Leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and their Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterparts, Tuesday, September 26, 2023, announced to Nigerians, especially workers, that the two labour centres would jointly prosecute the planned nationwide indefinite strike starting on October 3, 2023.
Until then, the two centres had been in a cold war and worked at cross purposes to the detriment of the suffering masses especially workers, who are bearing the brunt of the removal of subsidy on petrol.
Recall that after the initial joint meeting the NLC and TUC held with the representatives of the Federal Government in June led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, other meetings with the government were held separately.
Although, the NLC and TUC held a joint nationwide protest on Wednesday August 2, 2023, to protest perceived government insensitivityto the plights of poor Nigerians, the frosty relationship between them came to a boiling point ahead of the two-day warning strike declared by NLC for August 5 and 6, 2023.
Why TUC backed off
Leaders of the TUC after a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, were quoted by a section of the media to have said they had backed out of the planned strike.
As expected, leaders of NLC hit back at TUC, dismissing the claims that they were backing out of the planned strike as untrue because TUC did not declare a strike in the first place. In other words, leaders of TUC could not withdraw from a strike they did not call.
The leaders of the TUC also went ahead to give the government two weeks to address their demands, claiming the government still needs more time to address those demands.
On Monday, September 18, after a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, TUC told Nigerians and workers that the government would announce wage awards for workers the following week.
NLC 21-day strike notice
On the other hand, at its meeting with the government, leaders of NLC told the Labour minister and his team that the government had up till Friday when the 21-day ultimatum given to the government by NLC would expire.
Recall that on September 1, while declaring the two-day warning strike, NLC had also given the government 14 days and 21 days notice within which to address its demands or face an indefinite nationwide strike.
Consequently, the September 18 meeting ended in deadlock as the meeting that commenced around 2 pm, ended around 4.23 p.m. without agreement.
On Friday, September 22, NLC summoned an emergency meeting of its National Executive Council, NEC, for Tuesday, September 22, to invariably fix the date to commence an indefinite strike.
Intervention by veterans
While all these were happening between NLC and TUC, Vanguard gathered that concerned elders in the Labour movement and civil society allies became worried that the movement was slipping into the divide-and-rule agenda of the government and that urgent intervention was needed to rescue the movement from the antics of the government.
According to sources, the elders and civil society allies reached out to the presidents and executives of both labour centres on the need to work together as one if they hoped to achieve anything for the masses of the country, especially workers who they are leading.
Following the intervention, the president of NLC and his TUC counterpart reached out to each other and stated talking, it was gathered.
Vanguard learned that following the success of the interface between the presidents of both labour centres, a broader meeting of leaders of NLC and TUC was held on Monday, September 21 at night.
The marathon meeting, it was gathered, lasted for over five hours and leaders of both centres told themselves the truth.
They were told to forget ego, pride and frivolities and face the onerous task of making life and living conditions better for the suffering masses of Nigeria most especially workers.
In fact, before the intervention, one of the leaders of TUC had confided in Vanguard that the leaders of NLC do not see TUC as partners but a labour centre they could always lord things over.
He complained that the NLC took a decision to embark on the August 2 protest alone without bothering to carry the TUC along.
According to the source, the TUC decided to join the protest at the last minute in the interest of the masses and workers.
The TUC source said what broke the camel’s back was NLC’s decision to declare the two-day warning strike without consulting or carrying TUC along.
The source said: “To the chagrin of TUC leaders, we read about the two-day warning strike notice on the pages of the newspapers like other Nigerians. The right thing to have been done was for the two Labour centres to either hold a joint NEC and decide on the warning strike or for NLC to reach out to TUC on its decision before making it public. Both NLC and us (TUC) would then meet and decide on the warning strike and jointly announce it. Alternatively, we could announce the warning strike separately but on same day. This was not done.
“When we looked at the content of the NLC’s communique announcing the warning strike, it appeared to be personal to NLC. The communique talked about the government interference in the leadership and occupation of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, headquarters in Abuja, without talking about Lagos State Government takeover of our affiliate, the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN office and seizure of two TUC buses parked at RTEAN secretariat in Lagos.
