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Better welfare, job creation top demands as NLC protests

Managing the fallout of economic reform: the need to come together

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Tuesday, restated its demand for better welfare for the citizens, job creation, subsidies for farmers, repair of the nation’s four refineries, among others, as it began a two-day protest across the country.

Supported by its various affiliate unions across sectors of the economy, the NLC, in Abuja, stormed the National Assembly where they expressed concerns over the prevailing economic hardships and the soaring cost of living in the country.

Read also: NLC takes protest to National Assembly

Chanting slogans like “Akpabio, come to our aid” and “hunger dey,” the protesters, armed with placards, called on the National Assembly to address the challenges faced by Nigerian workers.

Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC, who led the protest, handed over a letter of demands to Diket Plang, chairman of the Senate committee on labour, employment, and productivity, during the protest.

He highlighted the demands, among which are the full implementation of welfare provisions, employment generation initiatives, immediate subsidies for farmers to boost agricultural production, and the urgent repair of the country’s four refineries.

Addressing the assembly, Ajaero emphasised the urgency of the situation, stating that the peaceful protest was prompted by widespread hunger in the country. Drawing a stark comparison, he remarked, “Nigeria is becoming like Zimbabwe.”

Ajaero also disclosed that negotiations on the minimum wage had commenced, though the final figure was yet to be determined.

In response, Plang assured the protesters that the National Assembly would promptly deliberate on the NLC’s demands.

In Lagos, the protesters converged around 8:00 am at the Ikeja under-bridge on Awolowo Way, from where they walked to the State Secretariat, and the House of Assembly, Alausa.

Traffic on the Awolowo Way leading to the under-bridge Ikeja mounted as the protesters gathered, chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards.

Funmi Sessi, Lagos State NLC chairman, said that the protest was against the economic hardship faced by workers and Nigerians at large.

“Prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond the reach of Nigerians. Workers’ monthly salary no longer takes them home, not to talk about taking care of their families.”

She commended security operatives led by Adegoke Fayoade, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos Command who, in turn, lauded the labour unions for conducting the protest peacefully.

Read also: Photos: Osun NLC joins nationwide protest

In Ibadan, the Oyo State governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, who commended the protesters, called for an end to hardship and hunger being experienced by the people.

Addressing members of the NLC who converged on Total Garden Roundabout in Ibadan, Makinde said it was time for the country to come together and address the challenges and problems facing it. He said it was indeed a trying period for Nigerians.

The governor compared the present situation with what was obtained in 1989, during the Structural Adjustment Programme, saying that reforms always come with consequent challenges but it has become imperative for all Nigerians to work together.

In Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, thousands of children were stranded, as teachers and other public sector workers joined the NLC protest.

The protest march began from the NLC secretariat at Atan Offot, behind the civil service secretariat, and continued to the state House of Assembly, terminating at the Governor’s Office.

Police and other security personnel were stationed along strategic locations within the city centre while commercial activities went on uninterrupted.

The excruciating economy has seen a phenomenal rise in the prices of basic goods and services with garri, sugar, milk and bread recording significant price increases.

Our checks showed that rice and beans which used to cost between N150 and N200 per cup are now sold between N400 and N450 per cup respectively while the price of petrol per litre has increased from N670 to N800 with many of the petrol stations without the product in Uyo.

The school children were seen roaming the streets as their teachers joined the protest.

Sunny James, state chairman of the NLC, who addressed a crowd comprising union members from many organisations, said the protest was to send a strong signal to the Federal Government about the harsh economic situation

The situation was similar in Ilorin, Kwara State, where the protesters called on Federal Government to response to the plight of Nigerians over the current economic hardship.

The workers started their protest from the Labour House in Ilorin, at about 9:00 am to major roads and streets in the Ilorin metropolis, and ended it at the Governor’s Office, where Mohammed Ibrahim, the permanent secretary, ministry of establishment and training addressed them.

Read also: NLC protest confined to union base in Port Harcourt, Police ready for deployment

The people carried placards and chanted songs against government economic policies and measures, saying that the policies had brought untold hardship on families in the country.

Murtala Olayinka, the state chairman of the NLC, lamented hunger in the land.

“The only free things in Nigeria are air and sunlight. Every item is increasing in price per second. So, this protest is telling the government that it needs to redefine some of its economic and security policies.”