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Subsidy: NLC shuns meeting with FG; TUC seeks pay rise

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Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday, shunned a scheduled meeting with government officials over the removal of subsidy and subsequent over 200 per cent hike in the pump price of petrol until fuel price is returned to status quo.

Following President Bola Tinubu’s removal of the subsidy during his inauguration speech on May 29, scarcity of the product hit the citizenry nationwide as marketers hoarded and hiked the price of fuel.

A meeting between government officials and labour leaders last Wednesday, ended in a deadlock, as a result of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL’s release of a petrol pump price template pegging pump price of petrol at between N488 and N557 per litre.

The meeting was scheduled to continue yesterday but one of the leaders of the NLC told Vanguard that “officials of government have been calling us and we have bluntly told them that we will no longer hold any meeting with them until the pump price of petrol is returned to pre-May 29 price.

“In other words, the pump price of petrol has to return to status quo to give room for negotiation and way forward.’’
However, leaders of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, yesterday met with government officials but the meeting was inconclusive as both parties resolved to continue talks on the issue tomorrow. They also demanded a pay rise to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal.

Meanwhile, ahead of the planned nationwide indefinite strike from Wednesday, the NLC has directed its state councils and affiliates to ensure full mobilization of workers and civil society allies among others towards a total strike should the Federal Government refuse to reverse the pump price of petrol to pre-May 29 prices by tomorrow (Tuesday).

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In a letter, titled: “Notice on mobilisation for nationwide withdrawal of service,’’ by the General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, the NLC wrote: “We bring you greetings from the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress You will recall that arising from the National Executive Council meeting held on 2nd June 2023, it was decided that congress will embark on a nationwide action and withdrawal of services, against the fraudulent increase in the price of fuel across the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the FCT.

“Please, be informed that the nationwide action will commence on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. To this effect, we request that all state chairpersons should mobilise workers for the action and ensure full compliance with the directives as services in both the public and private sectors are expected to be fully withdrawn by Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

“All state chairpersons are expected to fully abide by the decisions of the National Executive Council.”

Recall that NLC had on Friday in a communique at the end of an emergency National Executive Council, NEC, meeting, “considered the huge suffering pervading the nation, the outrage expressed by the majority and the increased attendant fears of the consequences of the PMS price hike, unanimously condemned the actions of the Federal Government and reached the following conclusion that it was unlawful for the Federal Government to have announced the withdrawal of subsidy on PMS.

“The 2023 Appropriation Act made provisions for funding subsidy regime on PMS till the end of June 2023.

“It is unfair for the government to knowingly take action that will inflict pains on the populace and workers without putting adequate safeguards in place.

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“The local refineries, especially the publicly-owned four, have remained comatose as a result of the government’s inability to get them operationally turned around.

“We cannot accept any petroleum product price increase until products are refined locally. The Federal Government’s decision was unilateral and, therefore, runs counter to the spirit of national consensus and social dialogue.

“NEC-in-session also noted that there is a subsisting judgment of the court that voided the powers of the Nigerian state to deregulate and fix prices of petroleum products in the country.

“The NNPC is still unable to tell us how it arrived at the pricing templates and the names of the beneficiaries of the subsidy funds.

President of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said: “The Congress decided that if by Wednesday, the NNPCL, which illegally announced a price regime in the oil sector refuses to reverse itself for negotiation to continue, the NLC and all its affiliates will withdraw their services and commence protests nationwide until this is complied with.

“The NNPCL doesn’t have the monopoly to act illegally even as a private company. The NLC NEC, therefore, directs all state councils and all industrial unions to commence mobilisation from this moment to make sure that this action is enforced. The action has commenced immediately.”

At TUC’s meeting with officials of the Federal Government yesterday, it was inconclusive but TUC president, Festus Osifoh, said some progress had been made.

He said each party had made proposals, adding that while representatives of government would take theirs to the government, TUC would take its own to Congress for harmonisation and approval and then meet again tomorrow.

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Osifoh said the Federal Government also promised to reconstitute a minimum wage review committee.

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