The leadership of the Nigeria Labour movement represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has slammed the Senate for the proposed amendment seeking to muzzle trade unions and block them from embarking on any strike, describing it as obnoxious and myopic.
In a joint media briefing in Abuja, NLC President, Abdulwahed Omar and TUC President General, Peter Esele, wondered why the lawmakers would choose to waste tax payers’ money attempting to make a law that is already in the country’s law books.
Mr. Omar, who read the joint statement at the briefing, described the bill “seeking to make it unlawful for the trade unions in Nigeria to embark on any strike without obtaining the permission of the different organs of the union through a ballot” as anti-workers and another onslaught against the people.
“This anti-workers Bill will not deter us from our responsible and constitutional pursuit of defending the rights of Nigerian workers and its peoples,” Mr. Omar said. “If it is a punitive move to punish Nigerians for the fuel price hike, or an attempt to make it difficult for Nigerians to resist a future anti – people policy of the government, it will fail. Such laws with obvious fraudulent intentions which negate democratic practices and international conventions of which Nigeria is a part of often suffer the shame of ‘ignominy.” The labour movement dismissed the arguments canvassed in support of the proposed amendments to the Labour Act, describing its sponsors as narrow-minded and myopic, as they show serious lack of understanding of not only the relevant laws of the country, but also the operations of the Trade Unions in Nigeria.
“It is mind-boggling that Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, who receives about N56million approximately every month and just took delivery of brand new choice cars from tax payers’ money would decide to waste the peoples’ time in pursuit of frivolous constructs to muzzle the various signposts of the peoples’ conscience,” Mr. Omar said. “This is an expression of complete intolerance to democratic expressions and an attempt to reduce the space available to Nigerians to freely express their opinions on issues germane to national survival.“The Labour movement in Nigeria is one of the most democratic sectors of the nation operating in line with international best practices. Our processes have become timeless and have been well tested as it concerns this matter. The trade unions derive their daily operations from elected but statutory organs of the union. These organs are the Central Working Committees (CWC), the National Executive Committees (NEC) and the Delegates Conference.
“While the CWC is made up of Presidents and General Secretaries of the affiliate unions, the NEC is made up of the principal officers of the various states councils including Abuja. These organs involving hundreds of men and women well-tested in national and international issues from all over the country, each bringing the positions and interests of their respective states, must be consulted and approval sought before major decisions are taken, one of which is wielding the strike option. “Those who are sponsoring this Bill, both the ones on the floor of the Senate and the ones behind the mask have shown a total disdain for Nigerians, their sensibilities and desires, and have further shown the contempt with which they hold the pillars of the nation’s democratic practices.
“Attempts to stifle opposing voices have never succeeded in the long run, they always backfire. We urge them to learn from history. Claiming to be smarter than those who have failed in the past by pushing this Bill will ultimately be their albatross. Nigerians are daily taking tab of those who are bent on causing the continued ruination of this country and whittling down bastions of liberty and free speech and choice.”Drawing attention to the more challenging issues that should engage the attention of the law makers, Mr. Esele said instead of the lawmakers demonstrating courage to address the numerous security challenges facing country, by coming up with relevant laws to deal with the endemic issues of corruption in the country as well as legislations to generate employment and reduce poverty, they are pursuing a Bill to assault Nigerians.
They urged the sponsor of the Bill to withdraw it and apologise to Nigerians to avoid going down permanently into the history book of infamy, adding that they are ready to work with the progressive voices in the Senate to speak against the renewed attack on workers in particular and Nigerians in general.
“As a Labour movement, we have drunk so many brands of alcohols in the bar, this small Heineken (referring to the first name of the sponsor of the bill) would be downed in one gulp,” Mr. Esele said, apparently referring to the impending defeat that he believes awaits the Bill.