By Nwanosike Onu, Mike Odiegwu, Frank Ikpefan, James Azania, Kolade Adeyemi, Alao Abiodun, Omolola Afolabi, Bassey Anthony, Ibrahim Adam, Augustine Okezie, Aiwerie Okungbowa, Adebisi Onanuga, Adekunle Jimoh and Elo Edremoda

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are set to shut offices and storm the streets to protest the hike in fuel price and electricity tariff.

Addressing reporters on Sunday in Lagos after a joint meeting between the TUC and the NLC, the National Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Amechi Asugwuni, said Labour was fully prepared for the strike action.

Amechi said the only option that the Federal Government must reverse these hikes.

“We have discussed with all our organs and agreed that the best way to go about it is through protest and strike.

“Government cannot go ahead to subjects Nigerians into suffering because of their inefficiency. The 100 percent hike in the electricity is not acceptable because Nigerians have not seen any improvement. The government has made promises several times in the past but has failed.

“Therefore, we demand an immediate reversal of the pump price of petrol. Complete reversal of the increase in the electricity tariff, “Amechi said.

The unions also have partners, such as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), helping to mobilise for a showdown.

The organised labour in Kogi State said the restraining order obtained by the Federal Government at the National Industrial Court (NIC) would not stop the strike and protest.

Kogi State NLC Chairman Comrade Onuh Edoka at the weekend in Lokoja advised members to join the protest.

In Plateau State, NLC Chairman Eugene Manji told The Nation that the protest and strike would go on.

“All civil servants, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and all stakeholders on labour matters are expected to participate in the peaceful protest against the hike in electricity and fuel pump price which has further aggravated the sufferings and hardships of Nigerians.”

Also, the Plateau Police Command spokesman, ASP Gabriel Ubah, who spoke to The Nation on phone, said: “Our men are always on the ground to checkmate any eventuality that may come up during the protest.

“We (Police) are prepared and battle-ready and as such security arrangements have been put in place, to secure and maintain law and order in the state.”

In Anambra State, labour leaders, at the weekend, held a meeting at the secretariat of the National Union of local government Employees NULGE, in Awka to strategise on it.

Anambra State NLC Chairman Comrade Jerry Nnubia told The Nation yesterday that they were ready for the strike

He said it was for the good of the masses as everyone would suffer the petrol and Electricity tariffs increment by the government

According to the circular released yesterday by the labour in Anambra, signed by its secretary, Gauis Chukwuka, all the unions should gather by 9 am for the peaceful protest.

“All Chairmen and Secretaries of all industrial unions are please requested to mobilise their members to attend a peaceful protest/rally over the recent increase in the pump price of petrol & electricity tariff by Federal Government.”

The workers were told to assemble at the entrance of Dr Alex Ekwueme Square, at Aroma junction for the protest

Anambra Police Public Relations Officer Haruna Mohammed told The Nation yesterday that the police would make sure miscreants would not infiltrate the workers’ gathering to cause a breach of peace

He said: “We are ready in the state and we want to assure the public that there was no cause for alarm.”

The planned protest had thrown the residents into a panic, as they were seen rushing to the markets to stock foodstuff. Automated Teller Machine (ATM) points were also busy.

As early as 10 am yesterday, residents of Awka flooded the popular Eke-Awka market to purchase food items.

In Rivers State, the labour said it would set up a committee to monitor compliance, insisting that the government was causing hardship in the country.

The Chairman of the Organised Private Sector Union Forum in Rivers, Temple Morford, asked the government to revert petrol price to N120 per litre.

He said: “I hereby call on all workers of the private sector to join the strike action, they should make sure that there is total shutdown both land, air and sea, there should be no operations.

“The filling stations, transportation workers and all others should shut down under the private sector unions because Nigerians are being victimised and we cannot continue to be in our own country and be suffering while people from other countries that we give electricity supply enjoy 24 hours supply.”

In Akwa Ibom, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and other affiliate unions on Sunday mobilised their members for the protest.

A statement signed by the state chairman of NUJ, Comrade Amos Etuk and secretary, Comrade Dominic Akpan urged journalists in the state to assemble at the Idongesit Nkanga State Secretariat for the protest.

The Katsina State Chairman of the NLC, Alhaji Hamisu Hussaini, said members of the union would gather at the state secretariat of the union at Sabon line, Katsina by 8 am for an address before proceeding to Government House on a protest march.

He said: “We are certainly participating in the strike, after having sensitized our members and affiliate unions in the state. We are not expecting any disloyalty because the members are in total solidarity. We have also set up a task force to ensure total compliance and enforcement of the plans as rolled out by the national leadership of our union.’’

Delta

Delta State NLC Chairman Goodluck Ofobruku, in a telephone conversation with The Nation, said: “Harsh government policies are inimical to the country’s development.

