Bimbola Oyesola and Benjamin Babine, Abuja
Federal Government efforts to forestall the nationwide mass protests and industrial action through meeting with organised labour, yesterday, was truncated as the meeting ended in a deadlock.
Both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have stated that the meeting would not in anyway stop action lined up to protest the hike.
Labour considered the meeting which lasted for almost nine hours as an attempt to divert attention from the main problem, which is the unbearable pain and suffering of the masses from the hike.
The NLC and its counterpart, TUC at the meeting had told the Federal Government that the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff were choking workers and Nigerians.
Labour also stated that the hikes had erased the gains recorded with the signing of the national minimum wage into law last year by President Muhammau Buhari.
It was learnt that the NLC would hold its Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting today to resolve on next line of action.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Minister of State for Petroleum, Minister of State for Power, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Planning, Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Commission amongst other top Government officials.
The labour team was led by the NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba; President of the TUC, Quadri Olaleye; Secretary General of the TUC, Musa Ozigi-Lawal; Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria President, Festus Osifo and the President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Nigeria, Williams Akporeha among others.
The NLC president while speaking said: “The question now is what do you have on the table to actually cushion the effect on workers and their families because they have been pushed to the wall. They are already enraged. Do you have anything for us so that we can say yes despite this challenges? This is what I have for Nigerian workers that they can have something that can cushion this effect for them?
“Already, the value of the minimum wage has been eroded. The purchasing power parity when you compare with all West African countries we are already on the ground. That is the reality. If Ghana compares their minimum wage with our own you, will see their minimum wage.”
He said the ultimatum remained as there was agreement between labour and government.
The Federal Government maintained that subsidisidy was no longer sustainable.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Timipre Sylva said government spent N10.4 trillion on petrol subsidy between 2016 and 2019.
The minister also said that the country was losing N1 billion daily to fuel subsidy between 2016-2019. He added that the country was in bad shape because of the crash of crude oil price globally.
“We have not fully deregulated because of the concerns government has for Nigerians. Price of fuel could go up to 183 going by the current rate of the dollar. We need to open up the economy even though the initial stage may bring pains to Nigerians. Subsidy was not sustainable. Some of the past governments didn’t have political will to remove it. We know that rise in prices will bring some pains to Nigerians. We are the first to admit that. We have thought of alternatives,” he stated.