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Nationwide Strike: NLC, Army Clash Over Soldiers’ Presence at Wage Talks

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In a dramatic turn of events on Monday, tensions escalated between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Army during critical wage negotiations held at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in Abuja.

The NLC issued a strongly-worded statement alleging that the presence of soldiers at the negotiation venue was a deliberate attempt to intimidate union officials.

“Soldiers are presently surrounding the venue of the meeting between Labour and Government at the premises of the SGF,” the NLC statement read.

“Any attempt to intimidate, provoke, or blackmail our leaders at the negotiation table will be resisted, and the strike action will be further prolonged.”

This assertion by the NLC sparked immediate controversy and concern among observers and participants in the ongoing wage talks.

The union’s statement implied that the soldiers’ presence was not just a security measure but a strategic move to exert undue pressure on the labor leaders during the sensitive discussions.

In response to the NLC’s claims, the Nigerian Army swiftly issued a rebuttal, categorically denying any intention of intimidation.

According to the Army Headquarters, the soldiers at the venue were part of the National Security Adviser (NSA) Nuhu Ribadu’s security detail.

The NSA was attending the meeting in his official capacity, accompanied by his statutorily approved military escorts, the military said.

The army statement reads, “The attention of Army Headquarters has been drawn to a false breaking news by the NLC alleging that soldiers currently surround the venue of the ongoing meeting between NLC and the SGF.

“Kindly note that the NSA, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is also attending the meeting, arrived at the meeting venue with his retinue of statutorily approved military escorts. Once the meeting is over, the escorts will lead the NSA from the venue.”

The Army further urged the public to disregard what it described as “deliberate and misleading falsehood” being circulated about the presence of military personnel at the meeting.

The incident has drawn varied reactions from across the country, with many expressing their concerns over the implications of military presence in civilian negotiations.

Activist and political figure Omoyele Sowore, on Twitter, urged the NLC to remain resolute despite what he termed as intimidation tactics.

“Please stay firm and undaunted; this is one of their worn-out intimidation tactics,” Sowore said. “It would be a letdown if you let this discourage you from carrying out your finite duties in the fight for a just wage for Nigerian workers.”

Similarly, Isi Okpukpu, on Twitter, condemned the deployment of soldiers to the negotiation venue, calling it “absolutely disgraceful.”

“The presence of soldiers at a meeting meant for peaceful dialogue between Labour and the Government speaks volumes about the intent and tactics of those in power,” Okpukpu remarked.

“Intimidation has no place in democratic negotiations. It’s clear the government would rather flex military muscle than address the legitimate concerns and demands of its workforce.”

Okpukpu’s statement echoed a broader sentiment among labor advocates and human rights groups, who viewed the incident as an alarming encroachment on democratic processes and labor rights.

“We must not allow this blatant attempt to silence and bully the Labor Congress to stand,” Okpukpu continued. “This is an attack on the rights of every worker and every citizen who stands for justice and democratic principles in our nation.”

Nigerian workers under the auspices of the main labour unions had commenced a nationwide strike, resulting in widespread disruptions across transportation services on Monday.

Airports and railway stations have been particularly affected, leaving travellers stranded and causing significant delays.

The strike, initiated by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and supported by various unions, is a response to the Federal Government’s refusal to agree to a new national minimum wage and address other critical issues.

The NLC’s demands are rooted in the economic hardships faced by workers, with the current minimum wage set at N33,000 per month, which many argue is insufficient given the rising cost of living.

During meetings with government negotiators, the union emphasized that the government has the financial capacity to meet their demands, citing the purchase of expensive SUVs for lawmakers as an example of misplaced priorities.

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