S’ West govs seek FG’S help over Apapa port grid­lock

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - • Buhari re­states com­mit­ment to trans­port, power in­fra­struc­ture From Tunji Omo­foye (Osogbo) and Ter­hemba Daka (Abuja)

THE South­west Gov­er­nors’ Fo­rum has ex­pressed con­cern on eco­nomic and se­cu­rity chal­lenges posed by grid­lock in the Apapa port and urged the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to cre­ate al­ter­na­tive routes.

The fo­rum said the planned al­ter­na­tive routes link­ing Tin Can Is­land through To­moro Is­land to Ibafo in Ogun State should be re­vived ur­gently. In the in­terim, it sug­gested that gov­ern­ment should en­hance the ca­pac­ity of the Nige­ria Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion (NRC) to evac­u­ate

ba said: “The fig­ure will be re­leased when we sub­mit the re­port to­mor­row (to­day).

Nige­ri­ans yes­ter­day were caught up in panic buy­ing as they an­tic­i­pated the in­dus­trial ac­tion by the or­gan­ised labour.

A visit to some fill­ing sta­tions in the Abuja me­trop­o­lis showed many mo­torists troop­ing in to buy fuel. Bank­ing halls were also filled with cus­tomers mak­ing last-minute trans­ac­tions, while au­to­mated teller ma­chines were at­tended by long queues.

One mo­torist, Bamidele Olukoya, who spoke to The

Guardian, said he bought enough fuel to last a week. Re­minded that the move could be dan­ger­ous, he replied: “I kept the gal­lons in my back­yard.”

In Ibadan, res­i­dents swooped on mar­kets to pur­chase food and other es­sen­tial items.

At Bodija mar­ket, a civil ser­vant, Mary Okoisi, told The

Guardian she was ready for the strike, as she had stocked up enough food.

But not ev­ery­one shared Okoisi’s view. Some, like Mr. Ke­hinde Odewunmi, a builder, would rather the strike didn’t take place. He added that if gov­ern­ment ac­cedes to labour’s de­mand, there would be in­fla­tion and a wors­en­ing of the econ­omy. He was joined by Chinyere Nwafor, who urged gov­ern­ment to boost the econ­omy and bring down prices of goods in­stead of in­creas­ing work­ers’ salaries.

The or­gan­ised labour yes­ter­day held a pro­longed meet­ing at Mustapha’s of­fice. But as at 10:00 p.m., there had been no con­sen­sus on the con­tentious N30,000 min­i­mum wage de­manded by the work­ers’ unions.

At a point, the gov­er­nor of Kebbi State, Bagudu Abubakar, who was the sole gov­er­nor that at­tended the meet­ing, stormed out at ex­actly 7.42 p.m., de­clin­ing to speak to re­porters.

The Min­is­ter of Labour and Em­ploy­ment, Chris Ngige, said the in­vi­ta­tion ex­tended to the state gov­er­nors was a mere op­por­tu­nity to be a part of the ne­go­ti­a­tion process and not to in­flu­ence pro­ceed­ings.

He said: “Gov­ern­ment is one. The state gov­ern­ments have no choice but to fol­low what the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment wants. We have agreed on two fig­ures of N24,000 and N30,000 to be sub­mit­ted to Mr. Pres­i­dent for on­ward trans­mis­sion to the Coun­cil of State and the Na­tional As­sem­bly for leg­isla­tive process.”

The Guardian learnt that the or­gan­ised labour in­sisted on ob­tain­ing a def­i­nite date for the sub­mis­sion of the re­port to Pres­i­dent Buhari be­fore sus­pend­ing the strike.

Mustapha ex­plained that the pres­i­dent had closed for the day and had gone home. He added that the pres­i­dent might likely come down­stairs later in the evening. This ne­ces­si­tated a two-hour ad­journ­ment.

In readi­ness how­ever the Non-aca­demic Staff Union of Univer­si­ties (NASU) and as­so­ci­ated in­sti­tu­tions and Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Univer­si­ties (SSANU) di­rected their mem­bers to join the strike.

NASU Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Peters Adeyemi said in Abuja that the strike be­came in­evitable fol­low­ing the re­fusal of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to ac­cept the N30,000 new min­i­mum wage. He there­fore di­rected all NASU af­fil­i­ates in the county to ob­serve the ac­tion in to­tal­ity.

SSANU held emer­gency meet­ings at its branches na­tion­wide to mo­bilise for the strike. A state­ment by Se­nior As­sis­tant Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Kings­ley Okayi in Abuja di­rected all branch chair­men to en­sure full com­pli­ance. The state­ment reads in part: “The call for a new na­tional min­i­mum wage is in line with our de­mand for in­creased salaries in our rene­go­ti­a­tion doc­u­ments to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and will en­hance our chances of a bet­ter bar­gain.

“All chair­men are to en­sure that the strike is ob­served by all our mem­bers. They should also co­op­er­ate with other sis­ter unions on cam­pus and state chap­ter of­fi­cials of the Nige­ria Labour Con­gress to en­sure a suc­cess­ful strike .”

The Med­i­cal and Health Work­ers Union of Nige­ria (MHWUN) also urged its mem­bers to stay res­o­lute and com­mit­ted to the ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the strike.

The union gave the ad­vice at a press brief­ing in Abuja yes­ter­day. Its na­tional pres­i­dent, Bio­bele­moye Joy Josiah, noted: “The gov­ern­ment is com­plain­ing of a bro­ken econ­omy but the po­lit­i­cal class is earn­ing equal to or more than their coun­ter­parts in the United States where we copied our model of democ­racy.”

He added: “The N30,000 com­pro­mise fig­ure by Nige­rian work­ers is less than $100 per month at the cur­rent ex­change rate of N365.00 per dol­lar whereas in the same United States, the min­i­mum wage per hour is $10. That is $80 per day, $400 for five work­ing days and $1600 per month. That’s N584,000 per month. There­fore, there is no rea­son why the po­lit­i­cal class should earn even 10 per cent more than their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts while the work­ers are earn­ing a pit­tance.”

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment mean­while be­gan fresh moves to woo mem­bers of the Aca­demic Staff Union of Univer­si­ties (ASUU) back to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble. The devel­op­ment fol­lowed the in­def­i­nite strike em­barked upon by the union late Sun­day night af­ter its na­tional ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil meet­ing in Akure, Ondo State.

Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Adamu Adamu, at a brief­ing in his of­fice, at­trib­uted the de­lays in meet­ing some of ASUU’S de­mands to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s weak fi­nan­cial base. He re­gret­ted that pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions made bo­gus prom­ises to the union when the econ­omy was more buoy­ant.

ASUU’S strike is pred­i­cated on de­lays in im­ple­ment­ing a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing all the par­ties al­legedly agreed to in 2017, in­clud­ing com­pelling gov­ern­ment to con­clude the rene­go­ti­a­tion of other agree­ments col­lec­tively reached in 2009.

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