Monday, April 15, 2024

Subsidy: Labour protests paralyse official activities in Abia, Imo

The protesters, escorted by anti-riot police personnel, marched from Michael Okpara Square to Government House.

• August 2, 2023
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led a peaceful protest
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led a peaceful protest [Credit: Daily Post Nigeria]

Official activities at the state and local government secretariats in Abia were paralysed on Wednesday due to the nationwide protest embarked upon by organised labour, as only a few workers were seen loitering around the state secretariat.

All the offices were locked at the Umuahia North Local Government secretariat, but some security men and a few council workers were seen within the premises.

Also, banks in Umuahia were not open for business, but markets, shops, and motor parks were. However, commercial vehicle operators, including tricycle and commuter bus operators, were on the road, which was practically scanty.

The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led a mammoth crowd of workers on a peaceful protest march along major roads in Umuahia.

The protesters, escorted by anti-riot police personnel, marched from Michael Okpara Square to Government House, carrying banners and placards with different inscriptions, chanting solidarity songs.

Some of the placards read: “Give workers what is due”, “All Nigerian lives must matter”, and “Stop importation of petrol, revive the refineries now”, amongst others. All the banners had the hatch tag, “Let the poor breathe”.

The situation was virtually the same in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia.

However, a check around the city showed that while a few banks were open, many others did not.

In a speech at the Government House, the state chairman of NLC, Pascal Nweke, said the workers were protesting against the high cost of living caused by the removal of the petrol subsidy.

Mr Nweke said it was not directed at the state government but to demand a reversal of some of the harsh effects of some federal government policies.

“And if nothing is done, we resort to the other action, which is strike,” he said.

Also, the TUC state chairman, Ihechi Enogwe, said they were protecting and speaking for the Nigerian people, including workers, traders, artisans, and everybody else in the country.

Mr Enogwe said: “We, therefore, call on the Federal Government and all the parastatals involved in policy-making to come to our aid.”

Addressing the protesters, Governor Alex Otti praised them for their peaceful disposition.

The governor, represented by his chief of staff, Caleb Ajagba, said every Nigerian alive appreciated the situation “all of us have found ourselves in”.

In Imo, the protesters converged on the popular Assumpta Catholic Cathedral Roundabout near Control Post, Owerri.

They displayed placards with inscriptions such as “Let Nigerians breathe”, “Fuel price increase suffocating the poor”, and “Naira devaluation killing local industries and jobs”, amongst others.

A detachment of heavy security operatives guarded the large crowd of protesters.

Speaking, the acting chairman of the NLC in Imo, George Ogoegbu, appealed to the federal government to rescind its recent economic policies, fix the refineries, pay university workers their eight months’ salary arrears, reduce VAT, and abolish the hike in the fees for unity colleges and tertiary institutions.

“The cost of living is alarming, and we can no longer continue this way,” Mr Ogoegbu said.

Also, the secretary of the TUC in the state, Benjamin Ezekwe, questioned the motive behind the removal of fuel subsidy without concrete plans to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians.


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