The strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress to protest the failure of the Federal Government to provide palliatives following the fuel subsidy removal Tuesday grounded economic and commercial activities in several states but workers in Lagos, Sokoto, and Katsina states snubbed the labour action.
Banks and other financial institutions and the civil service in the three states as well as Delta, Bayelsa, and Ogun did not comply with the NLC directive to shut down services as they attended to their customers.
But the two-day strike, which commenced on Tuesday paralysed activities in the Federal Capital Territory and some states with banks, ministries, agencies, and departments shut to the public.
Also, workers in various power firms, under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, Tuesday, joined the industrial action as their action disrupted the supply of electricity across the country. Power distribution companies however begged their customers for the disruption.
The NLC leadership had said the two-day warning strike was in preparation for a total shutdown which would start in 21 days.
The decision was taken at the end of its National Executive Council meeting which was held last Friday.
A communiqué released by the labour centre and jointly signed by its National President, Joe Ajaero, and Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said it decided to take the decision following the failure of the Bola Tinubu government to enter into dialogue and engage stakeholders within the organised labour on efforts to cushion the effects of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol on the masses.
A move to stop the strike by the Federal Government on Monday failed as the NLC leaders did not turn up at a meeting with the Minister of Information, Mallam Mohammed Idiris, and his labour ministry counterpart, Simeon Lalong.
Though the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees said its members would join the strike due to the punishing economic situation in the country, visits to several branches of banks on Lagos Island confirmed that they did not join the industrial action.
Branches of First Bank Plc including its head office, a branch of Union Bank, Wema Bank, and Polaris Bank attended to their customers.
The First Bank head office and its Abibu Oki branch along Marina were open to the public.
However, a security guard at a First Bank branch on Customs Street, Lagos Island, opposite the Lagos office of the Central Bank of Nigeria, initially prevented customers from entering the banking hall saying, “We are not operating because of the strike.”
As the customers insisted on carrying out their transactions, he went inside the hall and later returned to let the customers in.
At the Polaris bank branch along Broad Street, a bank worker said that they were still waiting for directives on the strike but until then, they would be working.
The bank worker who didn’t want his name in print said, “We are not on strike. We are working until they tell us that we should go home.”
Similarly, operations at the Broad Street branch of Wema Bank were uninterrupted, the same as the Union Bank branch at Tinubu Square.
Like their colleagues in the banks, the aviation workers at the Lagos airport shunned the strike as activities at the nation’s flagship airport continued as normal.
The aviation union said the representatives of the United Nations agency and the International Civil Aviation Authority were due to arrive in Nigeria to audit the nation’s aviation sector and it would be insensitive to down tolls at this time.
The General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, Abdulrazak Saidu said, “We will not participate 100 percent because of the ongoing International Civil Aviation Organization audit. We cannot afford to allow ICAO to punish Nigeria because of this (strike) and we made this known to them at the last NLC meeting.’’
However, the NLC directive was fully implemented at the Lagos Ports as the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria shut down port operations.
MWUN, in a letter on Monday titled, ‘Compliance to the Nigerian Labour Congress directive on a nationwide two-day warning strike’, signed by the Head of Media, MWUN, John Ikemefuna, said it was backing the two-day strike.
However, our correspondent on Tuesday gathered that the Apapa and Tincan Island Ports gates were all locked.
Also, the Mile 2 expressway was locked down as commercial vehicles refused to transport commuters, leading to disruptions in some offices in the Apapa area.
Giving an update on the strike, the National Deputy President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Nnadi Ugochukwu, said that some containers that were cleared early Tuesday morning could not leave the ports because the main gate of Tincan Island Port had been locked.
Also speaking, a former Apapa Chapter Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Frank Obiejesi said, “There are no activities at Apapa ports, it is shut down.”
But, normal day-to-day activities at the Lagos State secretariat, Alausa were in progress when our correspondent visited the place on Tuesday.
An official at the secretariat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH that civil servants in the state had no reason to join the strike.
Lagos civil servants
He said, “Most of the things that the NLC is demanding had been done by the state government even before the labour union began its agitation.
