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Labour has right to protest, TUC replies Tinubu

58bce9cd festus osifo

The Trade Union Congress on Friday reacted to President Bola Tinubu’s statement slamming organised labour for protesting within the first nine months of his administration.

The President on Thursday had told labour unions to stop their protests and wait for 2027 to join the political process.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Lagos Red Line project, Tinubu said, “The Labour Union should understand that no matter how long we cling to our freedom and rights, the first strike within nine months of an administration is unacceptable.

“If you want to participate in the electoral process, wait until 2027. If not maintain peace. You are not the only voice of Nigerians.”

In his response on Friday, the President of the TUC, Festus Osifo, while speaking on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme, said that members of the TUC are unionists and not politicians, hence, they have the right to protest.

“I listened to that comment yesterday where he said that we should wait for 2027 if we want to contest for elections. I could speak for the Trade Union Congress, we are not politicians, we are unionists, it is our right to protest – it is a fundamental right of every single Nigeria.

“So we don’t have issues with protests, when need be, people will exercise their rights and people must protest. In terms of waiting till 2027 to enter into politics, I don’t think that is something we could dabble into because I as an individual am not a card-carrying member of any political party.”

He added that the statement of the President was alien to him, saying, “What I am interested in is the welfare of my members and indeed the entire Nigerian masses. So, what the president said for me is alien to us because the right to protest and the right to strike is that of the workers.

“There are condition precedents, for the fact that you are going on protest or strike, there are some things that led to it, those fundamental issues must be addressed,” he said.

Recall that members of the Nigeria Labour Congress protested on Tuesday to express their grievances over the current economic hardship.

They are also protesting the government’s alleged failure to implement agreements reached between both parties on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The decision followed the conclusion of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to implement measures against the widespread hardship.

Speaking on why the TUC was not part of the protest, Osifo said, “I’ll just explain exactly what happened to you. Now, you see when you have when you say somebody opts out from a process, it means that the person was in before, it means that there was an agreement to do something.

“When there is an agreement to do something at the last minute, you will not say I am not doing it again. That is opting out, then you can use the word sold out. But in this scenario, there wasn’t any agreement to do anything.

“We did not have any conversation; nobody even mentioned to us that this is the direction to go. That conversation never took place. So as long as that also never took place, we never opt out of anything. If there was an initial agreement that let’s go for a protest, the winner say we are not going for that protest.

“You could call that opt out, you could call that sold out, you could call that anything. But in this scenario, there was no understanding at all. In fact, there was no discussion that could have even led to any understanding,” he said.

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