A Federal Government effort to forestall the nationwide mass protests and industrial action through meeting with organised labour, yesterday, was truncated as the meeting ended in a stalemate.
President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, disclosed that the dialogue with government representatives on the state of the economy, failed to resolve salient issues.
He said the hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariff have erased the gains of the minimum wage of N30, 000 signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari judging by the current state of things especially with the high rate of inflation. Wabba said many Nigerian workers are struggling to survive because of the high cost of living caused by the government’s recent policies which included an increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT).
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.
It was learnt that the NLC would hold its Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting today to resolve the 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, 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 who questioned the variables to justify the hike in petrol and electricity tariff asked the government what is on ground to cushion the effects of the hike.
”The question now is what 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 these 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. 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”, Waba said.
The NLC President blamed the government for ” transferring the “inefficiency in the subsidy regime” to the consumers which they have to pay through hike in price even as he urged the government to fix the nation’s refinery and stop the corruption inherent in the subsidy regime.
He said the ultimatum remained as there was agreement between labour and government.
On its part, the TUC President Quadri Olaleye, who on Monday threatened strike at the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum to reverse the hike in prices of fuel and electricity tariff, insisted that recent government policies are biting Nigerians hard.
“Nigerian workers are crying and the populace are also crying. Last year December we were so happy that when we signed the minimum wage agreement and Nigerian workers were happy that their lots were increased. Unfortunately now they are crying. By calculation we are losing additional 15 percent of what we gained as a result of signing the minimum wage. For somebody who is paid N6,666 as increment now is losing not less than N25, 000 from his income. The N6, 666 is going additional N15, 000 is added.
“Let us remove the effect of Covid -19, our leaders, our representatives nothing has changed. We have not been able to discuss labour matters since February all in the name of there is Covid -19 but people that are signing budgets, people that are sharing money on a daily basis they meet either on zoom or physically. They meet and share those money but when it comes to labour matters we have to remember that there is Covid -19.
“The questions members are asking is: does it really mean that the politicians represent the rich people in this country? Does it mean it is only labour that represents the poor people? Does it mean when we have economic predicament that is when we call Nigerians that we want to hear from them but when we have surpluses we hear nothing about it.
“I cannot remember any time in this country that we had surplus and Nigerian workers or populace will feel it on their Palm or in their pockets but when we have predicaments especially crude oil crash then labour will be called upon, let us see how we can rescue the economy. I think it is high time everybody bears their fathers’ name”, Olaleye lamented.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva has pointed out that the federal government was yet to begin the full deregulation of the downstream sector. Sylva said that the reigning cost of petrol is N163 but it is sold for N161 per litre, which indicates that full deregulation is indeed yet to take off in the country.