-For a 48-hour general strike to force Federal Government to bring perpetrators to justice
-No justice – No peace
By a Revolutionary Socialist Movement (the ISp affiliate in Nigeria) reporter
On Friday, November 9, 2023, workers participated in a protest organized by NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) and TUC (Trade Union Congress) in Abuja. The demonstration aimed to block access to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Similar action took place at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos state. Simultaneously, all unions in the airport sector in Imo state withdrew their services to protest the assault on the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero, by the Imo State government.
The protest commenced around 5 am, with NLC and TUC members converging at the entrance of Dunamis Church. By 6 am, workers proceeded to the airport to picket the facilities.
Various slogans were heard during the protest, notably one declaring “an injury to one is an injury to all,” emphasized by the General Secretary of the NLC during his speech.
Vehicles transporting travelers to the airport found themselves trapped outside, with passengers stranded, as protesters prevented vehicle access. The protest garnered support from aviation unions nationwide, leading to the joint suspension of all flights to Owerri, Imo State, from every airport in Nigeria. The unions also collectively declared Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State persona non grata in all airports until justice is served.
During the protest, a vote was held to determine the next course of action, with options including heading to the INEC office or the Police Headquarters. The majority opted to proceed to the police headquarters.
Comrade Festus Osifo, the President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), declared that the protest would persist until justice is served. He emphasized that those questioning the reasons for protests at the airports did not comprehend that the attacked NLC president represented a union center at the national level. Failure to promptly bring those responsible for the assault to justice would escalate the protest into a general strike.
The success of the protests in Lagos and Abuja demonstrated the workers’ readiness to resist challenges from authorities. Attempts to disrupt the picket by saboteurs who intentionally deflated workers’ tires, in order to incite confrontation, were thwarted by determined workers. Additionally, despite the presence of the air force in battalions, workers stood firm, forcing a de-escalation and ensuring the continuation of the protest.
Workers, in large numbers, transitioned from the airport in Abuja to the Police Headquarters, where they obstructed roads leading to the facility. Approximately an hour later, the representative of the Police Inspector General emerged to appeal for calm and advised against blocking roads and airports. The representative announced the formation of an investigating committee to probe the assault on the president and proposed a meeting with labour leaders at 3 pm to address all concerns.
Despite the Federal Government’s intensified propaganda to prevent the strike, there has been no action taken to apprehend the assailants. No arrests have been made, and there has been no public statement from the presidency. This makes clear that the current Tinubu regime aims to discredit and weaken the unions. The regime wants to take advantage of the lack of enough opposition to it’s anti poor policies since inception of it regime in May to try to attack the unions.
It is crucial to note that on the day of the attack on labour leaders in Owerri, Imo state, the Inspector General of Police was present, yet no tranquility prevailed. Subsequently, the governor defended his actions at the presidential villa, asserting his role as the chief security officer in the state and accusing the NLC president of interfering in state politics by supporting the Labour Party candidate in the recent election. But it is anyone’s basic democratic to associate with any party of his/hers choice.
Given the regime’s reluctance to bring the attackers of Comrade Joel Ajaero to justice, it is imperative for the TUC and NLC to proceed with the 48-hour general strike and bolster it with another round of mass protests. The regime’s demonstrated unwillingness to address the issue demands continued action and pressure from the unions.