From Chuks Collins, Awka
Apart from some private establishments like shops, commuter buses and taxis and private cars, no other office or outlet including the banks, government offices/establishments, fuel stations, Schools and other establishments were shut down in Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra state in compliance with the strike action called out by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, against the removal of subsidy by the Federal Government on January 1, 2012.
Though markets in the areas visited by the Guardian opened for business, the usual hustling and bustling activities associated with business activities in Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka, Ekwulobia and Nkpor were visibly absent as customers from neigbouring states could not come as usual due to the strike.
Human and Vehicular movements in the state highways were equally very light as most people stayed indoors, while the few commercial vehicles that were on the roads hiked the fares by as much as 500% due to the strike but there was no demonstration by the workers or traders on the any of the streets.
However the organized Labour in Awka held a rally at the Arroma freedom Square in Awka in the morning from where they matched round government offices making speeches that were critical of the Federal government’s deregulation policy. Thereafter, the workers who turned out kept milling around and discussed the issue as it will affect them in coming months in groups. They were addressed by the state NLC chairman Mr Patrick Obianyo and other labour leaders.
The Anambra state Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Uzor A Uzor, said that civil organizations in the state are fully in support of the strike action of the NLC and TUC, stating that they will continue until government reverses itself on the policy.
Describing the subsidy removal as “satanic” the activist called on Nigerians to rise and challenge the position of the Federal Government, adding that the country is grappling with enough challanges to tinker with the issue of subsidy removal.
However, leader of Onitsha Traders Stakeholders Forum (OTSF), Prince Emeka Asoanya described the strike action as unnecessary and called on the unionists to call off the strike and pursue dialogue, saying that it will only draw the country backward.
He said that Nigerians should support President Jonathan in the bold step he has taken to rescue the country from possible economic collapse by removing the subsidy, which has been grossly abused.
But Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (INTERSOCIETY) said government need to be brought to its knees to appreciate what the people are suffering because of wrong policies, regreting that markets in Onitsha did not join the strike.
“We also want the issues of the killings in the country to be brought to the front bunner in the strike, we cannot tolerate a situation where within two weeks over 221 defenceless Nigerians have been killed following the activities of the Boko Haram sect” he said.
The labour and civil society groups expressed satisfaction at the total compliance of public servants in the state, noting that if it tarries all the private individuals would join without compulsion as the action was for the sake all citizens.