By Israel Bulus
Less than 24 hours to Wednesday’s planned nationwide strike and mass protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress, 16 Northern-based civil society groups under the aegis of the Coalition of Arewa Civil Society Organisations have pulled out on the grounds that the indefinite strike action will damage the fragile economy and cause more hardship to the ordinary citizens.
The NLC had given the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum with threats of a nationwide strike scheduled to commence on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, and directed all its affiliates and civil society groups across the 36 states of the federation to mobilise workers and Nigerians for a long-lasting strike should the government fail to meet its demands.
Earlier, the NLC in a statement signed by its National President, Joe Ajaero, had accused the Tinubu government of failing to meet up with the demands it presented to it following the removal of subsidy on petrol.
“But after a critical study of the disadvantages and overall consequences on the masses, we decided to pull out immediately and asked the labour unions and Federal Government to rather embrace dialogue on mitigating measures,” the CSOs stated.
The decision to pull out was contained in a statement jointly signed by Chairman and Secretary of the Arewa Coalition, Comrade Ibraheem Suleman Dogo, and Comrade Friday Luka Dalung, according to the groups, because the planned strike action was not the best way to resolve problems emerging from the current harsh economic conditions caused by the removal of fuel subsidy.
They added that the strike would cripple the country as movement would be severely curtailed with markets, schools, and healthcare facilities forced to shut down.
The statement further reads: “We can’t afford to go back to the days when the Federal Government used monies meant for the development of public infrastructure; education, health care, and jobs for payment of subsidy to rich marketers.
“We can’t also continue to feed smugglers and act as ‘Father Christmas’ to neighbouring countries.
“It is for these reasons we recommend dialogue and more robust discussion on the matters arising from fuel subsidy removal.
“It would be recalled that President Tinubu, while addressing Nigerians on June 12 Democracy Day commemoration said he decided to free the country’s resources from the stranglehold of unpatriotic elements.
“We expect the labour unions and relevant stakeholders to look beyond the harsh policies now and consider the future of a sustainable economy that will bring about overall development across all spheres of life.
“However, between now and tomorrow, Wednesday, August 2, we urge the Federal Government to invite representatives of organised Labour to stop the nationwide strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress.”