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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has faulted the Department of State Services (DSS), for accusing the labour unions as one of the groups that plans to stage protests over the worsening fuel scarcity in the country.
The DSS had recently in a statement by its spokesman, Peter Afunaya, raised the alarm over a plot to “use students, striking university teachers, labour unions, disgruntled individuals and strategic groups” to hold protests that would be similar to the #EndSARS protest that rocked the country in 2020.
The agency alleged that the planned protest was to incite violence in some parts of the country, especially the North Central.
“The service is also aware of a plot to use students, striking university teachers, labour unions, disgruntled individuals and strategic groups as well as exploit the global energy situation to carry out a mass protest like the ENDSARS. This is despite ongoing efforts by the government to address the issues,” Afunaya had stated.
Reacting via a statement issued by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the labour union described the DSS’ accusation as “unfortunate and smacks of sheer mischief”.
Wabba, in a statement issued on Monday night, said the NLC has never been found to be “violent or complicit in encouraging acts of brigandage”, adding that it was “surprising that the DSS would suddenly decide to lump trade unions in a log of organizations with subversive intentions.”
The statement read: “The attention of the Nigeria Labour Congress has been drawn to a press release by the Department of State Services (DSS) lumping labour unions in a list of clandestine groups allegedly organizing to subvert public order, unleash violence on our streets and destabilize the country.
“The linking of trade unions and by extension national labour centers with such subterfuge and criminality by the DSS is indeed very unfortunate and smacks of sheer mischief.
“First, trade unions and national labour centres such as the Nigeria Labour Congress are independent organizations recognized by both our national laws and international conventions with fundamental rights and liberties to associate, organize and undertake activities in the defence of workers’ rights and interests.
“By the provisions of our laws and in line with global industrial relations standards, no permission is required under the law for peaceful assembly of workers and citizens.
“In any case, as a responsible national labour centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress always informs the Department of State Services and indeed other security agencies of our activities especially when such are undertaken in the public space.
“In all our undertakings as trade unions and labour centres, we have never been found to be violent or complicit in encouraging acts of brigandage. It is, therefore, surprising that the DSS would suddenly decide to lump trade unions in a log of organizations with subversive intentions.
“Second, trade unions exist to protect the interest of their members. Some of the socio-economic realities pointed out by the Department of State Services in its press release such as the current strike action by university lecturers and the scarcity of refined petroleum products are all of legitimate concern to citizens. Citizens have the right to draw the attention of government to their plight through petitions, peaceful protests, and other advocacy initiatives.
“It would be greatly disrespectful to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our democratic order to issue statements that appear to scare citizens from their rights to peacefully engage their government.”
The NLC President continued: “The Nigeria Labour Congress has already condemned and rejected the current paralysis of academic activities in our universities which we believe is as a result of government dishonouring commitments made in Collective Bargaining Agreements with university lecturers. We have also lampooned the persisting scarcity of refined petroleum products which have exposed our people especially workers to great suffering and anguish.
“We have already spoken and we are still speaking to draw the attention of government to do the needful. The Congress is also deeply worried that the repeated collapse of the national electricity grid in the past few weeks has thrown most of the country in total blackout.
“We are further concerned that the continued issuing of estimated billings to electricity consumers by DISCOs have intensified the suffering Nigerians are going through. We have had reasons in the past to protest against the neglect of Nigeria’s critical electricity assets and anti-people electricity policies.
“We do not need clandestine meetings with state governors, some of whom treat workers terribly, to ventilate our concerns on issues that affect Nigerian workers and people. Our pain as citizens, workers, students, traders and professionals becomes more excruciating with the knowledge that our ordeal and vicissitudes are all self-inflicted.
“We urge the security agencies that instead of investing in scare alarms, they should rather re-channel their energy and resources and help bring to justice the real enemies of public order and stability – importers of adulterated petrol, petroleum marketers and filling station operators who are busier in ungodly hours selling to black marketers, and dispense with only one pump or two in broad daylight thus subjecting citizens to harrowing petrol queues.
“We believe that the intervention of relevant agencies of government can bring both the glitch in the petroleum products supply chain and the atrocious sharp practices at the points of retail under control,” Wabba stated.