STRIKE: SOCIO-ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES PARALYSED
Government activities came to a halt across the country yesterday, as civil servants shunned their duty posts in compliance with the three-day warning strike called by organized Labour and civil society coalition. Reports across the country indicated there was total compliance with the Labour directive, even as there were reports of skirmishes in some areas.
Workers at the State House of Assembly, Ado-Ekiti, on Wednesday defied the order from Nigeria Labour Union(NLC) that all public workers should down tools to press home their request for upward review of salary.
Workers at the Assembly were already in their various offices before some labour leaders arrived to chase them out.
Some of the workers refused to leave the premises despite the fact that the Director of Finance and Administration (DFA) directed them to go home.
Following the workers, reluctance to leave, some of the labour leaders yanked off tree branches and threatened to whip them if they failed to leave the premises. The threat was also rebuffed by the Clerk of the House, Tunde Famoyegun, who warned that such action could trigger chaos. One of the union leaders, Kolawole Olaiya, took on the Clerk and abused him which did not go down well with the DFA.
The DFA reminded Olaiya that the Clerk was a senior officer in the state civil service and derserved respect.
Some of the recalcitrant workers, who spoke with Daily Sun, explained that they were waiting to receive Governor Kayode Fayemi who was coming to inspect the new Assembly complex under construction.
Government activities came to a standstill in Jos and environs as all government offices, filling stations and banks were shut down for business.
Petroleum black marketers capitalized on the situation to exploit motorists. A gallon of petroleum which hitherto sold for N400 jumped up to N550. Some car owners were seen patronizing them. They said they had no choice as efforts to get fuel the day previous to the strike proved abortive as there were long queues in most filling stations.
A visit to the state secretariat revealed that the gates were all locked. It was gathered that there was a directive to that effect to prevent hoodlums from catching on the situation to rob or wreak havoc at the premises.
There was full compliance with the strike as government offices, commercial banks were put underlock.
Daily Sun observed that no worker reported at the state secretariat complex for work, while the Deputy Governor's complex which houses some ministries and paratatals were also deserted.
Commercial banks operating in the state capital also shut their doors against customers. Some of them who were oblivious of the warning even as the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo called on the labour to embrace dialogue.
In Rivers State, workers stayed at home to observe the warning strike.
Pupils of many of the public schools were sent back home while commercial banks refused to open to the public.
The gates to the State Secretariat in Port Harcourt were locked and a white bus belonging to the state wing of the NLC was used to block the main entrance into the secretariat. A handful of senior and junior civil servants who turned up for the day's work were refused entry by labour officials who manned the gates.
Pasted on the gate was a notice jointly signed by Messrs Lucky Deele and Dan Otakpo, NLC State Chairman and Secretary of the Civil Service Workers Union respectively directing civil servants to stay away from work for the duration of the warning strike.
The strike was partially observed in Borno as few government offices and financial institutions opened for businesses for half-day.
Daily Sun observed that the Musa Usman State Secretariat around the Post Office area which houses government ministries and agencies as well as the Federal Secretariat along Jos-Kano Road were shut while workers were seen in groups discussing the development.
At the state secretariat, workers who spoke with Daily Sun lamented that the strike was ill-timed.
Also, customers who besieged some of the banks located along the West End Road in the state capital as early as 8a.m. were disappointed as most of the banks and financial institutions shut their gates. A staff of one of the new generation banks who preferred anonymity told Daily Sun at about 10 am that 'the officials of the bank are still awaiting instructions from either the area office or headquarters of the bank in Lagos whether to commence our operation or not.'
As early as 7:30 a.m, union officials had already manned the gates of the Federal Secretariat as well as the gates of the new and the old secretariats in the state capital.
Public schools and other public institutions were manned by officers on Grade Level 12 and above who were hitherto directed by the Head of Service, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane to report at their duty posts for skeletal services.
'While the Niger State government recognizes the right of organized labour to call out its members on strike, it is pertinent to point out that workers who belong to management level of the can not participate in strike,' Matene said in the memo.
It took the intervention of the Head of Service for the striking workers to open the gate of the Ibrahim Lafene Secretariat, otherwise known as the new secretariat, and grant even the management staff access to their offices.
At the General Hospital , Minna, the Medical Director, Dr. Ibrahim Tiffin told our correspondent that the management staff as well as security personnel and cleaners on contract were offering skeletal services. He confirmed that the strike was responsible for the low turn out of patients at the hospital.
The warning strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday totally paralyzed activities in government offices and schools in Lagos State as the workers complied fully with the strike order.
The state secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja was deserted and its main gate shut by the agitating workers when our reporter visited the area at about 2.15pm. Hordes of workers were chatting under tree shades, while official vehicles of some trade unions barricaded the main entrance to the premises.
