The Nation Newspaper
Labour yesterday insisted on going ahead with today’s planned protest against petrol subsidy removal.
But acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun warned against violence.
He ordered police commissioners to beef up security.
Labour said the protests would start because the relief package unveiled on Monday by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not enough to alleviate suffering.
Police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi quoted Egbetokun as saying: “The Nigeria Police Force reiterates its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all citizens during the period of the planned protests as all necessary measures to facilitate the peaceful conduct of these demonstrations have been emplaced.
“However, it is hereby reaffirmed that any attempt by miscreants to exploit the situation for violent purposes viz-a-viz vandalism, gangsterism, and extortion will be met with a firm, professional and commensurate lawful approach. The Police will not tolerate any act that threatens the peace and well-being of our country.
“In light of the potential challenges posed by the planned protests, the Nigeria Police Force is fully prepared to deploy all available resources to maintain law and order and to protect the lives and property of our citizens.
“The IGP, therefore, calls on all officers to be vigilant, professional, and uphold the highest standards of conduct during this period.”
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president Joe Ajaero said it is the duty of the police to give protection to protesters and not to threaten them.
He said Labour had nothing to do with violence and that no miscreant would hijack the mass action.
In compliance with Egbetokun’s directive, Lagos, Kwara and Bauchi states police commands met with the labour leaders to ensure rancor-free protests.
The police commands emphasised the need for synergy with the union leaders and warned that any attempt by miscreants to exploit the situation would be met with firm resistance.
Some of the demands of the Organised Labour are immediate implementation of the resolutions jointly signed with the government and the Trade Union Congress; and immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies, including the new pump prices of petrol and Value Added Tax (VAT).
Others are the rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries and the release of the eight months’ withheld salaries of university teachers and workers.
After the meeting with the Federal Government’s team led by President Bola Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, the NLC dismissed reports that it had shelved the protests.
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It called on its state chapters to commence the demonstrations today.
The NLC asked Nigerians and its affiliates in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to converge on the Unity Fountain, Abuja from 7:30 a.m. for the action.
In Lagos, protesters will gather at Ikeja Under Bridge near Computer Village at 6:30am. From there, they will move to the House of Assembly.
Ajaero was absent at the meeting as he was said to be indisposed.
He was represented by his deputy, Titus Amba.
TUC President Festus Osifo also attended the meeting.
But, in a statement after the meeting, Ajaero said the outcome of the meeting with the government team had not changed anything.
The statement reads: “We want to inform all Nigerians that we have just risen from a meeting with the Federal Government where we sought to get them to listen to the demands of the people and workers of Nigeria.
“The outcome of this meeting earlier today has, howeve,r not changed anything or the course which we have set for ourselves tomorrow (today) as custodians of the interests and desires of Nigerian workers and people.
“Nigerians are advised to ignore the work of fifth columnists who are working hard against the wishes of the people.
“We urge everyone to gather in our respective states and wherever we may be across the nation to give vent to this collective resolve.”
TUC directed all its state councils in the 36 states and the FCT to mobilise for the protest.
The TUC said: “The Federal Government has failed to manage forex well and it is taking a toll on the pockets of Nigerians.
“Government must come up with good monetary policies that will help investments and also empower the naira.”
“President Tinubu said that so far the sum of N1trn has been saved from the removal of subsidy in two months.
“If they knew the country would save that much within two months, why then borrow the sum $800m World facility?
“It shows improper planning or it could also be that some people somewhere took advantage of the situation to rip-off the country.”
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Gbajabiamila appealed to the Labour leaders to allow the government to run its plan to ease people’s pain.
He assured that besides what the President unveiled in his nationwide broadcast, more were in store.
He said: “We appealed to Labour to call off the protest. We found listening ears here and they did agree that they all accepted that Mr President’s broadcast was a welcome development and that they will go back home to talk to the other leaders that were not present.
“So, we’re hopeful that they will do the right thing and call off the protest.”