Nigeria’s Federal government has pleaded with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to cancel its planned protest over the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university-based unions scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
It also urged the organised labour not to mobilise support for Labour Party as it would amount to a violation of the Trade Union Act.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige made the appeal Thursday, during a meeting with the leadership of NLC in his office.
The Minister said he incorporated NLC into the tripartite conciliation going on in his Ministry, adding that being very much aware of efforts of the government to resolve the impasse, they cannot embark on any rally or protest.
A statement issued by the Head, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, quoted Ngige as having told the labour leaders that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) mandated him to notify them of the serious security implications of the planned protest.
According to Ngige, a security report also sent to his office by the Department of State Services (DSS), had strongly warned against holding the protest, slated for July 26 and 27.
He urged the NLC’s National Executive Council (NEC) to reconsider the planned rally, saying hoodlums might take advantage of it to cause breach of security.
Ngige also expressed the concern of the government that politicians might hijack the rally to wreak havoc in the country.
Furthermore, Ngige told NLC not go ahead with plans to campaign for the Labour Party in the 2023 General election.
“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,” he said
The minister further said that, “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 don’t meet.”
However, the NLC rejected the plea by the federal government, insisting that the two-day national protest would go ahead as planned.
Both the Deputy President of NLC, Mr. Najeem Usman and General Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Ugboajah who led the NLC team to the meeting, however assured the government of a peaceful protest by the Congress, saying, “infiltrators would not be allowed to participate in the protest.”
Ugboajah said the NLC appreciates all the efforts of Ngige towards the resolution of the industrial actions in the university system and urged him not to hands off the conciliation.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja