Another avoidable strike
Posted to the Web: Thursday, June 21, 2007
THE strike commencing yesterday would have been avoided if the government had been responsive to the 14-day ultimatum issued by the Labour unions. The insistence by Labour on outright reversal of some economic decisions of past administration with harsh effects on people’s welfare forced government to accede to some of their demands which Labour considered inadequate. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) members went ahead with its threatened strike action.
Ab initio, government’s sluggish approach to the charter of demands of NLC and TUC is the basis of this avoidable strike. The Labour unions are demanding that government reverts to N65 per litre old price of fuel from the present N75 per litre decreed by the immediate past President Olusegun Obasanjo administration but government reduced it to N70.
They are calling for a reversion of Value Added Tax (VAT) current 10 per cent to previous five per cent which government did. Labour is demanding payment of 15 per cent salary increment promised by government since January that government grudgingly agreed now to pay. But it refused the reversal of sale of Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries.
The negative ripple effects of these actions before the few official concessions were granted caused serious inflation which Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) says has risen to 18 per cent from its previous seven per cent. This has challenged the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 23 days of rulership of the country.
The new president has promised to assuage feelings of the aggrieved and suffering people of our country. The best way to do and commence this could not be by showing contempt for the genuine grievances of the people through Labour movement, that remains the only platform for showing public discontent to government unacceptable policies.
The welfare and security of the people as provided in Section 14(2)(b) of 1999 Constitution remain the primary responsibility of government. The immediate past administration from N20 per litre in 1999, increased fuel price per litre to N75 by the time its eight years of two terms expired on May 29, 2007. Yet, there are no commensurate safety net on ground to cushion the harsh effect of this policy.
Also, the past administration was unable to implement any successful Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the nation’s four refineries; neither was it able to build any new one in eight years of its stay in power. But, it quickly organised sale of refineries in questionable hasty circumstances at the tail end of its tenure.
We have no doubt that these policies could not have been in the best interest of Nigerians. No policy without human face could be. The strike action is a bad start for President Yar’Adua administration while it would also cause unquantifiable loses to the country. Already, militants’ activities in the Niger Delta region has dipped the nation’s oil production by 25 per cent. The on-going strike will further worsen the situation.
President Yar’Adua should reverse the bad and inhuman policies of his predecessor that are wracking pains on Nigerians. No citizen of a country like Nigeria with over $47 billion in foreign reserve should be made to suffer as currently the case.
This anomaly is what the strike is protesting and we expect the government to see reason with the Labour unions. We stand by our earlier position that a reversal of these inimical policies is necessary