June 19, 2024

On Wednesday, official activities at state and local government secretariats in Abia were disrupted due to the nationwide protest organized by labor unions. Only a few workers were present at the state secretariat, and all offices were locked at the Umuahia North Local Government secretariat, although some security personnel and a few council workers were on the premises.

Banks in Umuahia were not open for business, but markets, shops, and motor parks were operational. However, there were fewer commercial vehicles on the road than usual.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led a large crowd of workers on a peaceful protest march in Umuahia. Escorted by anti-riot police, the protesters marched from Michael Okpara Square to Government House, carrying banners and placards with various demands. Some of the placards called for fair treatment of workers, the value of all Nigerian lives, and the revival of local refineries to stop the importation of petrol. The common hashtag on all banners was “Let the poor breathe.”

A similar situation occurred in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia. Some banks were open, but many others remained closed.

In a speech at Government House, the NLC state chairman, Pascal Nweke, clarified that the protest was against the high cost of living caused by the removal of petrol subsidy, and it was not directed at the state government. The TUC state chairman, Ihechi Enogwe, stated that they were advocating for the welfare of all Nigerians, including workers, traders, artisans, and others, and called on the federal government and policy-making parastatals to address their concerns.

In Imo, the protesters gathered at the Assumpta Catholic Cathedral Roundabout near Control Post, Owerri, displaying placards expressing their grievances. The NLC acting chairman in Imo, George Ogoegbu, urged the federal government to reconsider recent economic policies, fix refineries, pay university workers’ salary arrears, reduce VAT, and abolish the hike in fees for unity colleges and tertiary institutions.

The TUC secretary in the state, Benjamin Ezekwe, questioned the rationale behind removing fuel subsidies without concrete plans to alleviate the hardships faced by Nigerians. The protests were peaceful, and heavy security was present to maintain order during the demonstrations.

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