19 September 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal government has indicated interest in meeting with a section of the United Labour Congress (ULC), after a nationwide strike called by the union commenced on Monday and led to the shutdown of fuel depots in Apapa, Lagos and other parts of the country and, threatened the supply of petroleum products.
Recall that the Federal government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, last week, dismissed the threats by the ULC, claiming it was not a recognised labour union under the Labour Unions Act.
But oil workers under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have announced that they are partaking in the strike. NUPENG has also insisted that ULC is a recognised union and that they are part of the body.
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA), Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said, “We got to our offices and we saw that they (NUPENG members) were not working.”
Mr. Adewole noted that prior to the commencement of the strike, some of the association’s members were not loading petroleum products because of the debts owed them by the government.
The South-West Chairman of NUPENG, Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, said, “We are part of the ULC and we are on strike since morning. There is no loading at depots nationwide. We voted the government into power and let us join hands together to talk to them when it is appropriate.”
Meanwhile, according to a statement on Monday by the Deputy Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, a meeting is of stakeholders is scheduled to hold today at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
Also, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) asked members of the public not to engage in panic buying of products, adding that it had more than 1.6 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in stock, enough to last for 48 days.
It also said it had in stock sufficient quantities of Automotive Gas Oil or diesel, Dual Purpose Kerosene and Aviation Turbine Kerosene to serve the country.
ULC’s demands include a ban on the stationing of the soldiers and policemen in its members’ workplaces and factory premises; establishment of a task force by the Federal Ministry of Labour to carry out factory inspections, and immediate review of the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Others include the immediate payment of all the arrears of salaries owed workers at all levels of government, and failure of the government to recognise the body as a labour federation despite allegedly fulfilling all conditions stipulated by law.
The ULC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero said, “We urge all Nigerians to bear with us as this is a necessary sacrifice we all must make to assist those in government to be more responsible and responsive to the demands of Nigerian workers and masses.
“We urge the patriots, who are working behind the scene to get the matter resolved, to put pressure on the Federal Government to listen to Nigerian workers and the masses, whom it claims to lead. That is the only way we can get this matter amicably resolved.”
According to Ajaero, the affiliates of the ULC that joined the strike on Monday are the National Union of Electricity Employees; Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes; National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees; NUPENG and Nigerian Union of Railway Workers; National Union of Lottery Agents and Employees, among others.
Aviation unions shunned directives to shut down the Nigerian airspace. The unions are the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals; Aeronautical Information Services Association of Nigeria; and the National Association of Air Traffic Engineers.
The General Secretary, NUR, Segun Esan, said, “Not all railway workers might have joined the strike on Monday, but as the days go by, there would be full participation and compliance.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and his counterpart at the Trade Union Congress, Bobboi Kaigama, described the ULC as an illegal body.
In a statement jointly signed by Wabba and Kaigama, they said that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment had acted within the confines of the law by not registering the ULC and the affiliates it put forward.
They said, “No unregistered organisations or individuals can hold our dear country to ransom. We urge the Federal Ministry of Labour and workers to discountenance the threats of this illegal association.
“The ministry must be steadfast in upholding the laws governing trade union practice in the country. Finally, our colleagues are still members of the labour family, in unity lies our strength. We once again extend our hands of comradeship and urge them to return to the fold.”