Since the Tinubu administration came to power on May 29, 2022, things have moved from bad to worse. After many delays, the two labour centres called a nationwide mass protest on August 2nd, 2023.
It was massively attended across the thirty-six states, and the Federal Capital Territory (FTC). The Federal Government (FG) made attempts through social media to demobilise the people. Tinubu even organised a national broadcast two days before the protest in order to cut through its dynamic, with a number of promises. The establishment also attempted to use ethnic divisions to put a break on the protest.
The labour leaders regrettably accepted the ideal of removing subsidy on petroleum buying into the government propaganda that it’s the subsidy is to blame for the massive corruption. But the government didn’t propose any other plan to solve the problem of corruption in the oil industry because the majority of the corrupted enterprises are closely linked to the elite. They have addresses and offices but government refuses to prosecute them..
Blocking the protest
In an attempt to discourage protesters, soldiers were ordered to block Nyanya-Maraba express Road, which is the road that links working class suburbs to the main town and venue of the protest. We managed to cross the roadblock and carry our materials with the help of a motorcycle.
The police even stopped a person for just wearing a TUC cap and was delayed for over 30 minutes before he was allowed to go.
The protest started around 8:30am, initially with a low turnout. The military formed barricades with a strict screening and wasting of time of all the protesters coming from working class areas. Although there was no form of assault on people, this tactic acted to prevent a lot of workers taking part, as every road that lead to the convergence point was blocked by the military.
As the protest begun, workers started joining and the numbers increased to at least 5,000 participants. The march made a stop at the ministry of Justice to make our grievance known. There was a long speech delivered by the NLC and TUC leadership which protested about the court injunction obtained by the government ruling that the labour unions should not go on strike. From there the demo proceed to the National Assembly.
On getting to the gate of the National Assembly, we realised that it was locked by the Nigeria police. Attempts to peacefully negotiate with the police officers that were there to open the gate failed and consequently angry workers forcefully gain access by pooling down the gate.
We got to the Senate house and a letter containing all our demands was submitted to the representative of the Senate. The anger in the faces of workers was very clear. The representative of the Senate asked labour leaders to allow one week so he could summon the presidency to listen to their demands. The protest ended as the labour leadership gave them the one-week grace.
Need to continue the protests
No less than 6,000 workers participated in Abuja and about 30,000 nationwide. The protest sent a signal to the government, and in order to avoid more protests, the government quickly arranged a meeting with the leadership of the two labour centres. They promised that they will cushion the effect of the subsidy removal as soon as possible.
Of course, the government always makes promise after promise without delivering a solution. We call on labour leaders not to have any hope in the Tinubu administration.
The protest was a success, but there is a need for more actions, especially well organised strikes. People were asking if the protest movement will continue, and this is an expression of the mood inside workers to continue the struggle.
RSM on the ground
Members of Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) intervened in the protest with our Socialist Voice paper, banners and placards. We used the slogans: ‘total reversal of the PMS’, ‘reversal of all hiked fees across all tertiary institutions’, ‘study grant not student loan’, ‘a public probe of all the oil thieves’, ‘nationalisations of the oil sector’ and ‘the poor can no longer breathe’.