The strike action embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congres (NLC), was ignored by most residents of Benin City, the Edo State capital as they went about their normal activities, Wednesday.
NLC had called for a total shut government institutions, markets and other businesses in the country to protest against the hike in petroleum prices.
The state chapter of NLC in a press briefing in Benin on Tuesday had said it would not obey the injunction of Nigeria Industrial Court (NIC) that barred NLC from going ahead with the planned strike, Wednesday.
The Chairman of Edo State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun, described the injunction granted the Federal Government as “black market injunction”, adding that the state chapter of the Union will not respect the court ruling.
“The court injunction is a black market injunction, we are not going to honour it. It is an indefinite strike action until the government reverses the rices of petroleum products pump price to N86.50 and again, electricity tariff reversed to the old rate.
“We are moving ahead with the strike action. We are going to seal of petrol stations across the state and any filling station that flout the order, we will mobilize and dispense their fuel at N86,” he said.
However, most residents of the state capital were seen going about there normal activities.
Most Ministries were opened for businesses, including banks.
At the University of Benin, normal activities were continuing. At the nearby University of Benin Teaching Hospital, the strike was partial as doctors and nurses were seen on duty.
But some offices in the administration department were locked.
At the state Ministry of Justice work was skeletal, while some offices were locked, others opened for business.
Students in both public and private schools were also seen going to their various schools. When asked why he was going to school, DSS pupil of Edokpolor Grammar School, Victor Osas said, the principal f the school asked that they should all come to school on Wednesday because there no strike.
Commercial drivers were also observed to be playing major roads in the city. Also major markets, like New Benin, Edaiken, Oba Markets were all in full swing, when The Street Journal visited.
A staff of the University of Benin, who spoke with The Street Journal, said he doesn’t see the need for strike.
He noted that the way subsidery payment has been managed in the country called for a review. “As far as fuel will be available for us to buy, I don’t have problem with the removal. After all, anytime there is scarcity we buy more than N140, so the noise”
Godspower Olotu, a commercial bus driver denounced the increment in its entirety, saying drivers have little to take home after buying fuel.
“Look the people not ready to pay for any hike in transport fare because they don’t have. Rather than drive empty bus to and fro, we are forced to bring down prices and at the end of the day, after buying fuel, we have nothing to take home”, he said.
Meanwhile, reports from across the states indicate that the strike had lost steam as it did not live up to expectations.
Convoy of military men are presently patrolling streetss in the city.
In Kano, for instance, banks, markets, schools and other and offices have continued with their daily activities.
All major markets, including Sabon Gari, Kwari Textile market, Yankaba Vegetables markets and were open by Wednesday afternoon.
Major tertiary schools visited in the city were opened as students continued with their classes.
They include Bayero University, Kano Science and Technical University, and North West University.
With virtually all its affiliate unions pulling out of the strike, the NLC threat to shut down the nation, seemed to have failed to garner support from the public.
To worsen its position, the faction of the union led by Joe Ajaero is not with the Ayuba Wabba-led faction on the strike, even as members of the Trade Union Congress have pulled out of Wednesday’s planned strike action.
The TUC announced this after a joint meeting between Labour leaders and the Federal government yesterday night. Electricity workers, NUPENG and PENGASSAN have already signified they will not be participating in the proposed strike action.
However, the Ayuba Wabba-led faction on Tuesday night walked out of a meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who led the government delegation, insisting on strike from Wednesday.
This is despite an order by the NIC, which restrained the NLC from the action.
In the nation’s capital, Abuja, there was no sign of sit at home order as the city is bubbling with activities.
Apart for a handful of NLC members, who came out to protest against the hike in petrol price. The protest, which began at the headquarters of the NLC in central district of Abuja to the federal secretariat, saw unionists brandishing NLC flags as they marched to major streets of Abuja. The NLC President, Wabba, and some other officials addressed members upon getting to the Federal Secretariat.
The protest in Abuja was joined by the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who also wielded placards that read: “ASUU rejects hike in pump price of petrol”
In Lagos also, it was half hearted as the the traditional – Ojota- for relying support for mass support was empty.
The strike failed to gain the expected momentum. The Labour union and some civil societies marched towards Ikeja from the Yaba office of the NLC.
The protesters, who were led by one of the NLC’s Deputy President, said they are not disrupting movement by motorist and other road users and that they are only out to sensitise Nigerians on the hardship being foisted on them by the present government.
Apart from disturbances witnessed in the Fadeyi area of the state, people have been going about their normal activities.
Policemen and officials of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, dispersed NLC members who assembled at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja around 8am.
The protesters subsequently regrouped outside the airport and formed a barricade which prevented commercial vehicles from gaining access to the airport, compounding the traffic situation on the ever busy road.
Reports from Delta State said NLC members locked out workers at the main secretariat in Asaba and government owned institutions.
The strike failed in the northern states of Kaduna, Sokoto, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, katsina, Jigawa, Borno, Kano and Bayelsa as at Wednesday morning. There was however partial compliance in Gombe, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Osun and Cross River States.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has applauded the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Joe Ajaero-led faction of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) for their understanding to shelve the planned strike by organised labour.
Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), gave the commendation in Abuja at a news conference warly on Wednesday after a meeting called with a view to avert the proposed strike.
Lawal said that the Federal Government, after two consecutive days of deliberations, had full cooperation from the TUC and the Joe Ajaero-led faction of the NLC, to set aside the planned strike.
According to him, a faction of the NLC completely agreed with the position of the TUC that they will participate in all the technical committees and that work continues on Wednesday as usual.
He, however, noted that the elected NLC representatives had decided that unless government addressed their demands, they would have no further participation in the process.
“We only received a notice from them on Saturday and it is government position that it is not humanly possible to respond to their demand within the time frame.
“Government is fully assured that there will be no strike.
“Again, we will like to report to Nigerians that the Industrial Court has given an injunction that no strike should hold by NLC and TUC.
“Government wishes to assure all Nigerians that they should report at their duty posts and go about their jobs as usual.
“Anyone embarking on strike is doing so illegally.”
He also said that government responsibility was to guarantee security of lives and property as well as freedom of movement and association.
The SGF said anyone found in anyway trying to compel Nigerians to do otherwise, would be challenged by the laws of the land.
Furthermore, Lawal said that the Federal Government had taken the painful decision to liberalise the petroleum sector, knowing that there could be possible adverse consequences to the comfort of Nigerians.
“But it is a decision needed to be taken at this time and it is the President’s believe that for a better future, painful decisions need to be taken now.
“The government is determined to bring Nigeria out of previous rot and take bold decisions where necessary, with some expected to be painful.
“There is no other choice to this matter; if the president had choice to take other options that would be less painful than this, he would have gone for it,” the SGF said.