The strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress gained momentum in some parts of the country on Thursday as labour leaders stormed some secretariats to enforce compliance.
Activities, however, picked up in some states where the residents had stayed indoors on Wednesday.
Lagos workers, Labour leaders clash
In Lagos, labour leaders besieged the Lagos State Secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja, where they forced their way in to stop the workers from working. The civil servants, who had defied the strike order on Wednesday, resisted the labour leaders, move to force them to join the strike.
The workers initially prevented the labour leaders from entering the secretariat, accusing them of not doing anything for them, saying the strike was meant to score cheap political point.
One of them, who declined to give his name, accused the labour leaders of protesting only when the situation was not in their favour.
Scores of NLC members, led by the National Vice-President, Amaechi Asugwuni, however, overpowered the Lagos workers and marched to the office of Head of Service at about 1pm, chanting solidarity songs.
The NLC protesters also shut the entrance to the complex, preventing workers and visitors from entering or going out.
Asugwuni, who later picketed the HoS office, urged the protesters to be calm, saying the purpose of the rally was not to disrupt but to protect the interest of workers.
“Today one tomatoe is being sold for N100 and we cannot allow this injustice to continue. A policy that does not consider the average Nigerian is anti-people and must be resisted,” he said.
Commercial activities, however, resumed fully in Ekiti State on Thursday as the people shunned the nationwide strike declared by the NLC.
The civil servants in the state, however, continued to stay away from work as all the offices remained locked.
Also, schools remained shut to students as parents kept their children at home for the fear of the unknown.
Banks and markets reopened for commercial activities while transport workers were also on the road conveying commuters to their destinations.
Expressing frustration that the organised private sector was not cooperating, the NLC Chairman, Raymond Adesanmi, told our correspondent that the labour union would change its strategy on Friday.
“A committee has met with leaders of National Union of Road Transport Workers and market women today. We will stage another protest tomorrow (Friday) to give the strike an effect,” he stated.
Banks take huge deposits, attend to emergencies
Also in Akure, the Ondo State capital, banks partially opened to customers on Thursday.
Customers besieged banking halls to transact business unlike Wednesday when the banks totally shut down.
An employee of First Bank at Alagbaka area of Akure, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bank was only attending to customers, who wanted to deposit huge amount of money and to those who needed money to attend to emergency matters.
However, there was still strict compliance by the civil servants as both state and Federal Government offices were still under lock and key.
Members of the NLC, led by the state chairman, Mrs. Bosede Daramola, moved from one office to the other, chanting various solidarity and anti-government songs and inspected the government offices to monitor workers compliance.
Daramola frowned on the non-compliance by some banks.
‘‘I wonder why some banks in Akure are not complying, but if anything happens to them in the course of this strike, NLC will not be responsible for it.’’
For the second day running in Abeokuta, Ogun State, many of the primary and secondary schools in the state were still shut on Thursday,
Magistrates’ courts, located at the Isabo area of the state capital were not opened to litigants.
Though the banks in most parts of the state capital were opened for business, security men frisked each customer entering the banking halls.
However, pupils of African Church Grammar School, Ita Oko, were seen entering their school in the morning, without being turned back.
Skeletal activities were also noticed at the Federal Secretariat, Oke Mosan, as one of the major gates leading to the premises was locked
The state civil servants resumed in their offices and others in private business were also in their shops and offices.
State Chairman of NLC, Akeem Ambali, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said the union had been moving round the state to sensitise the residents to the hardship the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had foisted on the masses.
He said, “I am in Remo currently, we have taken the rally to Sagamu and its environs. We held the rally in Abeokuta yesterday (Wednesday). We have to move to other zones.’’
State and Federal Government workers in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, stayed away from their offices for the second day running.
Public schools in the Uyo metropolis did not open but banks and other private establishments, including transporters, worked unimpeded.
Police attack Abakaliki protesters
In Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, however, the police on Thursday attacked and tear-gassed labour leaders during a protest.