“The NLC communique also talked about some state governments’ interference in its state councils. So, essentially, we saw it as NLC’s affairs since we were not carried along and the things that concerned us were not included.”
However, some leaders of NLC while dismissing the TUC’s claims, alleged that leaders of the TUC breached NLC’s trust and confidence from the onset.
One of the NLC leaders told Vanguard: “One of the TUC’s betrayals of trust was on September 4, a day to the two-day warning strike. On that day, the Minister of Labour and Employment invited us and TUC to a meeting. The meeting was supposed to hold around 3 p.m. But before the meeting, the minister held a press conference addressing the issues we were supposed to discuss and so on. We saw no reason to attend the meeting again. But our sister Labour centre attended.
“That was not the first time. There was another example before the ministers were appointed by the President. We had a scheduled meeting with the government team at the Villa. We were not only held back at the gate for quite some time but when we got to the venue, the Chief of Staff to the President, who was supposed to preside over the meeting was nowhere to be found.
“About three low-ranking officials were left to hold the meeting with us. We left after waiting in vain for senior officials of government to turn up including the Chief of Staff to the President. But our sister labour centre stayed. Their utterances and body language before these examples were not convincing to us.”
NLC, TUC leaders meeting
Notwithstanding, sources at the reconciliation meeting informed Vanguard that leaders of NLC and TUC were made to understand that they needed to work together since both NLC and TUC were working for the masses and workers of Nigeria.
One of the sources said: “The leaders of both NLC and TUC were told and in fact, they agreed that both centres are working for the Nigerian masses, especially workers but with different approaches and methods. They were made to see reasons why a united force is a panacea to fighting a formidable enemy.
“They were also made to realize that the more they continue to work at cross purposes, the more the gap between them continues to widen and the more government will take advantage of it to unleash more anti-poor policies. They have also realized that the government will not address any of their demands if they continue to fight independently of each other.”
At the end of the meeting held at a hotel in Utako area of Abuja, Vanguard gathered that both NLC and TUC with over five representatives from each centre resolved to work as one to challenge the anti-poor policies of the government that have worsened poverty, unemployment, insecurity and other situations across Nigeria.
A source at the meeting said “They agreed that government has failed, that both NLC and TUC are the same family with common interests and must not allow the government to divide them.
“There was also the understanding that the NLC and TUC are the only hopes of Nigerian people and that they must do everything possible not to betray the Nigerian masses.
“There was equally an understanding that issues affecting them (NLC and TUC) should be discussed and addressed within them without allowing such issues to degenerate into wrangling or disputes, and so on.”
The product of the September 21 night meeting was the joint communique of Tuesday, September 22, by leaders of NLC and TUC declaration of an indefinite nationwide strike starting from October 3, 2023.
Nigerian Lady Strangled To Death In UK
The family of a former ophthalmic nurse at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Taiwo Owoeye, who was found dead in her home in Suffolk, United Kingdom, has expressed sadness over her death.
The PUNCH learnt that Taiwo was allegedly strangled to death by her husband, David Abodunde on Tuesday, November 28.
It was gathered that the mother of three who was also a nurse in the UK had reported a case of an assault by her husband to the police on Monday, November 27.
READ ALSO: British Poet Benjamin Zephaniah Is Dead
The police, upon visiting their apartment the following day, found Taiwo lying on the floor of the living room motionless. Efforts to revive her, however, proved abortive as she was declared dead by the paramedics who arrived at the scene.
Taiwo’s husband who also was said to be inside the apartment with her was thereafter arrested on suspicion of her murder.
The couple got married in 2016. However, the late Taiwo relocated to the UK in 2022 and was later joined by her husband earlier this year.
The deceased’s brother, Alex Owoeye, who mourned her passing in a Facebook post claimed that David was declared the sole murderer after an investigation carried out by the police.
