Labour intensifies pressure, gives FG 14 days to address hardship, hunger

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• Kano residents hit streets again to protest high cost of living
• Don’t provoke further protest, release those arrested in Niger, Sultan tells FG
• Niger orders release of Aisha Jibrin, 24 rioters
• Reps Speaker Abbas pledges imports of essential food items
• Governors seek immediate reduction in forex demand, imported goods
The organised labour, following persistent hardship across the country, yesterday, issued the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to honour its part of the October 2, 2023 agreement reached with labour to address the ‘massive suffering’ caused by the hike in petrol prices and naira devaluation.
The ultimatum, which starts counting from today, was conveyed in a joint statement signed by president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) chairman, Festus Osifo, yesterday.
The duo warned that everything must be done within two weeks to avoid a situation where labour might be compelled to take appropriate steps to protect Nigerian workers and masses, which will herald a nationwide protest slated to begin on Friday, February 23.
This is besides the two weeks’ ultimatum given by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) earlier this week for the government to address the galloping inflation making food prices out of the reach of citizens or there will be mass demonstrations across the country.
Labour maintained that government’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain was regrettable and unacceptable to the working people and the citizenry. They alleged that the widespread hunger is now ravishing millions of Nigerians, with workers’ purchasing power significantly eroded, while insecurity has assumed an increasing dimension.
According to them, Nigerians are left wondering where their next meals will come from and what tomorrow might bring. They therefore called on the Federal Government to honour its commitments without delay, stating that the time for empty promises and excuses had passed.
Meanwhile, Kano residents on Thursday evening took to the streets in protest against the high cost of food items and other essential commodities. They staged the protest around Kurna, Rigiyar Lemu and Bachirawa areas along the popular Katsina Road, lamenting that the economic situation was getting worse daily.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Usman Bello, a resident of Rijiyan Lemo, said the harsh economic situation has caused untold hardship to the masses in the state.
The protesters who thronged the streets along Katsina Road expressed their grievances in Hausa language. According to him, they had been pushed to the wall, hence the need for them to come out despite the hazy weather.
This is just as the apex Islamic body in the North, Jama’at Nasir Islam (JNI), headed by Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday called on the Federal Government to immediately release all those arrested in Niger State following Monday’s protest against the current inflation and hardship in the country.
The Sultan also warned the government not to worsen the present situation in Nigeria through arrest of citizens who are venting their anger against the current hardship and inflation, saying that such action could further provoke more protests.
In a statement signed by the Secretary General of JNI, Prof. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, the Sultan said: “We urgently call on the Federal and state governments to intervene before the situation worsens. Likewise, all those arrested during the protests should be released and future recurrence be avoided through synergy and prompt interventions.
“This call has become necessary such that citizens would not be further provoked. Government functionaries are also cautioned to choose their words very well while addressing citizens on the matter. More so, the impending Ramadan fast heightens the urgency of our call, as access to three square meals becomes a luxury for many households. As believers, we understand that food security is synonymous with home security, as enunciated in the Glorious Qur’an 106:4.”
According to him, “the current trying-time ordinary Nigerians are experiencing, occasioned by food insecurity, inflation, abject poverty and insecurity is distressing and calls for serious redress.”
In a swift reaction, the Niger State government has ordered the release of Aisha Jibrin, initiator of Monday’s protest against the hike in prices of foodstuff that erupted in Minna metropolis. Commissioner for Information and Culture, Binta Manmman, made this disclosure while speaking to journalists in Minna yesterday.
Recall that the Niger State Police Command had, on Wednesday, issued a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer, Wasiu Abiodun, of the arrest of Aisha Jibrin and 24 others over alleged major obstruction of the highway that deprived motorists, travelers, and other road users from gaining access to attend to their lawful businesses.
She said the state government, after conducting its findings, had exonerated the 57-year-old mastermind of the riot of any wrong doing. According to her: “All of those arrested by the police, along with the initiator, Aisha Jibrin, have been released on bail. We apologise to the family of Aisha and others for the arrest.”
She also stated that the state government is concerned about the sufferings of residents of the state, adding that the administration of Governor Mohammed Umar Bago is not resting on its oars as drastic measures will soon be adopted to address their plights.
The Commissioner stated: “As a government, we feel their pains. The state government is aware of the hardships the people are going through. On the day of the protest, the governor at our council meeting was talking about looking for a solution to the issue when a distress call came about the violent protest and people took the law into their own hands.
“He immediately sent the Deputy Governor to the scene to calm the situation, but the rioting crowd turned violent. The protesters embarked on the protest without seeking the permission of the police. And, since it turned violent, those responsible had to be arrested.”
In an apparent bid to douse the rising anger among Nigerians over the high cost of living, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr Tajudeen Abbas, has pledged to put in place measures aimed at ensuring availability of essential food items at affordable rates.
At a press conference held at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, he disclosed that the House would propose enacting legislation to enable swift government response to tackle food shortages, including emergency food aid and support for affected populations.
The Speaker cited support for import and export policies that stabilise food prices and ensure adequate supply of essential food items at affordable rates, especially for the citizenry living in rural areas.
Expressing concern to the House over the high rate of food inflation, he reiterated the House resolve to promote security so that farmers can feel safe to return to their farms.
The Speaker commended the rapid and decisive response of the President, Bola Tinubu, to the issue of food security in the country. He particularly referred to the 2023 Supplementary Budget, which provided a N200 billion palliative package, mainly for grains, seeds, agricultural inputs and equipment for farmers to buttress his assertion.
“This momentum has been sustained in the 2024 Budget, which has significantly improved budgetary allocations to all critical sectors of the economy, especially defense, healthcare, education and infrastructure,” he said.
He thereby reassured Nigerians that the House will prioritise funding for programmes and initiatives to alleviate hunger and enhance security of Nigerians.
HOWEVER, in its intervention, governors of the 36 states have agreed to work with federal authorities to reduce the demand for foreign exchange. This is to find a solution to the depreciating value of the naira and the consequent rise in prices of goods.
In a communique released after the governors met with the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, the governors said the need to reduce dependence on imported goods was equally agreed upon. The communiqué, which was signed by the Kwara State governor and chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, disclosed that the meeting deliberated on the security situation and food stability in the country.
According to the communique, the meeting “recognised the need to address the connection between food inflation, naira depreciation and rising insecurity across parts of the country from a systemic perspective and called for urgent discussions with and synergy amongst stakeholders in improving the situation in the shortest possible time.”
The communique reads in part: “The meeting agreed on the following immediate actions: Reduce foreign exchange demand, by use of moral suasion to reduce dependence on foreign exchange, imported goods and services; improve foreign exchange supply, by easing commodity export requirements to encourage exportation and supply of foreign exchange; curbing illegal export of solid minerals; and increasing crude oil production to earn more foreign exchange.”
Other decisions taken at the meeting include “support for improved enforcement efforts by reviewing the extant criminal justice laws in the states to ensure quick dispensation of justice on perpetrators of insecurity, supporting the NSA office in the states to enhance the nature and quality of intelligence.”
The communique reiterated “governors’ commitment to deploying emergency food interventions, including incentivizing food production, release of food items from strategic food reserves and collaboration with food millers and commodity traders in their various states to boost food availability as an immediate short-term action.”
Credit: The Guardian
 
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