Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central District has cautioned the federal government against intimidating the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and its leaders, for protesting the recent increase in petrol price.
Mr. Sani condemned the government’s “campaign of calumny and blackmail” against the unionists, and said Nigerians must appreciate the NLC for standing by the masses over the years and for making contributions to the realization of political change in Nigeria.
A nationwide called by the NLC in protest of fuel price hike and electricity tariff raise began Wednesday after talks with the government failed on Tuesday night.
The government has vowed to implement a no-work-no-pay policy, and has threatened “appropriate response by the law enforcement agencies” against union leaders who attempt to barricade gates or lock up offices to enforce the strike.
In a statement issued on Wednesday , Mr. Sani said as the umbrella body responsible for the welfare of Nigerian workers, NLC has the right to protest or to opt for dialogue or not.
“Campaign of calumny and blackmail against the NLC and Labour leaders simply for speaking out and standing up for their traditional constituents must stop,” Mr. Sani said.
“We joined and applauded the NLC for leading a mass protest against increase in pump prices of petroleum products in the past.
“It’s hypocritical to condemn them now for their principled stand on same issue. Our quests for justice and equity must not depend upon the Government or persons in power but must depend upon the matters of principles at hand,” the lawmaker said.
Mr. Sani added: “The cloud of intimidation and blackmail against people for expressing their objections must end. We are now in a state whereby dissent is equated to disloyalty.
“We must learn to tolerate views and positions different from our own no matter how unpopular. If we must all agree on all issues at all times, democracy couldn’t have been ‘invented’.
“Democracy guarantees every citizen the fundamental right to free speech and to objection and this must be respected.”
He said those in support of the government’s decision to increase petrol price have no right greater than those opposed to it.
He said detaching the masses from the Labour movement through orchestrated campaign by some is defanging the power of the masses.
“It’s imperative for our people to understand that the political class define and view social justice in the colours of their personal interest.
“Those who stood against increase in price of petroleum products yesterday and stood for it today have betrayed the very principle which they claimed to represent.
“If for political convenience we choose to divide or destroy the Labour unions today, we will be harming the very organ that stands as the guardian of democracy.
“Increase in pump price of petroleum products does nothing other than add to the suffering of Nigerians but those in support of it have the constitutional rights to revere their chains.
“Unjust policies must not be beclouded by political interests and political convenience,” he added.
He called on the Labour movement to continue to dialogue, but “unambiguously condemn all acts of treacherous intimidation against the leaders of Nigerian workers”.
Senator Shehu Sani warns FG against intimidating labour leaders
Reviewed by Link Naija