Eben Enasco Reporting.

In December 1978, the Nigerian Labor Congress, NLC, was founded as a merger of Four different organizations.

The Nigeria Trade Union Congress NTUC, Labour Unity Front LUF, United Labour Congress ULC, and Nigeria Workers’ Council NWC.

However, this was not recognized by the Federal Military Government, led by Murtala Mohammed, who instead set up the Adebiyi Tribunal to investigate the activities of trade unions and their leaders.

In 1976, the Tribunal reported and claimed that all the existing trade centers propagated Cold War ideologies, depended on funding from international union federations, and mismanaged funds.

This was used as a means of justification to ban all centers, with M. O. Abiodun appointed as the administrator of trade unions.

He accepted the establishment of a new Nigeria Labour Congress, on the condition that the approximately 1,500 affiliated unions were restructured into 42 industrial unions, plus 19 unions representing senior staff.

In 1978, the Nigeria Labour Congress had 42 industrial unions affiliated, which was proclaimed the only legal trade union in the federation.

Its leadership included many of the leading figures from its four predecessors, with Wahab Goodluck becoming its founding president.

During its history, conflicts with the military regime twice led to the dissolution of NLC’s national organs, the first in 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and the second in 1994, under the regime of General Sani Abacha.

In 1996, the 42 affiliates of the NLC were merged into 29, by an Act of Parliament.

Under Nigeria’s military government labor leaders were frequently arrested and union meetings were disrupted.

Following democratic reforms in the country, some of the anti-union regulations were abolished in January 1999.

The same month former Governor of Edo State Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was elected President of the organization.

In the early 2000s, the conflict between the government and the NLC escalated due to the organization’son’s opposition to higher fuel prices.

The price increases were the result of reported decisions by the Olusegun Obasanjo government to dramatically reduce subsidies and deregulate the purchase and sale of fuel.

The NLC has led several general strikes protesting the government’s fuel price policy.

In September 2004, the NLC gave the federal government an ultimatum to reverse the decision to reintroduce the controversial fuel tax or face a nationwide protest strike.

The strike threat was even though a Federal High Court judgment in an earlier dispute had declared organizations lacking legal power to call a general strike over government policies.

Following the announcement of the strike plans, the NLC claimed President Adams Oshiomhole was arrested ted October 9,,2004 at a protest at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport.

According to the organizations, Oshiomhole was “abducted by a team of operatives of the State Security Services, SSS, numbering over fifteen, who overpowered him, wrestled him to the ground and bundled him into a standby Peugeot 504 station wagon, which bore no license plates.

The State Security Services called the claim “sensational and inaccurate reporting”, saying that the NLC president had a “misunderstanding” with field operatives, but that the matter was soon resolved.

A presidential spokesperson claimed that Oshiomhole was only invited for a “chat” at the airport, and no arrival took place.

In 2005, the law was changed to permit other trade union to receive government recognition, and also to permit senior staff unions to join the NLC.

In 2016, about 25 affiliates left to form the United Labour Congress, but they rejoined the NLC in 2020.

By the end of the year, it had 43 affiliates, which as of 2016 represented more than 4,000,000 members.

In the History of Nigeria, one of the strongest protests of the NLC can be traced to January 2012 during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

The president and his economic team had argued that fuel subsidy payment was making the country lose billions of naira and it will save around “£4.2bn annually to invest in underperforming refineries that have forced Nigeria to import its oil once it has been refined”.

The president said his government was no more interested in the payment of subsidies to petroleum marketers.

This move fuel prices sold for N60 per liter with subsidy inclusive to around N141 which implies a more than a hundred percent increase.

The campaign for fuel subsidy removal was supported by the ministers in his cabinet and mostly chaired by the then finance minister/coordinating minister for economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

The government announced that the fuel subsidy was going to be removed by January 2012 and this announcement was not welcomed by the Nigeria Labour Congress. Abdulwahed Omar, the then NLC president challenged the government that there will be widespread protests test in Nigeria if it continued with its plans to remove fuel subsidies.

The NLC was able to rally other trade unions and civil societies to support its planned protest.

This challenge was marked by actions when the government moved on with the removal of payments for subsidies.

By 9 January 2012, mass protests erupted around Nigeria and in major cities including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano.

The protests crippled the economy as there was a total shutdown of the nation’s different workforce and it lasted more than five working days.

This led the then-president Jonathan to announce on live TV that government will now subsidize fuel prices and red theme it to about $2.75 a gallon.

The protest was eventually suspended after this broadcast by the federal government.

This protest marks one of the tough protests ever faced by a civilian government in Nigeria and shows the power of the Nigerian Labour Congress.

Since the resumption of President Buhari-led government, Nigerians have waited for a similar NLC, that crumbled the Economy to act.

Worse off is a twin policy crisis, the sudden surge in petroleum products, and the Scarcity of the naira notes after the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Policy to change some of the denominations.

Nigerians have faced the most difficult moment without a place or somewhere to locate the offices of the Labour Congress.

Ask average Nigerians where the office of the one vibrant labor force is, and you will be amazed by the response.

The body, led by the present President, Ayuba Philibus Wabba, has lost its identity over secreted gratification and remained a toothless bulldog.

My concern is that laborers’ hard-earned incomes are still deducted at Source without justification.

The toga, the “UNION” makes us strong has evaporated and condensed in the pockets of the Nigerian government and the center can no longer hold.

NLC has become a shadow of itself, living on life support as citizens grapple for survival amidst the beautiful but poorly timed policy of the CBN and surging fuel purchases across the country.

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