The incident occurred at about 8.45am, when officials of the congress were on a peaceful protest along the Pastoral Centre, Abakaliki.
The labour leaders refused to obey the directive of the police to return to their office.
Narrating his ordeal in the hands of the police personnel before newsmen at the police headquarters, the chairman of the NLC in Ebonyi State, Ikechukwu Nwafor, said they notified the police of the protest before embarking on it.
“We thought they were there to protect us. All of a sudden, they started shooting and tear-gassed us. Some of our members are in the hospital.
‘‘They beat me up and attacked the entire members of the congress, seized our vehicles and bundled us to the police headquarters,” he stated.
The state Police Commissioner, Peace Abdallah, however, denied that the police used brutal force on the labour leaders, saying minimal force was applied to disperse the protest.
“There was no firing in the air; the gathering was dispersed peacefully. It was a case of unlawful gathering by some people without police permission,” she said.
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, workers stayed away from government offices.
Public schools and courts were also closed but private businesses did not join and there was normal vehicular movement across the state.
Some civil society groups stormed the popular Olaiya Junction in continuation of the protest against the fuel price hike which started on Wednesday.
However, the NLC chairman in the state, Mr. Jacob Adekomi, and other leaders of the union refused to turn up for the rally.
The Convener of JAF, Mr. Alfred Adegoke, who spoke in an interview with one of our correspondents, accused the Osun State branch of the NLC of betrayal.
Also, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Caleb Aborisade, led members of the union to Mayfair in Ile-Ife, where they continued with the fuel protest.
Meanwhile, a female lecturer at the OAU, Dr. Kehinde Ajila, has threatened that she and other women could walk naked if the Federal Government refused to reverse fuel price hike.
Ajila, who teaches at the Faculty of Agriculture, said this during a rally by the OAU chapter of ASUU and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Ajila, who led the female protesters, wondered why the Federal Government allowed fuel price to go as high as N145, saying it was the responsibility of government to provide convenience for citizens.
‘‘The women folk will not hesitate to walk naked to press home the demand for a reversal of the petrol price,” she stated.
The Chairman of NASU, Mr. Wole Odewumi, said the increase in fuel price was not a sign of good governance.
Also, civil servants in Kwara State deserted their offices on Thursday.
The gates to the state secretariat and other ministries, including that of the Head of Service, were still not opened after they were locked by NLC officials on Wednesday.
Financial institutions, Federal Government workers, other corporate bodies and the private sector carried on with their normal activities.
The state NLC Chairman, Mr. Yekini Agunbiade, in a telephone interview said the union would continue with the strike.
But the state government said it had entered into dialogue with the striking NLC members to resolve the impasse.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Babatunde Ajeigbe, said though it was wrong for the NLC members to have locked the gates of the ministries and secretariat, the state government would not be confrontational with the union.
In Owerri, government offices remained shut while private establishments, including filling stations, supermarkets, fast food centres, popular joints, have closed shops for fear of possible attacks by hoodlums.
Although markets in the state still operated at full steam, some commercial vehicle drivers, including Kekeoperators, had since abandoned the roads in solidarity with the workers.
The Chairman of the State Chapter of the NLC, Austin Chilakpu, and his members stormed all the banks in the Owerri metropolis to force them to shut down operations.
In Bauchi, however, civil servants in the state were yet to join the industrial action on Thursday.
One of our correspondents, who went round some government ministries, departments and agencies, observed that workers went to their offices and were carrying out their normal official activities.
Banks, schools, motor parks, markets and shop owners opened for business with no harassment or hindrance from the NLC.
In an interview, the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress in Bauchi State, Koleosho Samuel, said the TUC had backed out of the strike.
The Chairman of the Trade Union Negotiation Council of the NLC in the state, Aliyu Mohammed, said the leadership of the union would soon meet to discuss the way forward.
