Government workers in Nigeria had on October 3, 2023, continued working after last-minute efforts by authorities averted a nationwide strike to protest growing hardship that could have shut down government services in Africa’s most populous country. The indefinite strike by Nigerian labour unions, which was scheduled to start on Tuesday, was suspended for 30 days. This is as meetings and talks with the government were held over the next couple of days, according to Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body of the unions.
There was a joint statement issued late October 2, by senior government officials and the leadership of the labour unions, which noted several resolutions including a monthly wage increase of N35,000 ($46) for all workers, payment of N25,000 ($33) for three months to 15 million vulnerable households as well as the provision of N100 billion (nearly $130 million) for gas-powered buses to be rolled out for mass transit in Nigeria starting from November.
Labour unions fault government’s intervention efforts.
Having been in office since May 29, 2023, President Tinubu’s policies aimed at fixing Nigerian ailing economy and attracting investors have more than doubled the cost of living for more than 200 million Nigerians who already were grappling with surging inflation. It hit an 18-year high of 25.8 percent in August of the year. The removal of decades-long expensive subsidies for premium motor spirit (PMS, also known as petrol) and the government’s devaluation of the currency more than doubled the price of petrol and other commodities.
Talks with the labour unions have stalled and a slow start to several intervention efforts resulted in the announcement of the strike. Though lauded by some analysts, the policies of the new government have been criticized by many because of their poor implementation. One major source of concern has been intervention efforts, which the labour unions said have been slow. Many of their workers now trek to work because they are unable to afford high transport costs, while many businesses have shut down under the weight of surging operational costs.
Former DG of chamber of commerce says Nigeria was on the brink.
Muda Yusuf, a former director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry who now leads the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, said that the policies are meant to correct the distortions and misgovernance of the past for a nation that was already on the brink. “The response has not been as fast as it should be,” he said. “But the adverse outcomes of the measures, the hardships, were much higher than what many of us expected.”
Months after the Federal Government announced the final and perpetual removal of fuel subsidies, NLC mobilized its members and concerned citizens to protest the hike in fuel prices and other commodities. The protest happened simultaneously in major cities, but most importantly at the National Assembly complex in Abuja. The incidence of protesters breaking through the gate of the complex raised concerns with everyone, but this has been the basis of the criticism leveled at the protest. After the protest, the joint unions of NLC and TUC asked its members in a statement to stay calm and wait for the government to reply to them.
Critics believed protest and strike were not as effective as before.
It was then unsurprising, according to critics, that the unions would call off their planned strike because it had ceased to be effective for long. Pessimists took to their social media accounts to say why they think that the leaders of the union had their own agenda both with the protest and the proposed strike, insinuating something sinister. While many tilt toward this side, others believe that the new administration has to be given enough time to implement policies and set things straight as it takes time for results to show.
Nigeria Labour Congress: Website