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    Kapital FM 92.9 The Station that Rocks!

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Cost Of Living Protest: Police Warn Against Violence

todayFebruary 19, 2024 8

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The police authorities have said they would not condone any form of violence during the planned two-day demonstration declared by organised Labour in protest against the hardships and high cost of living in the country.

The police handed down the Riot Act on Sunday as the Nigeria Labour Congress gave fresh conditions ahead of the minimum wage negotiation commencing on Monday (today.)

The police warning is coming against the backdrop of the alarm by the African Development Bank that rising prices of fuel and other commodities could lead to social unrest in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and Kenya.

The AfDB sounded the warning in its macroeconomic performance and outlook for 2024 in which it projected Africa’s economy to grow higher than the 3.2 per cent recorded in 2023.

The AfDB projected that growth on the continent will rebound to 3.8 per cent in 2024.

However, the bank cautioned that an increase in fuel and commodity prices occasioned by currency depreciation or subsidy removal in Nigeria, Angola, Kenya, and Ethiopia could trigger internal conflicts.

It stated, “Internal conflicts and violence could also result from rising prices for fuel and other commodities due to weaker domestic currencies and reforms.

“For instance, the removal of fuel subsidies in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria and the resulting social costs has led to social unrest driven by opposition to government policy.”

On February 8, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress gave a two-week ultimatum to the government to implement the agreements on palliatives for workers to mitigate the impact of the fuel subsidy removal and other policies reached last October.

The unions said they had mobilised their members for the nationwide protests slated for February 27 and 28.

The organised labour lamented that millions of Nigerian workers were facing hunger, erosion of purchasing power, and insecurity due to reforms that drove up inflation.

The NLC National President, Joe Ajaero, said the protest would begin a week after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum it issued to the Federal Government which will expire on February 23.

Ajaero, who spoke during a briefing with journalists in Abuja, said the decision followed an emergency National Executive Council meeting on the state of the economy and matters related to insecurity in the country.

Sunday PUNCH had on February 18 (yesterday) reported that organized labour was prepared to lower its demand for N1m minimum wage for workers in the country in line with realities on the ground which include high costs of living, inflation, naira devaluation, and the general economic shocks.

But the Head of Information of the NLC, Benson Upah, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Sunday, insisted that the committee must come up with a minimum wage that would reflect economic realities and address the hardship of workers.

Asked about the committee, which would begin its sitting today, he said, “Our expectations are the national minimum wage negotiations and the conclusions will reflect the socio-economic realities of our times.”

Also, a top official of the NLC who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue,, said, “if the Federal Government wants to pay workers anything, anything the government is paying them that cannot take care of the workers is no longer salary, it is a poverty salary.”

He said, “A living wage is that wage that will take care of all the basic needs of the worker and also leave small things for savings for rainy days for the worker, that is why whatever the trade unions are going to demand is going to be scientifically determined,” he said.

He stated, ‘’It (the minimum wage) is going to be based on the cost of living. It will be based on the objective reality that the Nigerian worker encounters daily. How much does it take to care for an average family in Nigeria? That is a family that consists of two parents and four children.

He said, “The Nigeria Labour Congress, already last month sent out questionnaires to all the state councils in Nigeria and the state councils have also sent the questionnaires to all the local governments in the 774 local governments in Nigeria to obtain what it cost them to take care of their basic needs.

“The consumer price Index is also one of the factors that the NLC is using. Then we are also looking at real wages. In essence, the N30,000 minimum wage that was paid in 2019, what is the real value of that N30,000 in 2024?” he said.

Ahead of the protests, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade, on Sunday, held a meeting with labour leaders at the command headquarters.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, who disclosed this to one of our correspondents, said the union gave an assurance that the protest would be carried out within the ambit of the law.

He added that a team of policemen would be on the ground to maintain law and order.

Hundeyin stated, “We have no fears. The Commissioner of Police met with NLC and TUC today and we had a lengthy discussion. We are certain that there won’t be a breakdown of law and order.

‘’But notwithstanding, we will be on the ground to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order.”

Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alamutu, on Sunday, said he would be meeting with the labour leaders in the state on Monday (today) over the protest.

Written by: Kevin Nwabueze

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