Two weeks after the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)’s warning protests across Nigeria in connection with the Federal Government acting to end the six-month old strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), some players in that enclave are agitating for action. The NLC had said it would embark on a fuller protest in solidarity with the academics if the government was not seen to be doing anything in response to its threat.
The Joint Action Front, (JAF), one of the players in the circuit, is saying it is unfortunate the Federal Government is yet to reach an agreement that will resolve the strike action. The attitude of the president Buhari regime does not, in its view, show readiness to “sincerely meet the demands of the striking workers”.
They in the Joint Action Front (JAF) are, therefore, condemning what its statement calls “this unserious attitude of the government towards implementing agreements it reached with unions, most especially in the case of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT)”.
JAF is not only commending the leadership of the NLC for organising the July 26 and 27 solidarity nationwide protests in support of the university unions and in sympathy with Nigerian students idling away at home, it is equally calling on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to immediately commence preparation to mobilise for a warning general strike and nationwide mass protest in two weeks’ time as a result of the failure of the government to keep to its part of the pact. “In view of the lack of progress in the negotiations since the protest and the continued closure of public universities, JAF calls on the NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba to keep to his statement to the effect that “We are tired of lamentation. We want solution. We want the issues to be fixed”.
According to the statement signed by Comrades Achike Chude and Abiodun Aremu, JAF’s Deputy Chairperson and Secretary, respectively, that would be in keeping too with the same declaration in April that, otherwise, “Congress will be left with no other option than to embark on three days nationwide warning strike”.
JAF is no longer bothered even if it is only a 48-hour general strike that the NLC and TUC are able to organize, considering the state the nation is at the present. That is an indirect reference to rising inflation, collapse of the naira and the sharp increase in the cost of food, energy and other basic needs which has resulted in a cost of living crisis. Its own sense of a such a general strike is as an instrument for demanding for payment of owed salaries and pension arrears, review of the minimum wage to reflect the new economic situation, reversal of fuel and electricity price hike, drastic actions to halt rising prices of food, energy and other basic needs etc.
“As we write, many working class families face starvation due to the fact that the N30,000 minimum wage has collapsed in value”, says JAF which added that workers are trekking long distances to and from work because they cannot afford the skyrocketing transport fare.
For JAF, the NLC and TUC declaring a 48-hour general strike is in order as far as saving public education as well as getting the government to deal with the cost of living crisis and improve the living conditions of all workers. It is thus insisting on a general strike preceded by mass leaf lettering, public meetings and rallies across the country in order to build support of workers and the oppressed masses.
Referencing itself as to the systemic character of Nigeria’s problem, it insists on system change as the only way of addressing the contradictions facing the country, adding how problems such as underfunding of public education should not be an issue with Nigeria’s huge mineral and natural resources but for the fact that capitalist, anti-poor regimes like that of the President Buhari and governments before it have handed over the commanding sectors of the economy to a few individuals and their cronies to milk the resources and make billions from it while leaving the vast majority of Nigerians to wallop in hunger and penury.
The power sector, it says, is in a terrible state with incessant national grid collapse despite being privatized, citing how the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) arraigned the suspended Accountant General, Ahmed Idris for over N109 billion fraud in the same week that the Accountant General of Rivers State was declared wanted for N435bn fraud. “JAF believes that the only way to salvage Nigeria is for Nigerian workers and oppressed masses to unite to chase out the looters, end capitalism and enthrone a government composed of workers, youth and oppressed masses with socialist programme”, the statement said, explaining that this is what they mean by system change. It also makes a distinction between all changes in the past including that of the 2015 general elections and its own kind of change, asserting that “unless we end the system of capitalist exploitation and imperialism, 2023 general elections will result in the same change without progress.