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NLC Begins Nationwide Protests Today

The Nigeria Police Force has deployed anti-riot operatives in strategic locations ahead of today’s nationwide protest declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress over the economic crunch in the country.

The force spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, explained on Monday that policemen had been placed on red alert.

The Presidency and the police authorities had on Sunday warned the NLC against carrying out the protest which was thumbed down by the Trade Union Congress and 65 civil society groups.

But the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, insisted that the demonstration would go on as planned, hinging his decision on the economic situation and hardship in the country.

The NLC is protesting the government’s alleged failure to implement agreements reached between both parties on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

 The decision followed the conclusion of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to implement measures against the widespread hardship in the country

 However, Adejobi in a statement said the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, had directed the state commissioners of police to protect the protesters.

He expressed the police’s commitment to ensuring the protection of citizens’ rights and freedom to engage in protest.

Adejobi, in the statement, said while the police recognised the importance of the protest, the agency remained vigilant to prevent any attempts to hijack the protests, noting that officers would also curb any attempts to create unrest, as the police would not tolerate a breakdown of law and order.

He stated, “While recognising the importance of peaceful protest, the Nigeria Police Force remains vigilant against any attempts to hijack such protests by individuals or groups of persons with sinister intents.

 “Emphatically, the force, therefore, is fully prepared to respond swiftly and decisively to any unlawful activities or acts of violence that may threaten peace, public safety, and security in the event of such.

  “It is vital to state that the police have spread their tentacles nationwide to curb any attempt by some individuals who might want to leverage the nationwide protests to create brouhaha, and such will be met with approved legal and proportional force as the police will not allow the wanton breakdown of law and order, loss of lives and property like we had experienced, in some instances, in the past, in some parts of the country,’’ Adejobi stated.

The statement read in part, “The Nigeria Police Force on the heels of the proposed nationwide protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress hereby affirms the fundamental right of all citizens of the country to engage in peaceful protest in line with extant laws.

 “As such, the NPF reiterates its commitment to ensuring the rights and freedom of protesters are protected.

  “In line with its lawful duty to maintain law and order, the Nigeria Police Force has deployed personnel nationwide and placed them on red alert to monitor the planned protest.

 “All commissioners of police and their respective supervising officers have been briefed and instructed to coordinate the officers on the ground in ensuring the safety and security of all participants if the protests hold as planned.’’

In a move to ensure a peaceful rally, the Delta, Benue, and Niger State police commands have met with labour leaders to strategise for a hitch-free protest.

 The Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Abaniwonda Olufemi, has ordered massive deployment of personnel across the state to ensure adequate security and safety during the protest in line with the IG’s directive.

 A statement on Monday by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bright Edafe, said the CP warned all intending protesters that “anyone found wanting will be immediately arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law.”

The statement explained that the CP, during an interaction with area commanders, tactical commanders and divisional police officers directed them to put in place measures to forestall a breakdown of law and order.

It read, “As part of measures to ensure that the protest is seamless, the CP had stakeholders meeting with the leaders of NLC, TUC and IPMAN on 22nd February 2024, and discussed measures to achieve a peaceful protest.

“The CP stated that it is the primary responsibility of the police to ensure the protection of life and property which includes the security of protesters, but also reiterated that citizens’ right to protest is a right to peaceful protest. Violent protest is criminal and will not be tolerated.

“The CP directed the State Intelligence Department to deploy undercover operatives who will monitor and report back findings.’’

Edafe disclosed that additional manpower had been drawn from various tactical teams including the Safer Highway, Dragon Patrol, Safe Delta, Raiders Unit, Rapid Response Squad, Special Anti-Kidnapping and Cyber Crime Squad, CD-Decoy, CP Monitoring Unit, State Anti-Cult Unit, Crack Squad, X-Squad, and the Department of Operations, area commands and divisions.’’

In a similar development, the Niger State police command and the Department of State Services Monday held separate meetings with the leadership of the labour leaders over the protest.

