Protesters Storm NASS, Urge NLC to Halt 2-day Protest

Pro-democracy activists yesterday stormed the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, asking the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its planned 2-day protest and return to the negotiation table with the Federal Government.

The protesters, who marched from the Unity Fountain in the city to the NASS Complex, vowed to mobilise Nigerians against the NLC if the National Assembly failed to persuade the congress to shelve the protest.

But the NLC insisted yesterday that nothing had changed in its plan to hold a 2-day rally.

The pro-democracy protesters arrived at the complex in six luxury buses, chanting solidarity songs.

They carried anti-NLC placards, some of which read: “Let’s be patient with Tinubu”; “NLC, please rest. Jagaban is working”; and “NLC, stop pretending to be fighting for Nigerians.”

Addressing newsmen at the Unity Fountain, convener of Nigerian Civil Society Forum, Sunday Attah, wondered whether it was not the same NLC that was among the biggest critic of fuel subsidy removal that was now “pretending to fight for the masses.”

Attah said the NLC should borrow a leaf from the United Kingdom where the people stood with the government when the country’s economy went into recession recently.

Attah said: “We must understand the trajectory of how the NLC has operated over time. Remember in this same country when fuel subsidy was removed, they got up and claimed to be standing for Nigerians. They fought and said fuel subsidy should not be removed.

“We are not going to allow the NLC to plunge Nigeria into anarchy. Calling for protest against an eight-month-old government is uncalled for. The President is doing his best. He is not a magician. All that Nigerians need at the moment is to be patient with the President.

“When a woman gets pregnant it takes nine months for her to deliver. When the child is born, it takes another one to two years for the child to walk. Why can’t NLC support Mr President to deliver dividends of democracy and to fulfill all his campaign promises?

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu wants to work for all Nigerians and this is the reason why the president begged Nigerians to give him time. His policies may take a little time for us to adjust.

“These things happen even in civilised societies where government policies do not start manifesting and yielding fruits overnight; it takes a little process of time and that is the process we are at the moment.

“In the UK today the British government is in recession. Are people protesting against the government? It is a process.”

A co-convener of the group, Terrence Kuanum, argued that shutting down commercial activities in the country won’t resolve the economic hardship in the country.

“I am hungry, you are hungry. But it is not by sabotaging the system or antagonising the system that we can resolve this issue. We can only resolve this issue as patriotic Nigerians so the next generation doesn’t face it,” he said.

“We are giving them 24 hours to rescind the decision to protest and go back to the negotiation table. If they insist on coming out, we are calling on Nigerians not to respect any decision from NLC.

“We are going to mobilise the masses to stay back and work for this country. No strike can solve this problem.

“People go on strike to get the attention of policymakers. But in your (NLC) case, you are already with the policymakers. So what is the essence of the strike?” he said.

Group warns against hijack of protest by anti-democracy forces

Another group, Coalition of Civil Society Groups on Transparency and Accountability, pleaded with the NLC to have a rethink about its planned nationwide protest, warning of the possibility of it being hijacked by anti-democracy elements.

The group made up of Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative, Guardians of Democracy and Development Initiative and Rising up for a United Nigeria, feared that labour might just be inadvertently playing into a bigger destabilisation plot to throw the country into chaos.