FG’s Last-Ditch Effort To Stop Labour Fails As Ajaero Insists Nationwide Rally Kicks Off Tuesday

The federal government’s last-ditch attempt to stop the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) from embarking on its planned strike failed on Monday night, as NLC President Joe Ajaero insisted that the protest against the current state of the economy would go on as scheduled nationwide on Tuesday.

A meeting on Monday night between the federal government and the leadership of NLC, held behind closed doors at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, to try to avert the protests ended in a deadlock.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, ordered Commissioners of Police in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to effect the deployment of police personnel nationwide to ensure that Tuesday’s protests were not hijacked by fifth columnists.

Egbetokun said the police was fully prepared to respond swiftly and decisively to any unlawful activities or acts of violence that could threaten peace, public safety and security.

At the meeting held in an effort to stop the NLC strike, the federal government was represented by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume;  Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi; Minister of State Labour, Hon Nkiruka Onyejeocha; Minister of Agriculture, Senator Abubakar Kyari; Minister of Finance, Olawale Edun; Minister of Budget and Planning, Senator Bagudu Atiku; and Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan.

The organised labour was represented at the closed-door by National President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, and his team, while the Trade Union Congress (TUC) was led by Festus Osifo.

But the labour unions stuck to their guns, insisting the strike will go ahead, with the scheduled protests billed for Tuesday and Wednesday in Abuja and other parts of the country. This was despite a warning against the protests by the Department of State Services (DSS), which claimed they could jeopardise national security.

Ajaero confirmed Labour’s stance when he spoke to reporters after the meeting.

He said, “The rally goes on. But it is part of their (DSS) constitutional responsibility to make sure that the rally is peaceful and while we are going to try on our own side to make sure it’s peaceful.”

He added that the organised labour would take the protest to the doorstep of the National Assembly, where they plan to present their demands to the lawmakers.

NLC invited the media to the kick-off of the protest rallies.

A notice by NLC posted on its platform on Monday night stated that the protest would take-off from the Labour House, headquarters of NLC, by 7am.

But a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the Nigeria Police had deployed personnel nationwide and placed them on red alert to monitor the planned protest.

The statement said, “In line with its lawful duty to maintain law and order, the Nigeria Police has deployed personnel nationwide and placed them on red alert to monitor the planned protest.

“All Commissioners of Police and their respective supervising officers have been briefed and instructed to coordinate the officers on ground in ensuring the safety and security of all participants, if the protests hold as planned.”

The statement also said while recognising the importance of peaceful protest, the Nigeria Police remained “vigilant against any attempts to hijack such protests by individuals or groups of persons with sinister intent.

“Emphatically, the force, therefore, is fully prepared to respond swiftly and decisively to any unlawful activities or acts of violence that may threaten peace, public safety, and security in the event of such.

“It is vital to state that the police have spread their tentacles nationwide to curb any attempt by some individuals, who might want to leverage on the nationwide protests, to create brouhaha.

“Such will be met with an approved legal and proportional force, as the police will not allow wanton breakdown of law and order, loss of lives and property, like we had experienced, in some instances, in the past, in any part of the country.”

Adejobi also stated, “As such, the NPF reiterates its commitment to ensuring the rights and freedom of protesters are protected.

“The Inspector-General of Police urges all participants at the proposed protest to conduct themselves peacefully and responsibly, adhering to the principles of non-violence and respect for the rights of others.”

The IGP called on organisers of the protest to cooperate with the police and other relevant security agencies in ensuring that the exercise remained peaceful and orderly, even as the law enforcement agency worked to ensure that protests were conducted in a safe environment, conducive to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria.

 Kingsley Nwezeh, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Olawale Ajimotokan, Sunday Ehigiator, Ugo Aliogo, Sylvester Idowu, Seriki Adinoyi and Laleye Dipo