Nigerian Workers Unite for Socio-economic Reforms

Keywords : Newsletters Nigeria Extending Social Protection

In a historic display of solidarity and determination, Nigerian workers and citizens united under the banner of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) took to the streets to protest and demand an end to the hardships and suffering caused by the government’s anti-poor and anti-workers policies. The nationwide protest action, which took place on August 2, 2023, marked a significant turning point in the struggle for social justice and economic reforms under the country’s new government.

The situation confronting Nigerian workers and the masses has been dire, with soaring inflation and socio-economic hardship in the last eight years of the previous administration. Whilst expectations were high that the February 2023 elections would usher in a new administration committed to assuaging the people’s hardship, sadly, the new administration seems to be dashing that hope with cut-throat economic and fiscal policies worsening the plight of the people. The new administration has increased the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) twice to over the N600 mark. The prices of petroleum products have remained the denominator of inflation in Nigeria. Today, goods and services, notably food and transport prices, have experienced astronomical adjustments. School fees are also being hiked, with serious budget-balancing issues for most households. For workers and the masses, the pains and pangs are unbearable.

Worst is that the government’s refusal to engage in reasonable dialogue and implement measures to protect its citizens has compounded the crisis, leading to mass discontent and outcry nationwide. Nigeria’s organised labour was left with the choice of either being subsumed in the silent cocoon of the government or following through with its tradition of speaking up when the interests of its members and people are affected. The NLC and the TUC rightly chose the latter option to the admiration of all.

The demands by NLC and TUC encapsulate the urgent need for immediate action to cushion the harsh and biting effects of the fiscal policies triggering the inflationary crisis. These include implementing agreements previously signed with the government and the workers’ representatives in good faith. Some of these agreements reversed all anti-poor policies, including the recent price hike, school fees, VAT, and the urgent restoration and support of local refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s organised labour demanded the immediate release of eight months’ withheld salaries for university lecturers and workers and the cessation of inhumane actions and policies of the government. The agreement also stipulated the acknowledgement and support for the Presidential Steering Committee and its sub-committees to function effectively.

Following the call for action, the national strike was met with overwhelming support from the Nigerian people, who bravely took to the streets in defiance of government intimidation and blackmail. The protest’s success was exemplified by the change of heart of the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, to meet with the leadership of NLC and TUC in a closed-door session. This engagement proved fruitful, resulting in significant progress towards resolving the issues that prompted the protest in the first place.

Key highlights of the engagement with the President include a commitment to restructuring the framework for employment in line with labour leaders’ input. Moreover, the assurance that the Port Harcourt Refinery will resume production by December this year signifies a step towards addressing the fuel crisis. Additionally, a promise to expedite negotiations on wage awards for Nigerian workers and unveil a workable roadmap further underscore the government’s commitment to addressing the people’s grievances.

Considering these pledges and commitments, the NLC and TUC have agreed to reinvigorate the dialogue process and allow the government to fulfil its promises. The protest’s success thus sets the stage for meaningful reforms and a renewed spirit of cooperation between the government and the labour organisations. The success of the protest underscores the essence of working-class unity and mobilisation.

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