By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has given reasons for the suspension of its planned nationwide indefinite strike over the scarcity of naira notes across the country.
NLC had planned to begin an indefinite stay-at-home strike and picketing to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN headquarters, and its branches across the country from yesterday over the CBN’s Currency Redesign policy that had inflicted pains on Nigerians and businesses.
Leaders of NLC however suspended the planned industrial action after a meeting of its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting Tuesday.
Giving reasons for the suspension, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, in a statement, among others, said “It has become important that we inform Nigerians through this medium of the reasons behind our decision to suspend the proposed nationwide strike and picketing of the Headquarters and offices of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) across the nation.
“Recall that we called for the strike based on the unfortunate, ill-conceived and poorly executed Currency redesign policy of the CBN which had brought untold suffering on the people and workers across the length and breadth of the federation. The situation had degenerated to the extent that citizens were forced to spend on average about 30 percent of their income to access their hard-earned cash leading to the emergence of trade by barter as an option in some communities around the nation.
“It was these objective realities and the seeming reluctance of the federal government through its institutions especially the CBN to take steps to end the ensuing mass misery that compelled us to issue the ultimatum to assist the government to act more responsibly and ease the burden on Nigerians.
“Subsequently, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) immediately engaged us and we demanded that certain measures be taken to make cash available to all Nigerians. Some of these measures were our insistence on Saturday and Sunday full banking services until a healthy cash situation is restored and the expansion and deepening of their sorting and issuing operations to release Cash to all Bank branches across the nation.
“The NLC had since then held two sessions of Its NEC to discuss the issues and review the level of compliance with our demands by the CBN to make Cash available to Nigerians wherever they may be located in the country. In our meeting yesterday, Tuesday the 28th day of March 2023 NEC received live reports from all the states of the federation and local governments on the Cash situation in their respective locations.
“On the weight of the reports received, NEC made the following observations that the CBN has made significant efforts to curb the current Cash scarcity in the country thus to some extent complying with the demands of NEC.
“Many Banks have embarked on Weekend Banking as agreed though some Bank branches remained shut to the Public. Availability of Cash has noticeably improved in the major urban centres in Nigeria.
“However in rural communities and towns, Cash scarcity seemingly persists to some degree. Banks have however continued to ration access to cash thus limiting financial transactions. It does appear that normalcy has not completely been restored as long queues are still visible to allow cash to flow seamlessly as before the unfortunate policy
As a function of the reports received, and in collaboration with the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC who also had its NEC to discuss the same issues; we resolved to suspend the proposed nationwide strike planned for today, Wednesday the 29th of March, 2023 since there is a significant improvement in the availability of Cash across the nation.
“Meanwhile, the CBN should ensure that total normalcy is restored to cash availability within the nation in the next two weeks. NLC will embark on a nationwide strike without warning if the Cash situation degenerates instead of returning to normalcy.
“Finally, we set up a Joint Committee at the National and State Levels to monitor and ensure sustainable compliance by the CBN towards ending the Cash crunch and removing the siege on Nigerians.
“These were some of the bases upon which our decisions rested and follow-up action to ensure that CBN remains compliant and did not renege on the agreed path towards the restoration of normalcy in the cash situation.
“We want to assure Nigerians that though there are other critical issues confronting us as a people, we are continuously committed to making sure that we roll back all anti-workers and people’s policies of the government.
“Once again we call for the continued support of all Nigerians to ensure that we rescue ourselves from actions that are designed to emasculate us both as workers and as a people. It is only by working together that we can guarantee our collective safety and interests as a people.”
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