“For example, the NLC is demanding an increase in salary for workers. Lagos State already did this long before the demand.
“The demand for palliatives has also been fulfilled by the state government. Bus fares have been slashed by 50 percent, buses are provided to convey workers to and from work, and just on Sunday, the governor flagged off the distribution of food palliatives.
“So, why should civil servants in the state join the strike? There is no reason to join the strike.”
Another civil servant, who also spoke under the condition of anonymity, simply said, “We don’t have any reason to join the strike.”
When contacted, the Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the NLC, Mrs Agnes Sessi, said members of the union in the civil service were part of the strike.
“Our members in the civil service joined the strike. Those you saw maybe management staff and others who may be members of the TUC.
“The TUC is not part of this struggle.”
In Sokoto, the majority of civil servants shunned the strike and turned up for work.
Our correspondent who monitored the level of compliance observed that almost all the banks within the metropolis opened for business.
A trip to the Federal secretariat in the state confirmed workers in their offices.
Also, the state workers were resumed for work at both the Usmanu Farouk and Gingiya secretariats.
But later at 2 pm on Tuesday, union leaders stormed banks and government offices to enforce compliance.
A union leader, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone, stated, “We have to storm those banks to ensure they comply with the warning strike as directed by the labour union.
The state NLC chairman, Abdullahi Jungle, could not be reached for comment as he did not respond to calls and messages.
In Katsina, the workers equally did not observe the strike as they reported for work.
The state secretariat, general hospital, and Federal Teaching Hospitals were all busy attending to people when our correspondent visited the facilities.
The strike was said to have failed because the senior civil servants were affiliated to the Trade Union Congress which was opposed to the strike action called by its counterpart.
A mild drama was recorded at the main gate of the state secretariat when the police officers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps prevented workers from entering the complex.
On receiving the report of the development, the TUC state chairman, Muntari Ruma, stormed the gate with his members and directed the security personnel to grant all senior officers on Grade Level 07 and above access to their offices.
The state Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Musa, who also visited the scene, explained that the operatives were drafted there to protect the government property.
He directed that all the senior officials who were earlier barred should be allowed into the complex.
The state NLC Chairman, Hussaini Hamisu could not be reached for comment as of the time of filing this report as he did not respond to calls and messages.
Some commercial banks opened their gates to customers in Ilorin, Kwara state capital early on Tuesday but later shut their gates and drove back the customers in compliance with the NLC directive.
It was a mixed grill in Kwara State as the strike recorded partial compliance.
Some of the banks visited by our correspondent early on Tuesday did not join the strike, claiming that they had yet to receive directives from their respective head offices to that effect.
However, some of the branches of UBA, Union Bank, and First Bank later complied with the strike directive.
A security guard at the Taiwo branch of UBA told our correspondent at about 1 pm that the workers had just received the directive to join the strike.
However, checks at the Kwara State Civil Service Secretariat located along the High Court Area of the state revealed workers at their duty stations.
The state Chairman of the National Union of Agriculture and Allied Employees, David Ehindero described the strike as a success.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, several MDAs were shut down in observance of the warning strike.
Our correspondent who visited the Federal Secretariat and the popular Radio House which houses some agencies under the Ministry of Information and National Orientation observed that the offices were deserted as the workers stayed away.
Banks in the areas were also under lock and key.
Lawyers and litigants who were at the Federal High Court were shocked when they were asked to vacate the courts at 2 pm by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria official.
The union shut the entrance gates of the court and hung a banner with the inscription,
The situation was the same in Jos, Plateau State where the industrial action recorded full compliance.
Our correspondent who visited the Federal Secretariat learnt that NLC officials locked the gates around 5 am and prevented workers from accessing their offices.
A security officer said, ‘’No work today. Workers are obeying the two-day warning strike declared by the NLC. In fact, their officials came very early around 5 a.m., and locked the gates. As you can see, no worker can go inside and there is nothing we can do because the strike is just one and we support it one hundred percent “
Many banks in Jos and other parts of the state did not open their doors to customers in compliance with the warning strike.
Warri port blocked
Officials of the NLC enforced the strike in Delta State and prevented workers from going to their offices.
