaja said.
On the implication of on cancellation of the venue on the celebration and what it portends for government-labour relations, Ugboaja said workers will go ahead with their May Day rally and will talk to themselves whether anyone from government attends or not.
“The May day Rally will hold but not in Eagle Square, but the workers will mark their day from the NLC to every nook and cranny of Nigeria.
“If the withdrawal of our permission to use the Eagle Square is a snippet of what they (workers) should expect, we are ready and from the way we have adjusted to it, will prove to them that we are ready for whatever they are going to throw at us,” he said.
When asked about what the workers should expect beyond the May Day celebration, the NLC scribe said Nigerians should be prepared for tougher times.
“Workers should be prepared for the worst. The indicators don’t point towards any rosy future if we don’t struggle. So it’s going to be a war cry on May 1st, just for us to brace up to face the challenges we see coming forward,” he added.
Similarly, the President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifoh, joined the NLC to protest the last minute order stopping the use of Eagle Square as venue for the May Day rally holding on Monday.
It said that it recieved a letter from the Abuja Investment Company, a subsidiary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) informing it of the withdrawal of the permit granted for the hosting May Day rally in Abuja on Monday.
Osifoh said that TUC rejects the last-minute change of venue for the May Day rally, even as he explained that “this is not the first time that we will be holding May Day parade at the Eagle Square and also the swearing in on May 29.
“This has been taking place since 1999, and we have always had a way of carrying out our parade before the go ahead with their preparations for hand-over.”
Moreso, he said, “May 1 is four weeks away from handing over date, but our government is telling us that political considerations are much more important than the issues of workers.”
He accused the federal government of relegating the workers’ interests to the background and putting political consideration ahead of their welfare.
He said that the congress believed that the issues of workers should be prioritized.
“We wish to inform them that we reject this completely, they have asked us to go to the Old Parade Ground and we are not going, if they are not affording us the place that we have been using for this event then we wait at the appropriate time we will answer them,” he said.
Osifoh said the Congress also kicked against alleged last minute move by tederal government to privatize several entities, including Federal Medical Centres, NIPOST,, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and take over of the management of transport operations by some states in the country.
TUC president warned that Nigerian workers are opposed to the plan to sell the assets of oublic-, owned establishment, especially at the twilight of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
He said that TUC is opposed to plans by the federal government privatize NIPOST and to strip the entity if it’s assets, handing them over to private concerns.
“The Congress wondered why it is that whenever government cannot manage a particular establishment, the first thing they do is to strip itnof it’s assets. Who are they going to give these assets? We say no to this, and it is fundamentally not correct because NIPOST is a national asset. He alleged that the Federal Ministry of Finace released N8 billion to completely out these assets down and strip them of their relevance.
He also alleged that a major part of the N8 billion was to be given to private companies that would manage the assets.
“We call on the government not to disburse that money but to keep the money intact and let the administration come and hold proper deliberation on what should be done,’ he said.
Regarding the operations of the transport sector, especially as it relates to the case of Lagos state, the TUC urged the state government to immediately return the parks to Road Transport Owners Association of Nigeria as ordered by the court (RETAN)