End hunger, hardship, protesters tell Tinubu

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THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has asked the Federal Government to take immediate measures to cushion hardship and hunger in the country.

NLC president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said this when he addressed the leadership of the National Assembly, during a protest held by the Congress on Tuesday.

Ajaero, who led the leadership of all affiliate unions of the NLC and civil society organisations, said the protest was informed by the huge level of hunger in Nigeria, which required urgent intervention.

He, consequently, charged President Bola Tinubu to show capacity by taking immediate actions that will reverse the current hardship.

Ajaero stated: “This is not to use theoretical or rhetoric solutions. Serious intervention actions must be taken by government immediately to save the citizens from death, and the country from a civil unrest.

“Across Nigeria, the murmuring and voice of displeasure are growing stronger by the day It will be unfortunate and regrettable if the government allows the voices in the shadows to snowball into a mob action.

“Our rally today is an early warning of what may come if government hesitates to act now.

“Members of the National Assembly should know that they will not be spared if things get out of hand. We are not coming here every time to register displeasure for the fun of it. If you refuse to take action too, you will equally have yourselves to blame,” he said.

Receiving the letter from the protesting workers, chairman, Senate Committee on Labour and Productivity, Senator Diket Plang, said the demand of the NLC and its civil society organisations’ allies will be discussed immediately at the plenary of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

He promised that the Senate President will transmit the position of workers to Tinubu, and ensure urgent action is taken to end hardship.

In the letter to Mr President through the National Assembly, NLC is asking for among others: ; “Employment generation through massive investment in agriculture and value-added manufacturing, immediate subsidy to farmers to boost agricultural production and food security, opening of all food storage silos and enforcement of equitable distribution across the country.

“Immediate fixing of abandoned factories and revival of our local production and patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods and services, fixing of the four refineries as a matter of urgent national priority, making electricity and water available, affordable and accessible to all citizens.

Their demand also includes massive investment in road/rail infrastructure and social housing, immediate deployment of cheap mass transportation, buses powered by CNG to ease the crisis of transportation for the poor people, put an end to further privatisation and liberalisation of the economy and taking control of the commanding heights of the economy in the line with section 16 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, going after oil subsidy cabal and other economic saboteurs instead of helpless Nigerians.

They also asked the government to put a stop to all dollarisation of the Nigerian economy and all wasteful spending and profligacy in government, proper and adequate funding of education and healthcare at all levels, adequate provision for social security for the aged and the vulnerable. Payment of all outstanding wages and pensions at all tiers of the government, fast-tracking negotiation and implementation of the new national minimum wage, abandonment of IMF/World Bank policies as they bring extreme hardship to Nigerians as well as imperil our security and sovereignty.”

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Police provide water, biscuits in Lagos

As scheduled, state chapters of the NLC staged protests across state capitals in the country.

Protesters led by the Lagos State chairman of the NLC, Comrade Funmi Sessi, at the State Assembly, presented the resolution letter to the Speaker, Honourable Mudashiru Obasa, for onward transmission to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, calling on members of the House to amend Bills that can improve the living conditions of residents.

Besides, she urged the speaker to communicate to the governor to come out to address them today on how numerous challenges are being handled “because we will be at the Assembly again to continue our protest”.

“With this peaceful rally, we want the president to hear that Nigerians are hungry. The centre can no longer hold. We are hungry and angry but we don’t want to be pushed to the wall.

“We want government policies to be the positive and bring great relief to generality of the people.

“The escalated price of services and goods is enough, we still believe in this country, we don’t want this country to go down, but we want our leaders to wake up because successive governments have done enough damage.”

The protest in Lagos took an interesting dimension with the police providing water and biscuits to protesters.

The Police Commissioner in Lagos State, Mr Adegoke Fayoade, said the command provided water and biscuits for protesters so as to avoid anyone collapsing on the way.

He said that the journey was a long distance for protesters trekking, coupled with the hot weather, hence the need for at least the water and biscuit, to give the participants strength for a successful protest.

Protesters in Plateau carried placards with inscriptions denouncing the economic policies of President Tinubu.

The State Chairman of the NLC, Eugene Manji, said the economic policy of the present administration, especially the removal of subsidies and forex, had inflicted hardship on average Nigerians, adding that the hyperinflation in the country has made life unbearable for many, especially civil servants.

In Delta, the State NLC Deputy Chairman, Zico Okwudi, who led the protest, declared that it was a fact that several Nigerians were dying of hunger following the high cost of food, soaring rents and school fees, poor electricity supply amidst poor remunerations.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Kano state chapter, called on the Tinubu administration to do away with all International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank policies and address the challenges and hardship the masses are passing through.

