The Federal Government on Thursday pleaded with the Nigeria Labour Congress to cancel its planned protest over the lingering strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other university-based unions.
The appeal was made by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige at a meeting with the leadership of the NLC in his office.
In attendance at the meeting were the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Kachollom Daju.
During the meeting, Ngige updated the labour leaders on the efforts so far made by the Federal Government to resolve the impasse in the university system.
The meeting came after the NLC on July 17 declared that it would kick off a nationwide protest on July 26 and 27 to pressure the Federal Government to resolve the strike that have kepts students of public universities in the country at home for about six months now.
The details of the discussion with Labour during the meeting with Ngige, which is contained in a statement signed by the Head of Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the minister reminded the NLC leadership that he incorporated them into the tripartite conciliation going on in his Ministry and being very much aware of efforts of the government to resolve the impasse, they could not embark on any rally or protest.
He also told the labour leaders that the Federal Executive Council mandated him to notify them of the serious security implications of the planned protest.
According to him, a security report also sent to his office by the Department of State Services, strongly warned against holding the protest, slated for July 26 and 27.
He urged the NLC National Executive Council to reconsider the planned rally as hoodlums might take advantage of it to cause breach of security.
Ngige expressed the concern of the government that politicians might cash in on the rally to wreak havoc in the country.
“The masses might wrongly interpret the rally as a ploy by the NLC to enhance the chances of the Labour Party presidential candidate, a situation which could spur the supporters of the other political parties into violence.
“Section 40 of the constitution is clear on Freedom of Association. One of the provisions is that people of like minds can organise themselves and form a political party. There is also a provision that people in work or employment can organise themselves into unions. They are two parallels. Parallels don’t meet.
“I heard when you said you are mobilising for the Labour Party. But, a trade union is not a political party. Look at the Trade Union Act. It does not allow trade unions to use their contributions to support any political party,” the statement quoted Ngige as having said at the meeting.
In their response the Deputy President of the NLC, Comrade Najeem Usman, and the General Secretary, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboajah, promised to conduct a peaceful protest, saying that infiltrators would not be allowed to participate in the protest.
Ugboajah said the NLC appreciated all the efforts of the minister towards the resolution of the industrial actions in the university system and pleaded with him not to hands off the conciliation.
Ugboajah added, “We commend you for championing the harmonisation of salaries of workers in the country. We don’t understand why a messenger in the Nigeria National Petroleum Company or the Central Bank should be earning more than a level eight officer in the Ministry.”
ASUU embarked on the industrial action on February 14, 2022. The reason was that the Federal Government failed to address some of its demands.