Nasarawa shuns rallies over insecurity
In Lafia, Nasarawa State, the state NLC said it couldn’t hold rallies because of the security situation in the state.
The state chairman of the union, Mr. Abudulllahi Adeka, said this in a telephone interview in Lafia, the state capital.
However, the state chairman of the TUC, Mr. Dalandi Namu, said the congress was not part of the strike in the state.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the strike in some ministries in the state, observed that all the civil servants in the state were at their duty posts.
Leaders chase out workers in Jos
In Jos, banks, schools and government offices remained shut on Thursday.
Officials of the NLC went round as early as 8am to ensure that no worker reported for work.
A task force, led by an official of the NLC, Mr. Sunday Akinfolarin, moved round offices to ensure compliance.
At the Plateau State Internal Revenue Service office, the labour leaders drove out the workers and locked the gate.
Anambra judiciary workers shun strike
In Anambra State, more offices closed on Thursday.
The state secretariat remained closed without any presence of the workers unlike on Wednesday when the workers were seen in clusters at the secretariat.
One of the security officers, who would not want to be named, told our one of our correspondents, “Oga (SSG) has been in the office since 8am and he will be in the office up till 5pm.”
The State House of Assembly sat briefly and adjourned shortly after because of lack of manpower occasioned by the strike.
The judiciary workers in the state continued to shun the strike.
According to the state Chairman of JUSUN, Mr. Mark Ifezue, there is no need to join the strike since there is a court order stopping the strike.
A handful of workers converged on Aroma Freedom Square, Awka, at about 10.30am, chanting solidarity songs in furtherance of the awareness for the strike.
Public and private schools as well as banks were opened while transport was not impeded in any part of the state.
Meanwhile, the Zonal Coordinator of Ibadan Zone of ASUU, Prof. Segun Ajiboye, on Thursday, said the Buhari-led government had a ‘terror policy’ which was recently expressed by the increment in the pump price of petrol from N86 to N145.
Ajiboye said this while addressing protesters against the new pump price in front of the University of Ibadan.
The strike continued in Oyo State on Thursday with labour unions staging a rally in Ibadan. Our correspondent observed that workers came to work at the state secretariat but some left soon after signing in.
At the rally, Chairman of the NLC in the state, Waheed Olojede, asked Nigerians not to see the present strike as a labour struggle but a joint movement to check anti-masses policies of the government.
‘No work, no pay’ in Bayelsa
But as the workers in Bayelsa State commenced strike on Thursday, Governor Seriake Dickson threatened to invoke the principle of ‘‘no work, no pay’’.
The strike, commenced by workers over months of salary arrears owed by the state government, paralysed business and commercial activities in the state.
But Dickson, in his reaction to the strike threat, said if labour must adopt the strike option, the government would have no option but also to invoke the rule of ‘‘no work; no pay’’.
Reacting to the governor’s threat, a rights activist, Alagoa Morris, said such a threat would not work.
The Chairman, NLC, Bayelsa State, Ndiomu John-Bipre, said the threat did not arise, saying they would cross the bridge when they got there.
Labour constitutes compliance task force in Kano
Disturbed by the partial compliance with the strike in Kano, the leadership of labour in the state on Thursday constituted a committee to ensure total compliance.
The Chairman of the NLC in the state, Kabiru Minjibir, charged members of the committee to ensure that civil servants in the state complied with NLC’s directive.
When one of our correspondents visited the Audu Bako State Secretariat, however, NLC officials were enforcing the directive at the entrance to the secretariat, as many of the workers were not allowed entry into the premises.
Call off strike before negotiation, FG tells NLC
The Special Adviser to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Nwachukwu Ngige, said the Aliyu Wabba-led faction of the NLC must call off its strike before it could be invited for further negotiation.
“They have to call off their strike formally before any invitation by the Chief Conciliator, (The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige) which is the pathway in such dialogue – Minister,” he said in a text message to The PUNCH.