The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has replied the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, for his comments on the alleged illegality of the union’s planned protest against the prolonged university workers’ strike.
NLC had announced a nationwide protest scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday should the government fail to reach an agreement with the striking workers unions.
But addressing journalists after the federal executive council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, Mr Mohammed said the protest was illegal as the government does not have pending disputes with the NLC
He said, “The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of NLC members are involved. What the NLC is planning in the next few days is about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body with the federal government.
“Well yes, there’s a dispute between some members of the NLC, ASUU and the federal government which is being looked into. And NLC itself is a party to the committee that is looking into the solution.
“So calling out people on street protest, you begin to wonder, what is the motive of NLC in this matter? But you see here, we do not interrogate what NLC is doing. NLC by its own laws cannot even give out pamphlets. And NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics.”
In a statement later on Wednesday, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, disagreed with the minister that the protest was illegal.
He said Mr Mohammed’s comments are inconsistent with democratic principles and the rule of law.
“It’s elementary knowledge that the right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental global right guaranteed by the UN charter on Human and Peoples right and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. All peaceful assemblies are lawful and do not require any permission under our laws. In a democratic society such a statement is not consistent with the rule of law.”
He also noted that NLC’s planned protest was not a solidarity protest, saying NLC is directly involved in the dispute.
“It’s not a solidarity protest, NLC is directly involved in the current dispute in our university system. All the four trade unions involved are affiliates of NLC,” he said.
“Secondly, as citizens, our children have been out of school for 5 months, the majority are children of the working class and the less privileged, this alone should call for urgent action.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerians Students (NANS) has directed its subdivisions to begin mobilising students to join NLC in the nationwide protest.