UMUAHIA- Official activities at the state and local government secretariats in Abia were paralysed on Wednesday due to the nationwide protest embarked upon by the organised labour.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reporters, who monitored the exercise in the state, reports that only a few workers were seen loitering around the state secretariat.
At the Umuahia North Local Government secretariat, all the offices were locked but some security men and a few council workers were seen within the premises.
Also, banks in Umuahia were not open for business but markets, shops and motor parks opened for business.
Commercial vehicle operators, including tricycle and commuter bus operators, were on the road, which was practically scanty.
Meanwhile, the leaderships of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led a mammoth crowd of workers on a peaceful protest march along major roads in Umuahia.
The protesters, who were escorted by a team of anti-riot police personnel, marched from Michael Okpara Square to Government House.
They carried banners and placards with different inscriptions, chanting solidarity songs.
Some of the placards read: “Give workers what is due”, “All Nigerian lives must matter” and “Stop importation of petrol, revive the refineries now”, amongst others.
All the banners had the hatch tag, “Let the poor breathe”.
NAN reports that the situation was virtually the same in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia.
A check round the city by a NAN reporter, however, showed that while a few banks were open, many others did not.
In a speech at the Government House, the state Chairman of NLC, Mr Pascal Nweke, said that the workers were protesting against the high cost of living, caused by the petrol subsidy removal.
Nweke said that it was not directed at the state government, but to demand a reversal of some of the harsh effects of some of the Federal Government policies.
“What we are demanding is not for NLC nor TUC, but for all Nigerians.
“And if nothing is done, we resort to the other action, which is strike,” he said.
Also the TUC state Chairman, Mr Ihechi Enogwe, said that they were protecting and speaking for the Nigerian people, including workers, traders, artisans and everybody in the country.
Enogwe said: “The people are suffering and they need a government that will liberate them from this level of poverty.
“We, therefore, call on the Federal Government and all the parastatals that are involved in the policy making to come to our aid.”
Addressing the protesters, Gov. Alex Otti praised them for their peaceful disposition.
The governor, represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Caleb Ajagba, said that every Nigerian alive appreciated the situation “all of us have found ourselves in”.
According to Ajagba, it is your lawful duty and inalienable right to protest what you considered unjust policy from the government.
In Imo, the protesters converged on the popular Assumpta Catholic Cathedral Roundabout, near Control Post, Owerri.
They displayed placards with inscriptions, such as “Let Nigerians breathe”, “Fuel price increase suffocating the poor” and “Naira devaluation killing local industries and jobs”, amongst others.
NAN reports that the large crowd of protesters was guarded by a detachment of heavy security operatives.
Speaking, the Acting Chairman of the NLC in Imo, Dr George Ogoegbu, appealed to the Federal Government to rescind its recent economic policies, fix the refineries, pay university workers their eight months salary arrears, reduce VAT and abolish the hike in the fees for unity colleges and tertiary institutions.
“We urge the President to keep faith with the agreement entered by the Federal Government, NLC and TUC.
“We cannot continue to suffer; let the poor masses breathe.
“Nigerian workers are one of the least paid in the world.
“We cannot fuel our vehicles.
“The cost of living is alarming and we can no longer continue this way,” Ogoegbu said.
Also, the Secretary of the TUC in the state, Mr Benjamin Ezekwe, questioned the motive behind the removal of fuel subsidy without concrete plans to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians.
Ezekwe urged the Federal Government to swing into action with its palliatives without further delay.
According to him, the long wait for a remedy since May 29 has become exhausting. (NAN)