Following the brutalisation and attack of labour leaders in the southeast state of Imo, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has issued an alert to its members on a potential nationwide strike.
NUPENG President Prince Williams Akporeha condemned the attack in a statement on Wednesday, calling it an “act of violence and barbarism” that “cannot be accepted in a democracy.”
The incident occurred on Tuesday, as labour leaders prepared to launch a protest over unpaid salary and allowances. According to accounts, alleged Imo state government officials attacked the demonstrators, damaging cars and snatching belongings.
NUPENG has threatened a statewide strike if the Imo state government does not release the arrested labour leaders and address the workers’ demands.
The ongoing dispute between the government and its workers has escalated significantly with the attack on labour leaders in Imo state. One of the most influential unions in Nigeria is NUPENG, and the oil and gas sector depends heavily on its members. The Nigerian economy would be significantly impacted by a NUPENG countrywide strike.
The Imo state administration has a history of utilising violence and intimidation against its employees; nevertheless, it has not yet responded to the attack. The NLC secretariat was destroyed by the government in 2022 at the state capital of Owerri.
The attack on labour leaders is also indicative of rising tensions in Nigeria ahead of the presidential election in 2023. The country is confronted with a number of economic issues, including high inflation and unemployment. The labour unions want the government to do more to address these issues.
The Imo state government should promptly release the detained labour leaders and address the workers’ demands. It is also critical for the government to develop a forum for conversation and bargaining with labour unions. If the administration fails to do so, there is a considerable probability of a nationwide strike.