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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Comrade Omar: Gov't in "blackmail"

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday said the on-going nationwide strike was not politically motivated, declaring Federal Government statement to that effect as blackmail. The NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar who stated this in Abuja while leading a peaceful march round the city, also hailed Nigerians for the level of compliance with the strike.

Federal Government, it would be recalled on Tuesday night declared that the current strike was politically motivated. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ambassador Babagana Kingibe who stated this in a statement, said government had made enormous concessions to the demands of organized labour, wondering why it insisted on the strike.

But speaking yesterday, Comrade Omar described the SGF reaction that labour leaders did not cooperate with government when the latter called for dialogue as not only unfortunate but mere blackmail.

Omar said in the seeming deadlock in negotiations between labour and government, the latter had not reached out to labour for further negoations.

Meanwhile, the NLC helmsman has commended the citizenry for their compliance with the strike, saying in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) alone the action recorded over 75 per cent success.

Daily Champion observed that social and economic activities in the city were paralysed as banks, schools and other public institutions including the National Assembly were shut.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that all major banks, including UBA, Zenith, Union, Oceanic, Afri, GT and IBTC shut their doors to customers.

All public and private schools were also shut as students who had earlier reported for classes were asked to go home.

Armed policemen, officers of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC were stationed in strategic positions to maintain the peace.

The presence of security was heavy at the federal secretariat which was locked and the few people that were allowed in were properly screened.

At the entrance of the Ministry of Education, a security officer said: "Nobody is in the office. Nigeria is on strike and not the staff."

Security staff in the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government shut the gates and would not allow newsmen into the office.

Commercial mini-buses, taxis and private vehicles that came out carried green leafs in solidarity with organised labour while members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) joined the strike.

Its National President Alhaji Gidado Hamman, told NAN that "the strike is total and the green buses that are operating belonged to self-employed drivers".

However, in spite of the efforts of the leadership of NLC to picket some outfits, filling stations, hospitals, markets and major motor parks defied the strike.

In another development, some NURTW members force people to observe the strike by blocking major roads like the Kubwa expressway and the Abuja-Keffi expressway.

The scenario which was complemented by the activities of hoodlums were however brought to a stop through the intervention of the police and members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who were drafted to strategic positions to ensure peace.
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At major junctions like the Area one, Mopol Junction, Area Three Junction, Area Eight, Garki II, Federal Secretariat, security operatives ensure free movement for the few people who had the courage to leave their homes.

School children were seen returning home as their teachers joined in the strike while those writing the National Examination Council (NECO) still wrote yesterday's examination involving further Mathematics and Geography.

Meanwhile, negotiations between leaders of NLC, TUC and government representatives over the strike would resume today in Abuja.