The NPA workers in Warri were blocked from accessing their offices by the union officials sporting white polo shirts and face caps.
The NPA workers in Warri were blocked from accessing their offices by the union officials sporting white polo shirts and face caps.
The strike partly paralysed commercial activities in the Enugu metropolis as only a few businesses were open to the public.
Public offices locked up included the courts, banks, and other financial institutions.
But senior officials were seen going about their duties at the Federal and Enugu State Secretariats.
However, there was ongoing vehicular movement and traders were seen going about their daily activities.
Workers in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, stayed away from office even as public schools were shut but a few banks opened for business.
The same scenario was observed in Minna, Niger State where the public workers down tools in protest over the alleged failure of the government to distribute palliatives.
Notwithstanding the strike, GTB, Access Bank, and other banks recorded huge customers who trooped into their banking halls to carry out transactions.
“We are not part of the warning strike. That is why you can see us working,’’ a bank worker explained.
The state NLC Chairman, Idrees Lafene declared, “There is compliance by the banks. We are just coming from some of the banks. But if you say some banks did not comply, we are going to compel them to comply.”
In Osogbo, Osun State, members of the National Union of Electricity Employees also joined the warning strike.
Some workers of Osogbo Region Transmission Company of Nigeria were locked out of the premises while some banks were firmly shut.
Vice President West, NUEE Sodiq Adewale, said, ‘’Presently, in compliance with the NLC directive, we are mandated to embark on a warning strike which started today and will continue tomorrow. As you can see, the whole place is under lock. Nobody is coming in and as time goes on, we are going to be reviewing our activities at the level of our actions.
“So far from our end, we have total compliance. Nobody is saying there is going to be a disruption of power, but our men are out. We are not tampering with anything.’’
In Ondo State, the NLC and the Head of Service engaged in a verbal exchange over a directive by the Head of Service, Mr Kayode Ogundele, directing workers to ignore the strike.
Ogundele had during a routine inspection of the MDAs in Akure noted that the state NLC was yet to inform the state government of its intention to go on strike.
But the chairman of the state NLC, Victor Amoko, in a statement, expressed displeasure over the alleged directive of the HoS.
“The Labour unions under NLC shall take on the HoS and call on the Acting Governor, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa, and the SA on Union Matters and Special Duties, Mr Dare Aragbaiye to call Mr Ogundele to order before he truncates the existing labour harmony in the state,’’ it read.
Academic activities were grounded at the Bayero University Kano as the Academic Staff Union of Universities branch of the university joined the industrial action.
Checks showed that the lecture halls were deserted by both lecturers and students as a result of the strike.
It was the same story at the two state-owned universities, Maitama Sule University and Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil.
In Benin City, commercial banks, fuel stations, and government parastatals including hospitals complied with the warning strike which paralysed activities in the city.
On Akpapava Road, Wema Bank, Access Bank, and First Bank on Ring Road were closed to customers but the Automated Teller Machines were dispensing money to customers.
The NNPC Limited and Raptors fuel stations on Sapele Road were locked as customers.
Other companies like Guinness, the 7Up bottling plant, and the Central Park in Benin City were shut down by the protesting NLC members led by the state Chairman, Odion Olaye.
Commercial activities in Port Harcourt and its environs were grounded. Courts along the stretch of Azikiwe and Bank Roads were not open, while Access Bank, UBA, First Bank, and Polaris Bank along Ikwerre Road were also closed to customers.
The same situation was recorded in Kaduna as the strike crippled socio-economic activities across the metropolis.
The strike recorded full compliance as government offices, banks, and other financial institutions, especially along the ever-busy Ahmadu Bello Way, Yakubu Gowon Way as well Kachia Road, were shut.
According to the National Assistant Secretary General of Nigeria Labour Congress, Christopher Onyeka, said, the report that he got indicated that the strike was successful.
He stated, ‘’In a situation like this, we expect one or two defaulters either because of communication issues but towards the end of the day, all those issues were resolved, and the strike proceeded as expected.’’
‘’In fact, our expectations were exceeded in all ramifications, and NLC knows that the right message has been sent to the government and we have achieved all of the objectives on the first day of the warning strike.’’
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.