Among other demands, the state chairman of the NLC, Kabiru Inuwa, while addressing the state governor Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf, at government house, called on the Nigerian government to open the land borders.

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Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Terungwa Igbe and his counterpart in Kogi, Mr Gabriel Amari, blamed the hardship on the policies of the federal government.

In Oyo, drama ensued during the protest rally as some of those who participated in the rally initially disallowed Governor Makinde until they were appealed to by the labour leaders and the governor himself.

When Makinde was allowed to speak, he said he was aware of the hunger and anger in the land, adding there was need for all to come together to pull through the present challenges.

Few persons joined the protest in Cross River State as the state secretariat was open while the federal secretariat was shut.

Protesters in Ekiti carried placards with different inscriptions, such as “Cement price for N7000 now”, “Say no to hunger”, “Go back to N100 per litre, we are tired”, “Stop subsidising the rich, let the poor breathe.”

Protesters in Osun State bore placards with inscriptions like: “Enough is enough, “We say no to hardship,” “We say no to hunger,” “We are fed up with starvation,” “Let the poor breathe,” “Stop stealing palliatives meant for the working poor,” “We reject devaluation of Naira,” “No to anti-people policies.

Speaking during the protest, the Ogun State NLC Chairman, Hammed Ademola-Benco said the protest was to get good deals for Nigerians, who have been enmeshed in hardship, suffering in all ramifications.

Presenting a letter to Governor Dauda Lawal, containing their grievances, the NLC in Zamfara, led by Mr Sani Haliru Kurya said the hardship in the country had become unbearable and needed urgent government intervention.

After a march around streets in Akure, the Ondo State capital, the protest train was led to the Ondo governor’s office where the NLC chairman, Mr Victor Amoko, highlighted some of its demands to include: the need to end hunger and poverty, end Naira devaluation and support local oil production by revamping refineries, end insecurity and create jobs as well as to reject IMF/World Bank policies among others.

The NLC chairman in Kwara, Mr Murtala Olayinka and his counterpart in Imo, Mr Chigaemezu Nwaigwe, said that, after the two days protest, it expects government to open negotiations and take more strategic and realistic actions to put an end to the current hardship in the country.

Pro-Tinubu group rally in Abuja

Meanwhile, some groups loyal to President Tinubu stormed the National Assembly complex in support of the reforms of the present administration.

The protesters, who converged on the Abuja Unity Fountain, staged a peaceful walk to the National Assembly complex, calling on the NLC to call off its action.

The protesters, who brandished various placards in support of Tinubu administration, called on the organised labour to halt any action that may jeopardise the economy in the interest of the nation.

Led by Kabiru Mohammed Matazu, the protesters insisted that decision by Tinubu’s administration has demonstrated a dedicated commitment to addressing the hardship faced by Nigerians with the urgency they deserve.

They urged the NLC to engage in a constructive dialogue with the government instead of grounding economic activities, exacerbating the issues and further making life hard for the common man.

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NLC suspends nationwide protest, extends ultimatum

Meanwhile, the NLC, on Tuesday night, suspended its national protest following the success of its first outing.

The labour explained that it had achieved almost all the objectives of the protest, adding that there is no need of continuing the protest on the slated second day.

According to a statement signed by the NLC president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, and its acting general secretary, Comrade Ismail Bello,, the congress said the decision to suspend the protest was reached during its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

The statement reads: “NEC of Congress, in session on February 16, 2024, ordered a two-day nationwide protest to join Nigerians in demonstrating outrage over the massive suffering and hunger facing the masses and workers as a result of the policies of the government on the hike of price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and floating the naira.

“The NEC-in-session therefore reviewed the execution of the first day of the nationwide protest to assess its effectiveness and take decision on further necessary action to guide congress in its effort at engaging government to protect the people and Nigerian workers from the increasing scourge of hardship.

“To this end, NEC commended Nigerians, all NLC affiliates, state councils, workers and civil society allies across the nation for trooping out in large numbers to peacefully demonstrate their outrage on the hardship imposed by the government and its twin altars – the IMF and the World Bank..

“Consequently, NEC-in-session resolved as follows: to suspend street action for the second day of the protest having achieved overwhelming success thus attained the key objectives of the two-day protest on the first day.

“However, nationwide action continues tomorrow with simultaneous press conferences across all the states of the federation by the state councils of the congress including the national headquarters.
“To reaffirm and extend the seven-day ultimatum by another seven days which now expires on the March, 13, 2024 within which the government is expected to implement all the earlier agreement of October 2, 2023 and other demands presented in our letter during today’s nationwide protest.

“To meet and decide on further lines of action if, on the expiration of the 14 days, the government refuses to comply with the demands as contained in the ultimatum.

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