Gov’t offices shut in Nigerian capital by nationwide strike

ABUJA, Sept. 28,
(Xinhua) – Government offices were under lock and key in the Nigerian capital
of Abuja on Thursday as the country’s organized labor commenced a nationwide
strike to protest the government’s failure to respond to its 14-day ultimatum
on a new minimum wage.

The buildings at the
government secretariat located in the heart of the Abuja city were shut in
compliance with the labor unions’ directive.

Xinhua reporters found
that the representatives of the labor unions had earlier gone round the city in
groups to enforce the sit-at-home order given to workers.

At the gate of the
finance ministry, a big flag of the Nigeria Labor Congress, the main labor
union, was placed there to prove the presence of the unionists. Another flag
was placed in front of the health ministry, too, to prevent government workers
from going into the premises.

A security man at the
foreign ministry told Xinhua that an order disallowing vehicles into the
premises was earlier given by the labor union.

“We cannot allow
any vehicle to go into the premises (of the foreign ministry). We have been
told to turn back all vehicles,” said the security man who didn’t want his
name mentioned.

“They (the labor
unions) have their agents around here monitoring us,” the man said.

In a statement, the
National Union of Teachers also directed all its members to join the industrial

Apart from government
offices, some private sector enterprises have also complied with the
sit-at-home order.

Commercial banks in
the nation’s capital and across the country were among private sector
businesses forced to shut down operations due to the industrial action.

At the Central
Business District of Abuja, some workers at a commercial bank were seen to be
locking their offices and getting set to go home after working for a few hours.

Many bank depositors
were either told to leave the premises or disallowed to go in at all due to the
presence of the unionists.

“We have just
been told to close for the day and not come back until the strike has been
called off,” Joseph Osobu, a bank worker, told Xinhua.

In spite of the total
shutdown proposed by the organized labor unions in the ongoing strike, however,
normal activities continued at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, the
capital airport in Abuja.

Normal flight
operations were ongoing at both the arrival and departure sections of the
airports when Xinhua visited the place.

Francis Akinjole,
general secretary of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria,
told Xinhua that the reason why the strike had yet to be enforced at the airports
was that all aviation union leaders were out of their stations, attending a
conference in a southern state.

“Aviation unions
are strongly with the Nigeria Labor Congress on the strike even though we are
not on ground to enforce it today (Thursday),” he said.

The national president
and general secretary of the Nigeria Labor Congress did not immediately respond
to Xinhua’s phone calls and text messages.

Labor union leaders
are asking the federal government to raise the national minimum wage from
18,000 naira (50.07 U.S. dollars) to 56,000 naira, citing the current economic
realities, especially the high rate of inflation in the country.


The 18,000-naira
minimum wage was approved when the naira was exchanging at 145 naira to the
dollar, and it has been unchanged for over eight years.

The naira now stands
at around 360 to the dollar on the parallel market.

The labor leaders had
on Sept. 12 warned the government against foot-dragging on the new minimum
wage, urging it to allow a tripartite committee on minimum wage to conclude its
job to avoid action.

In the last minute
move to halt the industrial action, the Nigerian government on Wednesday met
with labor leaders who were part of the tripartite committee on the new
national minimum wage to give them an update on the government’s position.

The government team
led by the minister of labor and employment and the leadership of the organized
labor agreed to reconvene the meeting of the National Minimum Wage Committee on
Oct. 4.

This is to give enough
time for the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission to round off the
assignment given to it, said Chris Ngige, the minister of labor and employment.

Nigerian President
Muhammadu Buhari in November 2017 approved the appointment of the 30-member
tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee for the negotiation of a new minimum

The committee is made
up of representatives from the worker unions, employer organizations, and the
central and state governments.


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