The Chairman, Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Lagos State, Henry Akinwumiju, told Daily Sun that there was 100 per cent compliance to the strike order by the workers in the state.
He said reports from the monitoring team deployed to various locations revealed total closure of all the state institutions. According to him, some notable private companies also embarked on solidarity strike in support of the workers' demand for N18,000 new minimum wage.
Contrary to criticisms that the striking workers are impatient, considering the last minutes efforts by the government to avert the crisis, Akinwumiju said the failure of the negotiation process necessitated the action.
Government offices were shut in Kaduna, the state capital yesterday, in compliance with the directive from the Nigeria Labour Congress.
A few public and private schools were openeed to pupils, as normal classes went on uninterrupted.
However, long queues of vehicles were noticed in most filling stations visited by Daily Sun in the Kaduna metropolis. Although, the queues were not unusually long, such had never been witnessed in the city in the past five months. One of the motorists who spoke to Daily Sun said he had to join the queue because he wanted to play safe, as he intended travelling for the Sallah Festival, even as he argued that the NLC leadership was insensitive to the sensibilities of Nigerian Muslims by choosing this period to embark on strike.
Investigations within and around Kaduna that 'fuel boys' otherwise known in the local parlance showed that 'black marketers' had resurfaced, especially on major streets, to lend helping hand to those who may not have the patience to join the queue to fuel their vehicles.
Meanwhile, the entrance to the Kaduna State Secretariat complex where most of the State ministries are housed was put under lock with some of the staffers seen in groups chatting outside the gate.
In Bauchi, government workers boycotted their offices in compliance with NLC's directive.
Daily Sun correspondent who went round the state capital saw NLC officials sealing the entrance to the State Secretariat.
Senior civil servants including Permanent Secretaries were denied entry into the secretariat building.
The NLC officials explained that the strike was a total one as directed by the national secretariat.
All commercial banks in the state were also closed down.
Some of the residents who spoke to journalists expressed displeasure over the situation saying, they had nothing with which to take care of their immediate needs for the period, the action would last.
Commenting on the strike, a mother of two, Hajiya Sadiya Mohammed Bello who went to drop her children off at the staff secondary ATBU Bauchi was denied entry into the premises by the NLC officials.
Bello said the strike was ill-timed, saying Labour should have considered the Sallah period because many people have have not done shopping for sallah. This will definitely affect the average worker and the common man.
She said the officials should reconsidered their decision for the sake of the common man and the general public.
As early as 7am , officials of NLC were seen in buses moving into schools, banks the state secretariat and other government establishments, stopping people from resuming for work.
Market gates were also shut against traders, and buyers who rushed to the Makurdi Modern Market to make last minute purchases were not allowed to gain access into the market.
At the Shepherd Heritage Academy and ECWA Nursery and Primary School on Barracks Road, union officials were seen turning back parents who had come to drop off their wards in school while the schools authorities were mandated to close down the schools until Monday.
The gates of the State High Court were also under lock as workers who came to work were asked to go back home.
When Daily Sun visited the Government House, the usual hustle and bustle that characterized the front of the gate was not there as only the mobile policemen and SSS officials were seen sitting down.
Some Government House workers who resumed for work were also seen in front of their offices discussing the strike. When asked for comments, some of them who preferred anonymity said, 'Government House no dey go strike.'
Very few filling stations were selling petroleum products while there had been total black-out in the Makurdi metropolis for three days preceding the strike courtesy of the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Government activities were totally paralyzed in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital as workers shunned their offices.
Daily Sun investigation in Ilorin and its environs revealed that all government offices including ministries, commissions, parastatals and Governor's Office were completely deserted by the workers.
Students and pupils who had gone to school returned home disappointed as there were no teachers to teach them. At the banks, there were long queues of customers trying to withdrawal money but were only left with the option of drawing money from their account through Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards.
However petroleum products sales at all filling stations continue unabated while inter and intra transport services were also in full operation suggesting that members of National Union of Road Transport workers (NURTW) did not join the industrial action, thereby neutralizing the problem of transportation usually associated with workers strike in the past
In Akure, the state capital, most offices in the secretariat were under lock as well as the entry gates to the Federal Secretariat situated along Igbatoro Road.
Public primary and post-primary schools did not open for academic activities as few students who went to schools were sent back.
Customers who stormed various banks for early morning transactions were not allowed to gain entry into the premises.
The customers who said there were no directive that banks should participate in the strike waited for several hours without any possible sign that the banks would open for transactions.
Major eateries also experienced low patronage because of workers who stayed off their duty posts.
However, most roads in Akure metropolis were busy despite the warning strike as motorists were trapped in traffic .
The State Chairman of the NLC, Momoh Braimoh, who spoke with the Daily Sun on telephone, said, 'It is a national strike which all members must obey to ensure that the least paid worker in the civil service earns N18,000 per month.'