Fuel subsidy removal : Labour defies injunction, begins strike

By Bimbola Oyesola

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Organised labour and its allies in civil society groups will, this morning, begin an indefinite nationwide strike in protest against the Federal Government’s  increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, from N86.50k to N145.
The NLC, at its emergency National Executive Meeting (NEC) in Abuja, gave leadership of the congress the go ahead, in spite of a meeting with the Federal Government yesterday and a court injunction. The NEC meeting was called in response to the one held with the Federal Government on Monday.  It was also the second within a week.
The first was when the congress gave government four days ultimatum to revert to the old price of petrol last Friday.
According to the NEC, the NLC cannot afford to be restrained by the National Industrial Court’s judgment, “as it was not served officially.
“Besides, we cannot be respecting a court injunction which the Federal Government has no respect for.  Government had earlier disobeyed a court injunction restraining it from increasing electricity tariff. Government has not set a good example,” one of the labour leaders at the meeting told Daily Sun.
President of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Solomon Adelegan said the NLC attended the second  meeting to inform government representatives that there would be no more discussion until the price reverted to status quo.
Adelegan said government, at the meeting on Monday, dangled  carrots of palliatives and minimum wage at labour but NLC insisted that the minimum wage or increase in salary should be separated from fuel price increase.  He noted that the strike will commence throughout the federation from 6:00am today. “We will converge at the NLC Lagos headquarters as early as 6:00 today and from there we will move to other parts of the city,” he said. In preparation for today’s action,  members of the labour movement, with their civil society allies, marched though Yaba-Ojuelegba Road yesterday, to sensitise Nigerians on the importance of joining the strike.


...Don’t do it, court rules

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Oladele Oguntimehin

The National Industrial Court (NIC) has stopped the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on its planned nation-wide strike over a hike in the pump price of petrol pending the determination of a suit by the Federal Government.
The restraining order was issued by NIC President, Justice Babatunde Adejumo yesterday, after hearing an  exparte application moved by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The court further granted an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant/respondent from demonstration or engaging in any action that may disrupt the economic activities of the country pending the hearing and determination of the originating summons.
However, Justice Adejumo had, while granting the exparte order,  urged the federal government and organised labour to implore an amicable settlement of the dispute.  The judge regretted the absence of the NLC and TUC and said the court would have advised them to embrace an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism in resolving the issue.
“I decided to take this case this morning because it is an issue that will affect everybody and I don’t want people to be subjected to hardship.
“There will be scarcity of food; people may die, students will engage in all sorts of activities. This is why I have to grant this order,” he said.
The federal government’s team was led by Malami; Chief O.O. Obono-Obla, special assistant to the president (Prosecution), Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Dayo Apata, director, Civil Litigation in the Ministry of Justice.
Government argued that if the relief sought in the motion were refused, irreparable damage would be caused to the country’s national economy, security and corporate existence.
The judge, thereafter, assigned  the case to Justice Benedict Kanyie of the Lagos Division of the Court for adjudication.  He is to sit in Abuja for the proceedings.
The matter has been adjourned to May 24.
The Federal Government in a 26- paragraphs affidavit in support of the originating summons,  blames the removal of subsidy to some negative issues which includes difficulties in accessing forex, acute shortage of the product and the need to liberise the market.
‎It further blamed the subsidy removal to payment of  huge sums of money, negative activities of marketers and importers who were diverting  Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to unknown destination thereby causing hardship to the Nigerian citizens.
The affidavit which was deposed to by one Mr. Enoch Simon in the litigation department of the AGF explained that the Federal government considering the above fact decided to deregulate the petroleum sector though a policy shift that will ensure for a better Nigeria.
“That the Federal did not include or make any provision in the 2016 Appropriation Act just passed by the National Assembly and assented by President Buhari for payment of fuel subsidy.
The payment of fuel subsidy “that after the passage of the 2014 appropriation act as considering a fact that Nigerians were not benefiting from the subsidy being paid by the Federal government, the Federal government on the 11th day of May 2016 conveyed a stakeholder meeting over the lingering issue presided over by the vice president professor Yemi Osibanjo at the end of which a statement was issued and the meeting g was attended by all stakeholders in the petroleum sector representative  of the major labour unions and representatives of civil society organisation”.
“That after the removal of subsidy which place the price of PMS jot to be sold above N145 the organised labour union issued an ultimatum to the Federal government to reverse it’s policy decision, failure of which they will embark on an indefinite strike with effect from 12 midnight Tuesday, 17th day of may 2016.
“That the planned strike of the Labour Union, the defendants/respondent herein is to shut down the Nigeria economy by closing down all government apparatus including revenue earning establishment.
The Federal government stated that if the planned strike is allowed to go on, the Federal, State and Local government will lose revenue worth billions of naira thereby causing untold hardship and unimaginable security problems/ challenging across the country.
The government added that if the restraining order is not granted on or before Tuesday, the 17th day of May 2016, the defendant/ respondent will embarked on this planned strike noting that the organised labour union like NUPENG and PENGASSEN are in support of the removal of fuel subsidy.
It is the contention of the Federal government that the Labour Union has not comply with the launch down procedure to give government not ice of their planned strike apart from media publications.
Meanwhile the matter has been adjourned to May 24, 2016.

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