Federal and state governments establishments, the National Assembly (NASS), banks, public schools and others were grounded in several parts of the country, yesterday, as workers commenced indefinite industrial action in compliance with directive by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The two labour centres embarked on the action by midnight of November 14.
Reacting, yesterday, NLC spokesperson, Mr. Benson Upah, told Freelanews, that the strike would gain momentum with time. “This is just the first day of the strike. It will get better.”
The decision to go on strike was due to alleged failure of the Federal Government to address issues affecting workers, such as minimum wage, insecurity, corruption, and poor governance.
Also, both unions had made some demands, which the government had allegedly failed to address following the recent crisis in Imo State that resulted in the alleged brutalisation of the NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, and other members of the labour unions.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Festus Osifo, TUC’s president, said the strike would remain until governments at all levels wake up to their responsibilities.
Earlier on November 5, the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Owerri, had issued a restraining order to labour unions, preventing them from embarking on a strike in the state.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, in a statement, also said the government had obtained a restraining order from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria barring the unions from going ahead with the strike.
But despite the orders, the unions made good their threat and crippled the country.
Among others, access to the National Assembly Complex in Abuja was blocked. “We are on strike and won’t allow you in even if you’re a journalist,” a sergeant-at-arm said.
Similarly, train services were grounded across the country as workers of the Nigerian railway stayed away from work. Segun Esan, secretary general of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), said the association was involved in the strike and no train ran as a result.
He also said all the offices, stations, workshops, and entire premises of the corporation remain locked and inaccessible from zero-zero hour of Tuesday, November 14 and would remain so till otherwise directed by the congress.
“In effect, therefore, all the workers of Nigerian Railway are duty-bound to join the nationwide strike action from zero-zero hour of Tuesday, 14th November, 2023 by staying back at home and away from their offices.”
Also, President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Mr. Oluwole Olusoji, said advice had been sent out to members on compliance. “We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds,” he said.
Although electricity workers have joined the strike, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) debunked reports that there would be a national blackout.
On Monday, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) asked its members to join the ongoing nationwide strike. Media reports alleged that electricity workers have shut down the national grid following the declaration of an indefinite strike.
But TCN, in a statement, said the reports were “false and totally misleading.”
Partial compliance in FCT, Lagos
Workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos observed partial compliance to the directive by the organised labour to its members to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike.
At the federal secretariat and Area One Old Secretariat in Abuja, workers were also seen going in and out of the place. Commercial banks in Area 3 and 8 were opened for operation as some customers were seen going in and out of the place while schools were open and lessons were on going.
Govt offices, schools, FMC shut in Imo, Delta, Plateau
The industrial action halted academic learning in most tertiary institutions in Imo State. The Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) totally complied with the strike action as students and management of the school did not show up.
It was a similar situation at the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri and the Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education. Even public secondary schools in the state complied with the action.
At the Federal Medical Centre, (FMC), Owerri, only contract staff attended to patients while staff complied with the directive
Government offices in Asaba, Delta State capital, were shut as civil servants abstained from work.
Our correspondent who monitored the level of compliance in Asaba, observed that public primary and secondary schools were closed in different parts of the state capital.
The Federal Civil Secretariat along Okpanam Road and the Prof. Chike Edozien Secretariat for state civil servants were shut.
Other government parastatals and agencies were devoid of the usual human and vehicular traffic.
State chairman of NLC, Goodluck Ofobruku commended workers for complying with the directive.
In Jos, Plateau State, government offices, as well as private businesses were shut. At the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) headquarters, the gate was locked as workers were turned back.
The situation was not different at the state Secretariat, where a large team of NLC/TUC leaders sealed the gate to prevent workers from gaining access. No worker was seen at the premises of Plateau State High Court, as the workers remained at home. Some commercial banks in the metropolis did not open.
Mr. Eugene Manji, Plateau NLC Chairman, said labour union set up a monitoring team that was going around organisations to ensure compliance.
Mr. Daniel Mudima, Chairman, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPTRE), said they would sustain the exercise until further directive from their headquarters and advised workers to remain at home pending suspension of the strike.
Students sent home in Ondo, Ekiti
Pupils and students of public schools in Akure, Ondo State capital and Ekiti were sent home.
Although most offices in the Ondo State secretariat, Alagbaka, were opened, workers did not attend to visitors and government business.
According to Mr. Clement Fatuase, TUC chairman in Ondo State, “the compliance is okay. The strike is at least, averagely effective.”
Ekiti State also witnessed a near total compliance as many government offices, schools and institutions were deserted, while few workers reported for duty.
Pupils and students of some public, primary and secondary schools who had earlier resumed for the day’s work, had to return home, on realising that their teachers were not available.
