The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has strongly denounced the recent surge in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, along with other policies that it perceives as detrimental to the impoverished population. In a compelling address during the opening ceremony of a four-day program for NLC state council leaders in Lagos, NLC President Joe Ajaero declared that the Nigerian state had effectively declared war on the working class and the masses.
Represented by Deputy President of Congress and President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Prince Adewale Adeyanju, Ajaero emphasized that trade union leaders must not abandon the Nigerian people and workers in the face of such challenges. The program, which was supported by the American Solidarity Centre, aimed to rally labor leaders across the country in the struggle to protect the rights of Nigerian workers and citizens.
Ajaero asserted, “We must all join hands in the struggle for the articulation and protection of the rights of Nigerian workers and people, with the hope that one day, workers of Nigeria will reclaim their natural rights that have been forcefully abridged and trampled upon by uninformed employers and those in government who ought to have been in the vanguard of guaranteeing such rights.”
Highlighting the paradoxical nature of governance in Nigeria, Ajaero lamented that instead of being a means to serve the people, governance had become an instrument for inflicting pain and suffering on workers and the masses. He specifically criticized the recent steep hike in the price of PMS by the federal government, citing it as a heartless act under the guise of petroleum subsidy withdrawal without adequate arrangements to mitigate the expected impact.
The NLC president contended that this policy decision should have resulted from dialogue among stakeholders but was instead imposed by a democratically elected government that prioritized aggression over collaborative decision-making, leading to severe economic repercussions.
Ajaero affirmed, “This onslaught, comrades, is not relenting and would continue if nothing is done to mediate it immediately. It has become exigent that we forcefully bring to the knowledge of our various leaders that rendering many more millions of Nigerians poor could not be an option for punishment. Moreover, impoverishing workers and pushing millions more into hellish living does not in any way approximate sound economic management.”
Expressing concern over the continuous sacrifices of poor Nigerian workers for the benefit of the rich, Ajaero warned that such exploitation was pushing the nation towards a breaking point. He stressed that a nation with a substantial number of impoverished individuals, coupled with an increasing working poor population, would inevitably face significant challenges. Ajaero urged Nigerians, workers, and comrades to unite and put an end to this cycle of abuse and inequality.
He concluded, “The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, can halt this manifest mischief. As trade union leaders, we must not abandon the people and workers to their fate. We must not leave anything to chance and we must not sit by and watch this rape continue unabated.”
Ajaero also drew attention to the pervasive abuses of workers’ rights and privileges across various workplaces, perpetuated by employers in both the public and private sectors. He lamented the impunity with which employers violated labor laws, which had resulted in the erosion of workers’ rights and the denial of fair and living wages.
The NLC president highlighted instances where governments at different levels owed salaries for extended periods, occasionally up to a year, and praised themselves when they managed to pay a single month’s salary, wrongly perceiving it as an act of charity. These acts of injustice and neglect by employers were highlighted as
major factors contributing to the violation of workers’ rights and the economic struggles faced by the labor force.
The Nigeria Labour Congress called for immediate action to address these issues and urged employers to uphold labor laws, provide fair wages, and ensure the well-being of workers. The NLC emphasized that sustainable economic growth must be accompanied by social justice and equitable distribution of benefits to the Nigerian people.
The NLC’s condemnation of the recent fuel price hike and anti-poor policies resonates with the sentiments of many Nigerians who have been grappling with rising living costs and a widening wealth gap. The organization’s call for unity and collective action serves as a rallying cry for workers and citizens to stand up against the ongoing injustices and demand better conditions and treatment from the government and employers.
As the NLC continues to advocate for workers’ rights and social justice, it remains to be seen how the Nigerian government and other stakeholders will respond to these concerns. The outcome of this struggle will not only shape the lives of Nigerian workers but also impact the overall economic and social landscape of the country.