Members of the Organised Labour Union on Wednesday in Benin City, Edo State defied the earlier morning rain in protest over the excruciating effect of the recent fuel subsidy removal as well as the hike in goods and services in the markets.
The labour unions which include Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), marched around the city centre through the popular ring road to the Edo State Secretariat building and terminated at government house, calling for a reversal of the anti-poor policies.
The protesters displayed different placards with various inscriptions such as “we demand the immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the government that have taken food out of the hands of the common man; our refineries are in comatose: they need government attention in fixing them up.
Addressing the state governor on behalf of the unions, the Edo State NLC Chairman, Comrade Odion Olaye, said the removal of fuel subsidy has caused hardships to Nigerian workers and other citizens.
“We decided to protest after the government failed to listen to our demands.
“We want the Nigerian citizens to have breathing space. The issue of N8,000 is to be given to the poorest, we are not a party to it. It is an insult to us. It will not take us two days. Government should work on our refineries.”
Receiving the protesters, Governor Godwin Obaseki, disclosed that his government would give N500m to the “poorest of the poor” in order to lessen the sufferings occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal.
“We, in Edo State, are going to do our own bit. I have decided that every month, going forward, we will take N500m from our own money to give to the poorest of the poor in Edo State. We are not waiting for anybody.”
He also directed the labour unions to decline the palliative proposed by the President Tinubu-led administration, saying that “It is a continuation of the fraud FG has always undertaken against the people of Nigeria.
“Recall on Mayday, this year, I warned you that we are likely to face the condition we are seeing today. And, I advised you in that speech that you should not wait but be proactive and be ahead of the game. But, we are where we are today.
“I want to let you know that in Edo State that we are labour-friendly. Two years ago, did we not increase the minimum wage? Was the situation as bad as this then?
“The reason is that we know that workers are suffering, and we had to do something about it. We know that your take-home pay can no longer take you home and something must be done.
“We, in Edo state, will support your action that your wages must reflect the current realities. I also want to alert you that you should reject the so-called palliatives they want to give you.
“The so-called money for the palliatives should be given to the local government areas to take care of people.
“So, we must stop this palliative fraud from the Federal Government. I want to call on labour to reject this palliative.
“Let them give the local government areas the money to give the people because the government that is closest to the people is the local government.
“Federal Government has no business buying grains or palliative across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria,” Obaseki said.