During the meeting which was held at the police headquarters, the state Commissioner of Police, Shawulu Danmamman, stressed the need for a peaceful protest.

The state NLC Chairman, Idrees Lafene, who confirmed the parleys, said the DSS warned the labour leaders against going on strike and that they would be held responsible for any security breach during the protest.

The command’s spokesman, Wasiu Abiodun, in a statement, said the police have beefed up security and deployed tactical teams across the state.

He also revealed that security had been strengthened around critical infrastructure, government offices, banks, police stations and other public assets.

Abiodun told the organised labour that “despite having the right of peaceful protest, which the police must protect, the protesters must ensure that all processions are conducted within the ambit of the law.”

According to him, in the process of exercising their rights, the protesters must not violate other people’s rights.

 “They must conduct themselves in a very civilized manner devoid of unruly character as the police will be on the ground to provide security and subdue anyone or group of persons who may want to use such an avenue to cause a breach of public peace.”

 Abiodun equally urged parents and guardians to warn their wards against any act of violence during the protest.

In a related development, the Bayelsa State Police said they would protect public assets during the rally and ensure that it was not hijacked by miscreants.

The Commissioner of Police, Alonyenu Idu, in a statement titled, ‘CP deploys police personnel and assets across the state’, issued by the spokesperson for the command, Musa Mohammed, on Monday, said he has ordered a massive deployment of police assets across the state.

“The deployment is to ensure that the protest is not hijacked by hoodlums. The CP during an interaction with the area commanders, tactical commanders and divisional police officers directed them to emplace measures to forestall any breakdown of law and order.

“As part of the measures to ensure that the protest is hitch-free, the CP had a stakeholder meeting with the leaders of NLC and TUC on the 26th February 2024 and discuss measures to achieve a peaceful protest,’’ the statement said.

Idu said it was the right of citizens to protest peacefully just as the police had the obligation to protect lives and property “by regulation and social harmony.”

He warned that “Anyone who tries to turn the protest from its peaceful intent to violence would be restrained and arraigned before the court for prosecution.”

The police commissioner assured all residents to go about their lawful duties without fear or harassment as law enforcement machinery was in place to guarantee social harmony and stability in the state.

 Also speaking on the scheduled protest, the Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer, Ejire-Adeyemi Adetoun, disclosed that the command will mobilise men and officers to guarantee a peaceful rally.

Revealing their plans for today’s protest, the Benue State NLC Chairman, Terungwa Igbe, disclosed that labour leaders met with the police and DSS on Monday.

 “We are right now at the police headquarters, (Makurdi). They invited us and we are here based on their invitation. We just finished with DSS and now at police headquarters,’’ he said but declined to disclose what transpired at the meetings.

In a move to ensure a large turnout, the Ogun, Plateau, Sokoto NLC chapters said they have mobilised their members for the rally which said would be held as planned.

The Ogun State Chairman of NLC, Hammed Ademola-Benco, stated that the union was going ahead with the planned protest.

He said only the leadership of the 40 affiliates would participate in the rally and not the workforce, adding that the workers would still be at their various duty posts.

 He stated, “The protest rally is to further draw the attention of the government to the issues of hunger, insecurity and the continued rise in poverty across the country.

 “We have sent out our letters already to mobilise the 40 affiliates of the union to join in the procession. This is not a strike; workers will still be at their duty posts.

 “We have received assurance of police coverage during the rally. We don’t have a problem with the security agencies and we equally have a governor showing lots of understanding, so we are good to go by the special grace of God.”

The NLC in Plateau State also said it was ready for the rally, adding that its members were eager to hit the streets.

The state chairman of the congress, Eugene Mangji, also disclosed that the labour leaders in the state met with the police authorities on Monday.

Mangji said, “We don’t have any problem here in Plateau regarding the planned protest because we will go ahead with the protest. Our NLC secretariat is not sealed by the police.”

The Sokoto State chapter of the NLC is also ready to protest the economic situation in the country, according to its Chairman, Abdullahi Jungle.

