Following the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) nationwide strike to protest the government’s increase of petrol price the gates at the federal secretariat in Port Harcourt are wide open as workers are going about their normal duties.
The federal secretariat houses federal government workers like Customs, Immigration, NAFDAC.
Petrol stations are open with fuel attendants begging customers to buy their products. Banks, markets are opened for business as well in Port Harcourt.
Normal traffic jams were noticed in state capital as people were hurrying to their offices and various places of work. The strike largely flopped in Port Harcourt as schools, businesses were in full swing.
In Bayelsa state, workers have been owed for about four months. Labour Union leaders have locked the state secretariat in Yenagoa in Bayelsa, while the union leaders are going round offices.
As expected, there is a sharp division among the labour movements in Rivers state over the call for national strike against the increase in the pump price of petrol.
Beatrice Ituboh, the factional chairperson of the Rivers state chapter of the NLC while another faction is led by Adah Williams.
However, Beatrice spoke on radio programme this morning calling on workers, banks, market women to stay at home and join in the protests which she promised to mobilize.
When asked if NLC is not acting in disobedience of Court order, she fired back saying: “We are not aware of any Court order. Throughout that the time we were at meeting, the yesterday there we were not served any Court order.
“Besides even if there was a court order was there no court order stopping the increase in electricity tariff did they obey?”
On the threat by the federal government to implement no work no policy,Ituboh said: “The threat is not new to labour movements. The ones we have worked before have they paid?Are workers not owed across the country. After the strike they will pay.”
On his part, the chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Rivers State, Chika Onuegbu, who was National Industry Secretary of Petroleum And Natural Gas Senior Staff Association Nigeria,PEGASSAN,disagreed with NLC.
He said that the affiliate unions under TUC include: NUPENG, construction workers etc understand the dynamics in the oil industry and petroleum business and understands what the government want to achieve in deregulation of the downstream sector.
Onuegbu said the union will not join any strike and called on workers to go about their businesses because those calling for the strike failed to prefer better alternative to the deregulation policy and removal of subsidy grow local refining capacity.
He argued that even if strike is adhered to in other parts of the country and it fails in Port Harcourt which is the centre of oil business the effect has minimal impact.
Meanwhile, the NLC, on the night of Tuesday, May 17, walked out on the Nigerian government, after a last minute meeting in attempt to avert a nationwide strike over increased petrol price, collapsed mid-way.
Representatives of the organised labour staged a walkout on government representatives, claiming that the government refused to even consider its demand for a reversal of the price hike, and an earlier increase in electricity tariffs.