By Joan Nwagwu
The Federal Government has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its nationwide planned protest in solidarity with the trade unions in the Nigeria public universities and others.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of NLC in his office on Thursday in Abuja.
Ngige said this in a statement signed by My Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the decision to embark on a `National Day of Protest was taken at the NLC National Executive Council (NEC) in June.
The National protest is scheduled for July 26 and 27 to ensure students go back to school and also in support of the unions in Nigeria’s public universities fighting for quality education.
According the minister, the Federal Government has made a lot of efforts to resolve the impasse in the university system, saying that efforts were still ongoing.
He also reminded the NLC leadership that he incorporated them into the tripartite conciliation going on in his ministry.
Ngige added that they were very much aware of the efforts of the government to resolve the impasse, so they could not embark on any rally or protest.
He further said that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) 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 (DSS), strongly warned against holding the protest, slated for July 26 and 27.
He urged the NLC National Executive Council (NEC) 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 (LP) 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 do not meet.
“I heard when you said you are mobilising for 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.”
Responding, both the Deputy President of NLC, Mr Najeem Usman, and General Secretary, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboajah, assured the government of a peaceful protest by the Congress,
They also said that infiltrators would not be allowed to participate in the protest.
Ugboajah said NLC appreciated all the efforts of the minister towards the resolution of the industrial actions in the university system and pleadd with him not to hands off the conciliation.
“We commend you for championing the harmonisation of salaries of workers in the country. We don’t understand why a messenger in NNPC or Central Bank should be earning more than a level 8 officer in the ministry,’’ he said.
NAN also reports that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and other trade unions in the education sector have been on strike for more than five months over alleged failure of government to keep to agreement entered with the unions.
The demands of the striking workers include funding of universities, salaries and earned allowances of lecturers.
Also in attendance at the meeting were the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ms. Kachollom Daju.