FG, labour reconvene to review framework, set template for deliverables
• ‘Eight weeks not feasible to conclude dialogue’
• NLC plans CNG fair
• CSOs decry exclusion by NLC in negotiation with govt
Representatives of the Federal Government, leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) will resume talks today. The move is part of efforts to hit the ground running and meet the eight weeks deadline for conclusion of discussions on palliatives over petrol subsidy removal.
At the meeting, last week, the government and organised labour set up a Presidential Steering Committee for coordination of technical sub-committees on different items raised.
Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu, Femi Gbajabiamila, led the government’s team. At the meeting, they agreed that all issues and demands raised by labour should be concluded within eight weeks.
TUC President, Festus Osifo, in the company of his NLC counterpart, Joe Ajaero, while addressing journalists at the end of the meeting, said the parties would reconvene today to review the framework marshaled out. Negotiation continues today with five sub-committees: Cash Transfers, Social Investment Programme (SIP), Cost of Governance, Energy, Mass Transit and Housing.
The Guardian gathered that being the inaugural meeting of the steering committee, the session will ratify the setting up of membership of the five sub-committees, so that they can swing into action.
A source, who didn’t want his name in print, said the agenda-setting meeting is to establish a template for all the sub-committees, who would then have powers to amend and expand their templates to carry out their work. For instance, he said the cash transfer committee is expected to come up with a framework for increasing income from the government to vulnerable Nigerians.
He said the SIP committee, would address issues on how interventions, such as social protection, pensions, housing, cheaper education and increased access to healthcare, among others, would be made available for Nigerians. He said the committee on energy would take care of alternatives in energy supply and reduced electricity tariffs.
When asked if the eight weeks are feasible for the committees to complete their task, he said: “It may not be feasible, but what I see happening, going forward, is that the committees on their own will request an extension to deliver benefits to Nigerians, so that at the end of the day, we can break the vicious cycle of gang up, exploitation and under-development against Nigerians by the ruling elites.” He revealed that Nigerians should be expectant, as the NLC wants to drive a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) revival process in Nigeria, a movement away from oil to gas.
The source said it is a project NLC is hoping to prioritise, so that the elites, who want to use Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to oppress Nigerians, would not have the opportunity.
“We will make alternative provisions for Nigerians, which is one of the key things we asked for. How can you hand over a monopoly to someone who has never helped with his prior monopoly in cement? Rather, we have to pay more for a bag of cement than our neighbours in West Africa.
“We plan to move away from the oppression, so that we can rely on gas. If the government doesn’t want to drive the process, we will.
“We are planning a CNG fair in Nigeria, where all stakeholders will come, partner with major car entities, research institutes, marketers and producers of conversion kits, technicians and artisans for capacity training across Nigeria, to ensure we have places where they can take their equipment and convert to gas immediately. We are also partnering with energy providers to have a distribution network, where gases will be made available to Nigerians.”
Also, TUC Secretary-General, Nuhu Toro, expressed optimism that the presidential steering committee set up to look into demands put forth by TUC would come up with ideas that would lead to fruition.
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organisations, yesterday, decried alleged exclusion by NLC in ongoing fuel subsidy negotiations with the Federal Government. The coalition disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, signed by Dr. Basil Yelwa Musa and Malam Haruna Maigida, its convener and co-convener.
It said any agreement the NLC reaches with the Federal Government without carrying it along would not be acceptable. The coalition, which comprises 65 organisations, added that any negotiation done in the absence of the coalition would only end up serving the interest of NLC and about 35.6 million workers, leaving out 175.4 million Nigerians.
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