He wrote, “This is to officially announce the painful exit of my dear sister, Nurse Owoeye Taiwo Morenikeji, married to Abodunde David Olubunmi of Ipoti Ekiti. According to the Suffolk Police in the UK and the available documents and records sent to us via mail and direct conversations from the UK Police, after thoroughly conducted investigations, despite being caught in the act, he (the husband) was declared the sole murderer of his wife (my sister).”
Owoeye noted that the three children of the couple were currently being taken care of by the UK social services.
He also urged his family members to keep calm while assuring them that justice would be served in due course.
Another relative, Opeyemi Owoeye, also wrote on her Facebook page, “She was killed by her own very husband (Abodunde Bunmi David), no peace for the wicked. Justice for Owoeye Taiwo.”
Reacting to the news of her death, another Facebook user, Olabanji Fabiyi, described it as heart-wrenching.
He wrote, “The recent tragic news of Taiwo Owoeye Abodunde murdered by her husband in Suffolk, United Kingdom, is profoundly heart-wrenching. Although myself and Taiwo were not that so close, her late dad and my late dad were childhood friends and her mum and mine are also good friends, all from Igogo Ekiti. Considering her upbringing, it seems improbable that any provocation from Taiwo warranted such a brutal act as strangulation. Also, the audio clip of what transpired between them prior to the untimely death is a pointer to the animalistic, barbaric and untrained husband she had.”
British Poet Benjamin Zephaniah Is Dead
British poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who famously rejected an honour from over Britain’s empire and links to slavery has died.
Zephaniah died at the age of 65.
His family announced his demise on Thursday, in a statement on social media.
According to the statement, the poet was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago.
“It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved Husband, Son, and Brother in the early hours of this morning the 7th of December 2023,” the statement said.
“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed. We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news.
“Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much. Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television, and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.
“Thank you for the love you have shown Professor Benjamin Zephaniah.”
Nigeria, Ghana, Six Others Receive $1.96m To Tackle Fistula
Eight member countries of the Economic Community of West African States received $1.96 million from the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre on Wednesday to tackle fistula disorder.
Fistula disorder is an abnormal connection between organs. Fistulas are usually the result of an injury or surgery.
According to the United States Agency for International Development in 2021, Nigeria accounted for 40 per cent of fistula cases worldwide.
USAID also stated that Nigeria reports 13,000 new cases of fistula per year, and as many as 400,000 women languish on waiting lists for corrective surgery.
The countries that got $245,000 each were Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gambia and Liberia.
The presentation of cheques to the beneficiaries was one of the highlights at the 91st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers held in Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman, ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Yusuf Tuggar, stated that the Council would deliberate on the community’s budget for the 2024 fiscal year as the current economic challenges are affecting the region’s Gross Domestic Product and revenue generation.
Tuggar noted, “We must be mindful of the prevailing economic and financial challenges confronting our sub-region, such as inflation, high food prices, and currency devaluation, which have adversely affected our economies.
“These challenges have impacted our gross domestic product, revenue generation, and in particular our mobilisation of the community levy, due to the devaluation of some of our major currencies, particularly Cedi and Naira against the US Dollar.”
Urging the Council Ministers, the minister said, “Therefore, we must support the recommendations of the Administration and Finance Committee on enhancing prudence, as well as the efforts of the President of the Commission and other Heads of the Institutions on blocking leakages to ensure judicious use of our meagre resources.”
Also, the President, ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, lamented that member states under sanctions have stopped remitting levies, adding that ECOWAS needs enough financial resources to tackle the challenges bedeviling the region.
“For some time now, the levy collection has been a challenge. The amount of 0.5 per cent ECOWAS levy on imports from outside the Community has been collected by member states on behalf of ECOWAS.
“However, the deposit of these funds into the ECOWAS bank accounts at the country level and access to the funds have been a challenge. This has led to low resource mobilization.
“The situation is more critical now that our member states under sanctions have stopped remitting the levy. As the financial situation gets more difficult, the tasks for ECOWAS are growing,” Touray stated.
The president urged the councils of ministers to “mobilise the levy fully to be able to implement our community work programme and keep up with the successes of ECOWAS.”
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