NLC ignores fresh warnings from police and Tinubu’s government, insists on nationwide protest

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has ignored fresh warnings from the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government, saying there is no going back on the planned industrial action.

The Labour, in a statement on Sunday, signed by its President, Joe Ajaero, also threatened to shut down its services all over the country if labour members are attacked during its planned two-day protest beginning February 27, 2024.

The NLC said the Federal Government must put on its thinking cap and implement its agreement with the Organised Labour as well as address the mounting economic crisis of survival in Nigeria.

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Nigeria is battling rising inflation, food inflation, forex crisis, economic hardship and high cost of living occasioned by the removal of petrol subsidy, attracting protests in parts of the country.

But the Presidency again on Sunday warned the Nigeria Labour Congress not to embark on its two-day nationwide protest against the rising cost of living in the country.

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Also, the police warned against disruption of commercial activities during the protest.

The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr Bayo Onanuga in an interview with The PUNCH described the proposed protest as a “breach of the law” and an “illegal undertaking.’’

He said, “The attorney-general has written the NLC’s lawyer that the protest is illegal. So, they are breaching a court order if they want to go on with the protest.

“We are not aware of any plans to disrupt the protest, but what we can confirm is that they (NLC) are breaching an extant rule by a competent court that they should not go on protest. The protest itself is illegal. So, the NLC should bear that in mind.”

Warning the NLC on its course of action, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade, said the command would not condone any form of violence during the planned protest.

Adegoke in a statement cautioned the protesters against disrupting commercial activities, and vehicular movements in the state, adding that anyone found violating the rights of others during the rally would face legal repercussions.

The statement read, “The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Adegoke Fayoade, has assured Lagosians that the command has put necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of lives and property, the free flow of traffic, and a peaceful environment for carrying out their respective lawful duties.;;

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He advised protesters against, “an action capable of grounding commercial activities and obstructing the free flow of traffic.

“The command will live up to its mandate of ensuring that no person or group of persons is allowed to infringe on the fundamental human rights of others, especially the rights to freedom of movement and the right to dignity of human persons.

“CP Adegoke, therefore, warns all intending protesters that anyone found infringing on the rights of other Nigerians will be dealt with by the law.’’

Similarly, the Police Commissioner in Ekiti State, Adeniran Akinwale, said the force would not allow a breakdown of the rule of law in the state during the protest.

Akinwale, who harped on the need for peace in Ekiti State and Nigeria, said, “I have a role to play, my own is to ensure that there is peace and tranquillity in Ekiti State. In any situation that comes, we monitor and if there is anything, we respond accordingly. But our own job is to monitor to ensure that there is no problem.

“We appeal to people not to truncate the peace Ekiti people are witnessing because the present economic situation is not palatable, however, it is not peculiar to Nigeria or Ekiti alone, so we will just continue to pray for improvement in the economic situation in Nigeria.’’

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The Delta State Police Command disclosed its plan to deploy personnel to maintain law and order during the protest.

Revealing this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bright Edafe, said, “We will do our normal deployment of officers to maintain law and order. The command will issue a statement tomorrow to that effect.”

On its part, the Kaduna State police command asked the NLC to shelve the protest in the state.

The Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mansir Hassan, hinged his plea on the precarious situation in the state.

He, however, noted that should the NLC t protest, the command would provide the necessary cover for them, warning the protesters to be law-abiding.

Hassan said, “The command is appealing that the protest should not even hold. They should understand the nature of Kaduna and that it is not everywhere they should come and protest.

“We have enjoyed relative peace in the state. We will provide adequate security for them and we are appealing to be law abiding. Although we have had a cordial relationship with the NLC for a long but if they insist, we will give them the necessary cover.

“They should know that where their rights stop, that is where other people’s rights start. In fact, we are evening appealing that the protest should not hold. We are calling on the hoodlums to desist from infiltrating into the NLC protest.”

However, despite subtle pressure from the government for the group not to embark on the planned strike, the NLC said its member won’t be cowed to shelve their proposed nationwide protest.

“All we are saying now is that; let there be food for the people, let the people live in safety, let the people live a life of dignity devoid of suffocating IMF/World Bank economic policies,” the group said.

Labour also raised the alarm that plans have been perfected to attack planned peaceful rallies across the country.

Ajaero said, “We would want the State to know that the solution to our horrible economic situation and hunger is not by suppressing peaceful dissent or inflicting violence on peacefully protesting citizens as the government did in Minna and other cities where its agents tear-gassed and beat up women before locking them up for raising their voice against hunger. It does not lie in the deployment of State -sponsored terror. The pangs of hunger cannot be cowed by bullets or tear gas.

“In light of this, we at the Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society allies are moving ahead with our protest rallies against economic hardship and insecurity in line with the decision of the National Executive Council.”

“We advise the State to put on its thinking cap and find solutions to the pains it continues to cause the people instead of further dehumanising them.

“However, if it is irrevocably set on the path of violence against us and other peace-loving Nigerians, it will be making a costly mistake because if we are attacked there will be a total shut down via withdrawal of services by workers. Let no one be deceived, we and other deprived Nigerians cannot easily be intimidated,” he added.

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