The Senator representing Edo North Senatorial district and former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has described the two-day nationwide strike embarked on by the Nigerian Labour Congress and some of its affiliate unions as a misplacement of priority.
Adams Oshiomhole made this known during an appearance on Channels TV’s political programme, Politics Today on Wednesday.
The former Labour leader while weighing in on the circumstances leading to the alleged assault of the NLC President in Imo State suggested that the NLC was vague in their demands in Imo State, which were not clear enough. He added that the labour union should have focused on confronting state governments who up till this moment are yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage.
Oshiomhole further stated that Imo State was preparing for a tense governorship election and it was therefore not advisable for the NLC to be calling for strike action especially when issues they were raising are not peculiar to Imo State. He added that by isolating Imo State for strike action, the Joe Ajaero-led NLC was being partisan.
The Edo Senator also noted that the NLC have a lot of justiceable actions and fights they could have picked up instead of grounding the entire country over an infraction that happened in a state. He mentioned the recent wage award of N35,000 to workers the NLC extracted from the federal government to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy as a great opportunity NLC could have used to ensure states and local governments employees as well as private sector workers also benefit from the wage increase.
While explaining further, Oshiomhole stated that federal civil servants are under the Federal Civil Service Union. NLC according to him is a coalition of many different unions representing workers at the federal, state and LGA levels, therefore if NLC goes to negotiate on behalf of workers, it has to be for a problem that is national in scope.
This means that any agreement government reaches with the NLC is for the generality of workers cut across the federal, state and local government workers. Therefore NLC should have sought the enforcement of the N35,000 wage award by all state and local governments.
“So if you mobilise private sector workers, state employees workers, local government workers, and now there is an agreement on N35,000 across the board, I want to see NLC saying there will be no sleep in any state where this is not being implemented,” Oshiomhole said.
Adams Oshiomhole equally recounted a moment of assault at the hands of Department of State Services (DSS) operatives during his tenure as NLC President between 1999 and 2007.
“I had a similar experience. I was on my way to Delta State and I went to the airport,” he said.
“The then director of SSS ordered that I should be arrested and stopped from travelling because we had given an ultimatum to the then Federal Government headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
“The ultimatum had to do with resisting the attempt to withdraw fuel subsidy because of our fears of the consequential increase in the cost of living.
“They dragged me on the tarmac and I had my cuts all over the place. They forcefully prevented me from flying and took me back to the DSS director general’s office — then Col. Are.
“I ended up in detention after being taken away for two days. For at least 48 hours, the NLC couldn’t locate me. When eventually I was let out, the bandage on my arm with the blood and all that, I told my colleagues, ‘This blood would rather reinforce and whet my appetite for the struggle for justice”, he stated.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who is also a former Governor of Edo State said he would have supported NLC on the ongoing industrial action if their demands were based on the workers’ minimum wage and welfare.
“Unfortunately, this strike is not about those issues. And I think we have to be careful not to mix our political opinion with our responsibilities, because the issues confronting workers are so many that they should become the priority,” he said.
“We must recognise that however hard you try, when it comes to politics, people are going to have different reasons for supporting different candidates. You have to be careful not to be seen to be doing the bidding of a particular candidate or a particular political party,” Oshiomhole stated.