Senate’s Anti-Labour Bill:NLC , TUC issue a joint statement

Yesterday at the floor of the Senate saw yet another onslaught against Nigerian workers and its peoples through the anti-workers’ Bill sponsored by Mr. Heinekken Lokpobiri a Senator from Bayelsa State seeking to make it unlawful for the trade unions in Nigeria to embark on any strike without obtaining the permission of the different organs of the union through a ballot.

We are forced to respond to this new agenda because of the perceived spirit and prejudices including the powers behind it. If it is a punitive move to punish Nigerians for the Fuel price hike, or an attempt to make it difficult for Nigerians to resist a future anti – people policy of the government, it will fail. Such laws with obvious fraudulent intentions which negate democratic practices and international conventions of which Nigeria is a part of often suffer the shame of ‘ignominy”

We regret that this is coming at a time when there are more serious issues confronting Nigeria as a nation. It is mind boggling that Mr Heinekken Lokpobiri who receives millions of Naira approximately every month from tax payers’ money would decide to waste the peoples’ time in pursuit of frivolous constructs to muzzle the various signposts of the peoples’ conscience. This is an expression of complete intolerance to democratic expressions and an attempt to reduce the space available to Nigerians to freely express their opinions on issues germane to national survival.

The arguments canvassed in support of the proposed amendments to the act are not only laughable but shows serious lack of understanding of not only the relevant Laws of the country but also the operations of the Trade Unions in Nigeria. The Nigerian trade union movement is still growing and has actually lost most of the political influence it wielded before and immediately after the nation’s independence when it was the major rallying point for the nationalists and a senior ally of the political parties in shaping the emerging government. Presently, the labour movement in the UK as represented by the TUC is a major partner in the Labour Party while the AFLCIO in the US is a major stakeholder in the Democratic party where they freely contribute both financially and technically but the labour movement in Nigeria is yet to rise to the 1940s and 1960s level in Nigeria talkless of matching what obtains in the UK and the US where Mr Lokpobiri drew his references.

It is important that we state categorically that the Labour movement in Nigeria is one of the most democratic sectors of the nation operating in line with international best practices. Our processes have become timeless and have been well tested as it concerns this matter. The trade unions derive their daily operations from elected but statutory organs of the union. These organs are the Central Working Committees (CWC), the National Executive Committees (NEC) and the Delegates Conference. While the CWC is made up of Presidents and General Secretaries of the affiliate unions, the NEC is made up of the principal officers of the various states councils including Abuja. These organs involving hundreds of men and women well tested in national and international issues from all over the country each bringing the positions and interests of their respective states must be consulted and approval sought before major decisions are taken one of which is wielding the Strike option.

Those who are sponsoring this Bill both the ones on the floor of the Senate and the ones behind the Mask have shown a total disdain for Nigerians, their sensibilities and desires and have further shown the contempt with which they hold the pillars of the nation’s democratic practices. Attempts to stifle opposing voices have never succeeded in the long run, they always backfire. We urge them to learn from history. Claiming to be smarter than those who have failed in the past by pushing this Bill will ultimately be their albatross. Nigerians are daily taking tab of those who are bent on causing the continued ruination of this country and whittling down bastions of liberty and free speech and choice.

Instead of having the courage to address the numerous security challenges facing us a nation, and instead of coming up with relevant Laws to deal with the endemic issues of corruption in the country and instead of creative legislations to generate employment and reduce poverty, the sponsors of this Bill rather decided to assault Nigerians. That is why we condemn this new attempt as an insult on our collective psyche as a people and as a nation. It shows that what is important to them is making laws that would put them in a cocoon away from our prying eyes putting Nigerians in a straight jacket unable to constructively respond to their actions. We urge Lokpobiri to focus his energy on the employment crisis in Nigeria and especially Bayelsa state which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. He should be concerned about this as their Senator. He should be worried about Corruption. He should be worried about infrastructural decay in his state. He should be worried about the Bombings both in his state and in other parts of the country.

Government must listen to us and must therefore not seek to silence this voice.

We call on Senator Heineken to quickly withdraw that Bill and apologise to Nigerians to avoid going down permanently into the history book of the Infamy.

That is why we applaud the progressive voices in the Senate who are in the majority that spoke vehemently against this renewed attack. Their names shall be written in gold and we urge them to make sure that the rights of Nigerians are not further trampled upon by those who think that Law-making starts and ends with raising the bars of separation or disconnect between the people and the government or shutting the door against the people from seeing what those in government are doing. Nigerians are behind these voices and Nigerian workers take cognisance and are prepared to work with these voices not only to pull down this Bill but other such pillars of oppression and emasculation that may come before the Assembly or has already become Law.

Abdulwahed Omar                                                                                  Peter Esele

President NLC                                                                                        President TUC


Being  the text of  Press Statement By Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) And Trade Union Congress (Tuc) On The Anti-Labour Bill Currently Before The Senate On Wednesday 14th March, 2012  At  Labour House, Abuja