The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress(TUC) have suspended their planned strike over naira scarcity.
The two unions said they would monitor the availability of cash in commercial banks for two weeks before deciding on the next line of action. The strike would have started today.
Presidents of the NLC, Joe Ajaero and TUC, Festus Osifo, announced the decision during a news conference after their National Executive Council meetings in Abuja yesterday.
But the scarcity of cash has yet to abate in Enugu, Enugu State and Onitsha in Anambra State. In Onitsha for instance, policemen attached to one of the commercial banks had to fire into the air to disperse angry customers.
It was gathered that some of the customers sustained injuries while scampering to safety.
The NLC had on March 13, issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make naira notes available to the public. It threatened to picket CBN branches nationwide if the condition remained the same.
In response, the CBN released old N500 and N1,000 notes to commercial banks and directed the banks to operate on Saturdays and Sundays to ease the cash crunch.
The apex bank also met with the leadership of the NLC last weekend on plans to ease the crunch.
On Monday Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige met CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele and Ajaero in a further move to avert the planned strike.
Ajaero said after receiving briefings from NLC state councils and the Federal Capital Territory, that the congress decided to defer the planned stay – at – home directive to workers.
He said reports from the state councils showed that the situation was easing off, with workers having access to cash.
Ajaero, however, said queues were beginning to resurface in some banks.
He said the NLC would resume the planned protest if naira notes became unavailable to Nigerians by the end of the two weeks.
The NLC president said committees had been set up at both the national and state levels to monitor situations in banks and report to it at the end of the two-week extension.
Ajaero said: “There has been compliance but the NLC after its NEC meeting doubted the sustainability of the compliance. We have to monitor this compliance for the next two weeks to see whether it is sustainable because they have rushed to move money to commercial banks and some of them are getting empty again.
“It will be very naive for the congress to hurriedly call off the action. Whereas we are not shutting down tomorrow. We will want to loosen up for another two weeks with committees set up at the national level and all the states of the federation to coordinate compliance.
“There are some banks that didn’t open at the weekend. We advise the CBN to play the role of the regulator. They can sanction banks that are not complying. On the first and second days, the CBN said the money they were pushing per week they were pushing daily. I wouldn’t know if they are still pushing it daily.
“They have constrained the banking sector. Nigerians have suffered so much. Even those who have withdrawn N10,000 are afraid to bring it out in case the scarcity returns.
“The NLC and TUC have decided to allow tomorrow to pass without any shutdown or picketing but to watch the next two weeks.
“After two weeks from today (Tuesday), the NEC of the two Labour centres will meet again and decide whether the CBN has actually complied and whether their compliance is sustainable to drive the economy.”
TUC President assured that Labour would continue to protect the interest of workers and other Nigerians.
Osifo said the two Labour centres would sustain the push for banks to make naira notes available to Nigerians.
He said: “We have agreed that we need to sustain this push for another two weeks. Reports from various states showed that there has been some level of compliance but some banks didn’t open at the weekend.
“We call on the CBN to sustain this action because the quantum of money Nigerians need now is even higher if this panic had not come in because an average Nigerian will withdraw money and be spending it little by little.
“The confidence in the system has been eroded and because that confidence has been eroded the CBN needs to do more by pumping more money into the economy.”