“We are fully prepared, we are fully mobilised. In Warri, over 2000 would take off from the union’s secretariat, while all government offices and parastatals will be shut down.

“In Asaba, we are also mobilised. We will move through the streets and take our protest letters to His Excellency, the governor. Even at that, all the offices will be shut down because our members are fully mobilised not to go to work during the period of the strike and protest.

“When you talk about the court order, we have not received any service from anyone, so if anybody is talking about the court order, it is just a rumour, as far as we are concerned.

“But do not forget that there is a Federal High Court order stopping the Federal Government of Nigeria from increasing electricity tariff. The court gave this order in June, so if there is anyone to obey a court order, it should be the Federal Government.

“Section 40 of the constitution gives us the right to protest. It is our right and no court can suspend the provisions of the constitution. The Federal government should first obey court orders, before telling people to obey.

“They are just using the hike in petroleum and electricity to extort us. And it is time for Nigerians to say ‘no’. We are fully mobilised and tomorrow, we shall hit the streets as from 8 am in Delta state,” the labour chairman stated.

Kwara

CSOs on Sunday said it was collaborating with the labour for the protest in Kwara State.

The representative of one of the CSOs, the Joint Action Front (JAF), Comrade Taiwo Otitolaiye, told The Nation: “The fuel and electricity rate hike is an assault on the Nigerian masses. We cannot continue to go like this. The All Progressives Congress (APC) government rode to power on the promises of reducing the price of fuel, but it has tripled the price of the product from where it met it. In spite of the epileptic power supply, the APC-led government has increased the rate. Nigerians are suffering.

“Like we did in 2012 we are going to cripple the country unless it is reversed. That is our plan.”

Also, the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said its members have been full mobilised.

In a meeting with Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other affiliate unions, the state Chair of NLC, Aliyu Isa Ore, said his members were ready for the protest.

“We urge all respective union leaders to mobilise their members so that none flout the directive. From both NLC and TUC side we are speaking with one voice. We want to give this protest the maximum publicity it deserves. We cannot afford to fail because if this struggle fails, Nigeria has failed.

“Our members should be fully monitored to stay away from work and obey the directive. Let us tell this government the importance of labour force once again,” he said.

The spokesperson of the state police command, Ajayi Okasanmi, said: “As usual, we are fully on ground to ensure peace, the security of lives and property of Kwarans.”

IPMAN

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu, urged members to dissociate themselves from the strike.

Yakubu spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“IPMAN will not be part of the strike the NLC is calling, since our Association is not part of NLC. Therefore, we have already directed our members to continue doing their normal business while NLC and TUC are doing their strike,” he said.

Yakubu also advised Nigerians to cooperate with the government in ensuring that the economy grows better and stronger.

Police have a duty to protect protesters, says Falana

Activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) said the police have a duty to protect the protesters.

Falana urged the Inspector-General of Police, Commissioners of Police in all the States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory to provide adequate security for the protesters and maintain neutrality in the mass action.

The lawyer, in a statement titled, “Duty of police authorities to provide security for protesters”, said the constitution guarantees the right of Nigerians to protest.

“In exercise of their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution, the members of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) and other concerned citizens have resolved to participate in the public protests scheduled to take place throughout Nigeria with effect from September 28, 2020. The peaceful protests will be conducted within the ambit of the Covid-19 Regulations.

“In the case of All Nigeria People Party & Ors (2006), CHR 181 wherein the Federal High Court struck down the provisions of the Public Order Act which required permits for public meetings and rallies.

“Consequently, the Court proceeded to grant an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the Defendant (the Inspector-General of Police) whether by himself, his agents, privies and servants from further preventing the Plaintiffs and other aggrieved citizens of Nigeria from organizing or convening peaceful assemblies, meetings and rallies against unpopular government measures and policies.

“Completely dissatisfied with the epochal judgment of the Federal High Court, the Police Authorities appealed to the Court of Appeal. In dismissing the appeal in the case of Inspector General of Police v All Nigeria People Party & Ors (2008) 12 WRN 65 the Court of Appeal upheld the fundamental right of Nigerian citizens to assemble freely and protest without any inhibition whatsoever.

“In the leading judgment of the Court, Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held that “Public Order Act should be promulgated to compliment sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution in context and not to stifle or cripple it.

“A rally or placard carrying demonstration has become a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign state. It is a tread recognized and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilized countries – it will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to require a pass to hold a rally.

“We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience,” he said.

Falana added: “The amendment of the Electoral Act in March 2015 addressed the lacuna. Thus, section 94 (4) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2015 stipulates that “Notwithstanding any provision in the Police Act, the Public Order and any regulation made thereunder or any other law to the contrary, the role of the Nigeria Police Force in political rallies, processions and meetings shall be limited to the provision of adequate security as provided in subsection 1 of this section.”

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