On September 1, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) first announced that it would be going on a two-day warning strike on September 5 due to the inflation of prices caused by the fuel subsidy removal and many more.
The NLC stated that the protest was to get the attention of the Nigerian government and inform them of the sufferings they have had to embrace since the announcement of the fuel subsidy removal.
They then threatened to shut down the country’s economy within 14 working days or 21 days if the government did not reconcile their losses by taking necessary actions to make life in Nigeria less than brutal.
Nearly a month after the announcement of the first strike, the NLC has threatened the federal government, alerting the nation of its decision to embark on an indefinite industrial strike, which is expected to begin on October 3, 2023.
Who Are The NLC?
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was formally constituted in 1978 as Nigeria’s only national trade union despite the existence of four trade centres preceding its existence.
However, before the NLC became formally constituted, Murtala Mohammed refused to acknowledge the existence of the new organisation. He created an organisation (Adebiyi Tribunal) to investigate the duties and functions of trade unions and their leaders.
The establishment of NLC was to serve as a bridge and a solution to the rivalry between the four older centres, namely Labour Unity Front (LUF), Nigeria Workers Council (NWC), Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), and United Labour Congress (ULC).
The NLC has over 4 million members underneath the protection of its union as it resulted from 1,500 affiliated unions, which were merged into 42 unions and, later, one.
What Does The NLC Do?
The NLC was created to stand for three things, “promote, defend, and protect” Nigerian workers; a few are listed below.
- The labour union ensures that the social, economic, and political rights of Nigerian workers are protected.
- It protects the quality of life and promotes the income and other working conditions of Nigerian workers.
- It ensures that the interests of all Nigerians, regardless of their social status and jobs, are aligned and met by the government.
- It aims to improve the country’s industrialisation and guarantee the security and protection of jobs and an acceptable, humane working environment.
NLC strikes regarding fuel price hikes
The National Labour Congress was formed when Nigeria was neck-deep in military interventions. Hence, the union had several conflicts with the military leaders, causing its dissolution twice during military regimes.
A decade after its introduction into the Nigerian constituent, NLC was dissolved under the rule of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1988 and also dissolved by General Abacha in 1994 till his death in 1998.
Under the leadership of the military leaders, leaders, and instructors of trade unions were often arrested.
The 2002 NLC strike
In 2002, during the rulership of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the National Labour Congress began its first strike against the unreasonable hike in fuel prices.
The strike was clamoured nationwide by union members, and when the strike commenced, all economic, government, and social activities by the union workers in the country were paused.
In Abuja, the police force spread a rally in support of the strike as it was being addressed by the president of the labour congress, Adams Oshiomhole, who took him into custody.
Nearly all Nigerians could not conduct their regular duties as reports that schools, banks, offices, and transporters had refused to open or render their services.
The NLC had demanded that Olusegun Obasanjo reverse an 18 per cent to 25 per cent fuel price increase that took effect on 1 January.
The 2004 NLC strike
In Obasanjo’s five years in office, the NLC has called six general strikes, each time in response to increases in fuel prices. In 2004, millions of workers decided to revolt against the hike in fuel prices.
The strike began in 2004 and was intended to last 21 days. The decision to start the strike was signed by the National Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU).
After fearing the chaos in the country, the Nigerian high court directed the unions to call off the strike and demanded that the government lower the fuel prices.
However, the government, being ruled by Obasanjo, refused to adhere to the court’s demand. Obasanjo rejected the call for fuel price reductions, saying increases were the logical result of the government’s market reforms and were irreversible.
The president claimed that fuel subsidies were actively draining the country’s funds that could be spent on developing other essential sectors.
The 2012 NLC strike
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the NLC went on a week-long strike due to an increase in fuel prices.
Jonathan had increased the fuel price from ₦65 to ₦138 and even as high as ₦200 in some states nationwide. The National Labour Congress had arranged a meeting and warned the government of a strike if the prices were not reversed to their former amount.
When the government did not meet the requests of the organised labour, the strike began in the first week of the 2012 new year and after a week of protest and strike against the Nigerian government; the NLC called off its strike after the fuel price was reduced by one third, leaving it at ₦97.
“In the past eight days through strikes, mass rallies, shutdown, debates and street protests, Nigerians demonstrated clearly that they cannot be taken for granted and that sovereignty belongs to them,” Abdulwaheed Omar, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said.
Regarding the impending 2023 NLC strike
Upon assuming the presidential seat in May, President Bola Tinubu announced the fuel subsidy removal, which has shaken Nigerians to the core. The economy has slightly deteriorated as the dollar is sold for ₦1,000/$ at a black market price.
The federal government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, has urged the NLC and TUC not to go on strike. Still, the union is adamant about its goal, which is to influence the government into creating a palliative in place of the increase in fuel price.
Dignitaries and traditional leaders have also researched that the NLC shelve their plans to strike; however, these pleas have been disregarded. The country awaits the President’s input on the impending strike, which will begin on October 3rd.
Ayomitide Adeyinka is a content writer, crypto journalist and editor with a Bsc in Political Science. He is also an egalitarian.