President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress to shelve the planned nationwide indefinite strike billed to start tomorrow.
Buhari made the appeal today during a meeting with members of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria led by Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This is just as the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) said it would join the industrial action called by labour unions to press for a new national minimum wage.
Chairman of the Lagos State Branch of NURTW, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, said today that the union would join the planned NLC strike if government and labour failed to resolve their differences.
A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, says the President appealed to workers to show more understanding especially with the more infrastructure his administration was putting in place with fewer resources.
According to the statement, Buhari also reassured Nigerians that his administration would sustain massive investments to upgrade and develop the country’s transport and power infrastructure.
The statement quotes Buhari to have said: ”There is no part of the country I haven’t been to, having attempted to be President four times.
”I know the condition of our roads. The rails were literally killed, there was no power despite the admittance of some previous leadership that they spent $16bn on the sector.
”Today, we are getting our priorities right and we believe that of the three fundamental issues we campaigned on – security, the economy and fighting corruption- we have remained very relevant and Nigerians believe we have achieved something.”
The President told the retired Ambassadors that Nigerians will never forget the “lost opportunity between 1999 and 2015,” when the nation had huge resources at its disposal.
Justifying the decision of NURTW to join the strike in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, Agbede said: “We are an affiliate of the NLC, we shall obey its directives. So we have no choice than to join the strike anytime we’re called upon to do so.”
Nigerians are waiting anxiously to know the outcome of a last minute dialogue between government and organised labour over the proposed nationwide strike, arising from disagreements with government over a national minimum wage.
Labour has demanded N30,000 but the Federal Government insists it can only pay N24,000 while state governments offered to pay N22,500.
Public sector workers in Nigeria are among the least paid in the world, although political office holders in the country, including members of the country’s bicameral parliament earn some of the biggest wages in the world.
Also speaking on the strike, the District Manager of the Nigeria Railways Corporation, Mr Jerry Oche, said that the company would not operate if the proposed strike got underway.
“We are not going to operate if there is strike. But if there is no strike we will operate but we wish the situation is resolved before tomorrow,” Oche said.
Mr Fola Tinubu, Managing Director of Primero Transport Services Ltd., said that the company’s buses would operate strike or no strike.
“Yes, we are operating tomorrow,” Tinubu said.
Suleiman Jafo, Chairman of the Nagari Nakowa Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, said that members of the body would operate, provided movement was not restricted.
“We are not salary earners. We eat from our daily operations,” Jafo said.
A tricycle operator, Mr Jude Eze, said that although tricycle operators were in solidarity with labour over the minimum wage, they would have no choice than to operate, unless movement was disrupted.
On his part, Mr Role Odukale, Chairman of the Red Bus Rapid Transit and Chief Operating Officer of Ise Oluwa Transport Company, said that his company’s bus drivers had been told not to operate if there was strike.
“The drivers said they are not going to work as directed by their union.
“We are just their employer, they belong to a union and we cannot work against their union,” Odukale said.