NLC boycotts meeting as FG, TUC seek options out of Wednesday’s strike
• NLC: No negotiation until FG reverts pump price
• Alake: TUC’s major demand borders on wage increase, to reconvene Tuesday
• Sanwo-Olu appeals to NLC to call off Wednesday’s strike
• Ndume asks Tinubu to personally meet with NLC
• Provide palliatives to cushion effect of fuel subsidy removal, ActionAid tells govt
Spoiling for war ahead of its proposed industrial action on Wednesday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday, shunned the meeting with the Federal Government delegation held at the Presidential Villa, stating that there would be no discussion unless the government returns the price of fuel to its previous rate.
NLC President, Joe Ajaero, told The Guardian yesterday that until the Federal Government obeys the Appropriation Act of 2023, which makes provision for subsidy till the end of June, Congress will boycott the meetings with the government.
He said: “We have boycotted the meeting until they revert. There is no point meeting with people who do not have the mandate when what they are doing is illegal, because the Appropriation Act of 2023 has not been obeyed, which makes provision for subsidy till the end of June.
“So, we cannot sit to negotiate. Let them revert so that we all can freely negotiate over the issues raised. In our meeting with them last Wednesday, we asked them to revert. NNPC acknowledged that the high rate was not official, but how come they adjusted pump meters across the federation? It was a negotiation not based on good faith.”
President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Festus Osifo, had told journalists after the first meeting that the government must return to the old price of petrol, or workers will embark on a nationwide strike slated to commence on Wednesday.
At the resumed meeting yesterday evening, Osifo led TUC representatives to lock horns with the Federal Government delegation over the vexed issue of petrol subsidy removal.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume led the government’s team. Others on the team were governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole; and the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari.
Also at the meeting were Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Zacch Adedeji; Executive Vice President, Downstream, NNPCL, Yemi Adetunji; former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dele Alake; Wale Edun, Olayemi Cardoso and James Faleke.
However, the government and TUC made progress on the negotiations toward resolving the dispute over the subsidy removal. Addressing State House Press Corps after the meeting, Alake said much progress has been made in the talks with TUC leaders.
He revealed that a major demand from TUC is wage increase for workers to accommodate the burden of rising cost of living the subsidy removal will bring, noting that Federal Government is not averse to wage increase as President Tinubu himself had hinted on that during his meeting with governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Alake said the meeting with TUC will resume on Tuesday after further consultations by both sides to firm up resolutions.
MEANWHILE, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, appealed to NLC to exercise patience on its planned strike. Sanwo-Olu said this while speaking to journalists after the post-inauguration church thanksgiving service of the governor and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, at the Cathedral Church of Christ Marina, Lagos.
Sanwo-Olu said this was not the time for strike as there was no need for it, urging NLC not to make the fuel subsidy a political issue. He asked Labour to join hands with the present administration and be patient as the new government works on its promise to turn the economy around and make Nigeria a better place for all.
Also, former Senate leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, has called on President Bola Tinubu to engage NLC leadership in serious talks on benefits of the subsidy removal. He urged Tinubu to personally meet with NLC leaders to ensure that the planned strike action is averted. He also charged the NLC national leadership to call off the planned strike.
In a statement yesterday, Ndume urged Labour leaders to return to the negotiation table and sort out areas of disagreements with the Federal Government before opting for industrial action.
Ndume, who is also the Director-General of Akpabio for Senate President Campaign Organisation, explained that Tinubu’s personal meeting with Labour leaders would speedily resolve the crisis resulting from the removal of subsidy.
“This fuel subsidy removal is something we must do now or never,” he noted, adding “we need to open the wounds now and begin to heal them.
“NLC needs to work with the government and see how the effects can be minimised. If we don’t remove the subsidy now, some people will continue to milk this country. NLC should go to the negotiation table with the Federal Government.
“NLC should not go on a strike first before negotiation. They should not make that mistake. Besides, there is no budget for subsidy. Where will the money come from?”
Action Aid Nigeria has, however, expressed worry over the removal of fuel subsidy without providing necessary palliatives to cushion the effects on Nigerians. They described the subsidy removal without putting in place the necessary framework to ameliorate sufferings of Nigerians as ill-timed and too early.
The organisation raised concerns that fuel subsidy removal has resulted in increased transportation cost, higher cost of living, inflation, reduced purchasing power, social unrest, as well as heightened level of crime, adding that it will further widen the poverty bracket in Nigeria, particularly among the poor masses and the excluded citizens.
The Director, Programs Development at ActionAid, Andrew Mamedu, during a press conference on behalf of the Country Director yesterday in Abuja, wondered that with government increasing the price of PMS by more than 200 per cent, no palliative would be enough to mitigate the pains unless it can be able to increase minimum wage by 300 per cent and reduce food prices.
He stressed that before the removal of the subsidy the government should have put in place the necessary framework with a measurable action plan on how resources gotten from the removal of the fuel subsidy will be utilised in providing basic amenities for the poor masses, adding that in doing so, citizens, CSOs and other relevant stakeholders would be carried along.
Mamedu said: “We are not saying subsidy should not be removed, but what we are saying is that there is a process before subsidy removal and that process has not been abided by in any way. We need to examine what subsidy is being removed and then see how the resources obtained through the removal will be judiciously used.”