Jungle who spoke through his secretary, Hamisu Hussain, said the union held a meeting with the security agencies to agree on the modalities for the protest.

 “As you can see, we were just coming back from the office of the DSS and commissioner of police to discuss on our proposed protest.

 “We have discussed with them and they too have agreed with us on the modalities, by the special grace of God, we’ll embark on the protests tomorrow (today),” he added.

In Lagos, CP Adegoke Fayoade met with various security agencies to strategise ahead of the rally just as the spokesman, Benjamin Hundeyin dismissed reports that the police sealed the NLC secretariat.

Hundeyin told the News Agency of Nigeria that the CP went to the NLC secretariat to address protesters, giving reasons for the heightened security in hotspots around Lagos on Monday.

Heavily armed police operatives were seen at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota and other parts of Lagos in readiness for the planned protest by organised labour.

Less than 24 hours before the protest, the Trade Union Congress again insisted that it was not part of today’s protest declared by the NLC.

The labour centre had a letter dated February 19 said the decision to protest on February 27 and 28 as announced by the NLC was not taken collectively by both unions.

 Fielding questions on the planned protest, the TUC President, Festus Usifo, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, explained, “When you agree jointly that is the way to go and along the line, you now decide that you are not doing it again.’’

 “Comrades, can any of you show us where there is any agreement for us coming together? Whenever we are doing things together you always see us together addressing you. On that particular day, did you see any members of TUC there?”

 The congress also urged the Federal Government to order the importation of food items to cushion the effect of hardship in the country.

 The president added that “national pride of striving to achieve food sufficiency locally should be temporarily relaxed.”

 He advised, “Nigerians must live to see tomorrow before we can understand how beautiful a government policy is.

 “Governments at all levels should immediately purchase sufficient quantities of food items from different parts of the world and share them with vulnerable Nigerians.

 “Importing food abroad at this point will assist to reduce the hyper-inflation of food in the country. FG should allow the importation of food items for Nigerians consumption within the next two weeks.”

 The TUC leadership also called for the passage and implementation of a new minimum wage law that reflects the current economic realities.

 According to him, the Federal Government’s economic team should work towards a more realistic rate of the naira to dollar, which they pegged between N500 and N800 to the dollar.

Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society groups under the aegis of the Labour Civil Society Front, have declared their support for the protest.

 The CSOs urged its members and allies across the country to join the protest against what it described as the “unmitigated sufferings and impoverishment of Nigerians foisted by the mindless implementation of dehumanising policies of the government.”

The coalition clarified that its decision to join the protest was not politically or ethnically motivated.

This was contained in a statement on Monday co-signed by the Spokespersons of the LCSF, Nkoyo Toyo, the United Action Front of Civil Society, Hamisu San Turaki, and the Convener of the Country First Movement, Chris Nwakobia.

In the joint statement, the coalition stated that its endorsement of the protest was to compel the government to take immediate action on the general insecurity of lives and properties of Nigerians, the abject poverty of Nigerians, pervading crimes and kidnappings for ransom, and the high cost of healthcare services and drugs, among others.

 Part of the statement read, “The Labour – Civil Society Front, a coalition of eminent civil society leaders and groups collaborating with the Labour movement on pro-people, pro-poor issues in Nigeria, is once again, compelled at this point to state unequivocally that we are unwavering in our support to the organized Labour and therefore fully endorse the nationwide mass protest on hardship slated to hold on Tuesday, 27th and Wednesday, 28th February  2024.

 ‘’Consequently, we urge our teeming members and allies across Nigeria to join and participate fully in the peaceful national protest to draw the government’s attention to the unmitigated sufferings and impoverishment of Nigerians foisted by the mindless implementation of dehumanizing economic policies of governments at both national and sub-national levels of the country.

 ‘’For us, this is the time to ask the government of President Tinubu to halt this avoidable slide, act in the overarching interest of the masses by listening to their demands and draw immediate positive actions that go beyond countless unpredictable cosmetic palliatives to its primary obligation to protect lives and property and ensure the welfare and wellbeing of all citizens”.

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