Bauchi, Taraba defy directive, partial compliance in Kano
In Bauchi, academic activities and business transactions were unhindered in schools, hospitals and banks in the metropolis.
At Government Day Junior Secondary School, Gwallameji and Sa’adu Zungur Secondary School, Bauchi, teachers and students were seen taking lessons in classes.
Similarly, workers in Taraba went about their normal schedules and government offices in Jalingo were fully operational as civil servants reported for duty.
Mr. Tanimu Musa, a civil servant, said the strike was counterproductive.
However, the strike paralysed services in schools, clinics, banks and other financial institutions in Kano. Only a handful of workers reported to work at the state and federal government’s secretariats in partial compliance to the industrial action but students of public primary and secondary schools were sent home.
The strike also paralysed the ongoing first semester examination at the Bayero University Kano (BUK) as students were shut out of examination halls. Some banks were also closed with a handful of them running skeletal services.
NLC Chairman in the state, Kabiru Inuwa, said they 75 per cent compliance but were working to ensure full compliance with the strike.
Banks, court paralysed in Ebonyi
Activities at Ebonyi State high court, banks among other offices were grounded.
A visit to the state high court showed that the gate was locked while judiciary workers were stranded outside the court premises.
Mr Emmanuel Awoke, secretary, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), said he was in the office as early as 7:30 am to ensure that no judge or magistrate enters the court premises.
Dr. Egwu Ogugua, NLC chairman in Ebonyi, said the compliance was 90 per cent.
“You know injury to one is injury to all. The ruling class should stop intimidating the Nigerian workers,” he stated.
AU joins strike
Prof. Tony Odiwe, chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) chapter, has confirmed that members of the union complied with the order of their leaders on strike.
He condemned the assault on Ajaero, which led to the strike. According to him, the strike would be over immediately if the order came from the highest authority.
Also, Ademola Junaid, branch secretary, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said though the students have just resumed, no one attended to them, as the staff did not have access to their offices because of the strike.
“The issue at hand with the national leaders of NLC and TUC that led to the attack in Imo State is just a matter of consultation which required Ajaero’s presence.
“But things worked out the other way round, the injustice on our president led to the strike,” he explained.
He appealed to the citizenry to understand each other so as to avoid the issue of assault that always led to strike.
The SSANU Secretary called on their leaders to rethink on the national strike and give peace a chance.
Electricity company down tools, schools closed in Osun
Officials of TCN and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) in Osun State, joined the industrial action by the labour union.
Some banks shut operations immediately after they received a memo of the strike and business transactions were paralyzed in government offices.
Students of government public schools had resumed in the morning before the directive came to the schools and they were sent home immediately.
When our correspondent visited the Osun State University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, patients were attended to, and medical activities were going on.
It was gathered that various unions in the hospital did not receive a memo to the industrial action on time.
The entrance of the state secretariat was opened, and the acting chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in Osun, Modupe Oyedele, said workers in the state complied fully with the strike directive.
She said, “workers in Osun complied fully. Osun is in full compliance with the strike directive.
Late directive affects compliance in Rivers
Workers particularly civil servants in Rivers State, said late directive from various national union bodies affected strike compliance as declared by the organized labour.
Investigations by Freelanews revealed several federal and state governments establishments, as well as financial institutions opened for services in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Though in the morning, there were skeletal services at some of the banks in Port Harcourt City, in the afternoon, there were full operations.
Also, at the Federal Government secretariat, virtually all the government offices were functional. It was the same report at the state secretariat.
But, civil servants in Rivers State have vowed to shutdown operations on Wednesday, with early blocking of the state secretariat gate.
A top civil servant with one of the state-owned media houses, told Daily Sun that even at 4pm, the leaders of labour were at a meeting to strategize for the total lockdown today.
A civil servant on Grade Level 15, who simply gave his name as Sampson in one of the state ministries said, the work they executed was skeletal.
“Today, we tried to be in the office till closing hour. But, Wednesday will be a different story. The secretariat would be a ghost town. Even, roads would be deserted. Enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, most of the filling stations in Port Harcourt have been shut down since Monday night.
Nasarawa directs total compliance
Organised labour in Nasarawa State has directed its affiliates to ensure total compliance with the strike from today.
Ayuba Okor, chairman of NLC and his TUC counterpart, Mohammed Doma, said the decision was in compliance with the directive from their national headquarters.
They also said that monitoring and enforcement teams were already activated and would go round offices by Wednesday to ensure total shutdown.
Chairman of some of the affiliate unions, Salihu Alkali of Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) and Salihu Adamu of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), pledged their commitment to comply with the directive of the National Headquarters of the union.
A visit to Ministries, Departments and Agencies showed that there was partial compliance with the strike as workers offered skeletal services.
Some of the workers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that their leaders in the state were yet to direct them to comply.