The federal government Wednesday moved to avert a planned protest by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in solidarity with the striking members of the university-based unions yesterday.
The government said it was illegal for thre NLC to go on strike when there is no trade dispute between the NLC as a body and government.
The Congress had announced that it would embark on a nationwide protest on July 26 and 27 to press home the need to resolve the over five-month-old strike, especially by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
Besides NLC, some other labour unions in the medical and aviation sectors had equally threatened the Federal Government with solidarity strike in support of ASUU.
minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the federal executive council meeting presided over by president Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, since the NLC has no dispute with government, its planned street protest is illegal.
The minister observed that what the Congress is doing is guided about interest, noting that it should insulate itself completely from politics.
He said, “While we’re still on Labour, I think we should also start to interrogate what Labour is doing.
“The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of NLC members are involved. What the NLC is planning in the next two days is not about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body with the federal government.
“Well yes, that’s a dispute between some members of NLC, ASUU, and the federal government which is being looked into. And NLC itself, it’s a party to the committee that is looking into the solution. So, calling out people on street protest, you begin to wonder: what is the motive of NLC in this matter?
He pointed out that the government had not been interrogating the activities of NLC – whether it is living by its laws.
“NLC, by its own laws, cannot even give out pamphlets. And NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics. Now, if you declare a dispute with us, yes you can go on strike. Even that one would depend on whether certain steps have been taken or not. But this particular NLC, you know, asking and mobilising people to come out on strike on July 26 and 27, is clearly on nothing.”
Reminded that NLC was worried about the prolonged strike which is affecting their children as well, he said: “The federal government is as worried as NLC and everybody, but the law is the law. What we are saying is that rather than that, what I expect NLC to do as an umbrella body is to find a solution, to join federal government in finding a solution.
“They are part of the tripartite agreement that has been negotiating with federal government on this ASUU issue. So why are they now going out to take sides?”
The information urged the NLC to think twice before embarking on its proposed industrial action in solidarity with ASUU, adding that federal government has been trying its best to resolve the impasse.
On the aviation unions also warming up for solidarity strike in favour of ASUU, minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, on his part described the development as uncalled for, saying the aviation sector should be seen as a critical national security enterprise.
He said, “I’m naturally concerned about this if the aviation unions will shut down in support of ASUU. I would say they have no need to. I will say also that we should begin to look at civil aviation as a critical national security enterprise. It has all the implications. We should not contemplate or think about an aviation disaster. We should also think about the general activity on the economy of Nigeria.
“It’s okay. This is democracy, you can push for demands, but in pressing for demands you should be reasonable in doing so. Where the life that you’re trying to promote would be seriously affected and hampered; where lives can be lost because of your own activity, I think it shou