The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Wednesday strongly refuted Senate President Godswill Akpabio’s recent claims that the indefinite nationwide strike by the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) constitutes economic sabotage to the nation. According to leaders of the organized labour, such accusations are baseless and deeply troubling for Nigerian patriots and democracy advocates. In a communique at the end of a joint NEC Meeting, the NLC and TUC, debunked Akpabio’s statement as undemocratic and self-serving.

The strike, initiated on June 3rd, was in response to the federal government’s refusal to conclude the national minimum wage negotiations, reverse electricity tariff hikes, and end discriminatory consumer classifications. This legally conducted strike reflects the frustration of Nigerian workers facing economic hardships and deteriorating working conditions

Senator Akpabio’s statements undermine the democratic principles the Senate professes to uphold. The National Assembly, being the closest arm of government to the people, should understand the people’s feelings. This ought to guide their actions and pronouncements accordingly.

Strikes are not only legal but a civic duty and a critical tool for holding those in authority and power accountable. It is a democratic right, essential for preventing dictatorship and socioeconomic collapse.

For the past 25 years, the political elite have wilfully sabotaged Nigeria through acts of corruption and abuse of power, not the workers. The true economic saboteurs are those looting national resources, not the labour force.

We therefore urge patriotic members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to distance themselves from these damaging remarks. Nigerian workers have the constitutional right to go on strike, in response to unfair labor practices, and the NLC and TUC have exercised this right lawfully.

The economic issues prompting the strike, like electricity tariff hikes and unfair consumer classifications, are burdens that exacerbate poverty and inequality but from which the political elite are insulated. The NLC will continue to advocate for fair economic policies and a national minimum wage that is realistic.

Labor unions played a crucial role in restoring democracy to Nigeria, from which current lawmakers benefit, therefore, they will not sabotage it. The NLC remains committed to protecting workers’ rights and calls on government representatives to address the underlying issues leading to the strike through constructive dialogue and genuine efforts to improve living standards instead of indulging in eye-service criticism.

The Senate President should be concerned about the militarisation of a purely trade union dispute instead of this unhelpful blame game. Let those who are inviting the military now remember when tomorrow comes. Nigerian workers cannot operate under military conditions in a democracy, we will resist this with everything we have. Doing this on time will avert another round of industrial crisis.

The Senate President’s subtle threat that the Senate will move into Executive Session to address the issue of our strike smacks of contempt for open and transparent debate which ought to be the bedrock of parliamentary proceedings. As he goes into his “coven”, the Senate President should realise that the right to strike is now settled by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), despite that Senator Lalong as Minister of Labour voted against it.   We call on Akpabio to retrace his steps and know that he is the President of the Senate and not Chairman of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria.  

We remain open to dialogue with the government for sustainable solutions benefiting all Nigerians and expect proactive interventions to prevent anti-worker policies. We will not be intimidated by such unfortunate statements from the hallowed chambers of the Senate and we expect due apologies, if it was a slip. Any attempt to undermine legitimate labour actions will not be acceptable to us.

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