Organised Labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday suspended the much publicized indefinite nationwide strike and mass protests after reaching a consensus with the Federal Government early this morning at a meeting between the two parties.
The government in a meeting which dragged until 3 a.m this morning and led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha had agreed to suspend the electricity tarriff for two weeks while a committee comprising labour and government representatives will advise further.In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, government agreed to some palliatives for workers to ameliorate the effect of the increase in pump price of petrol and electricity tariff hike.
Addressing the media after the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said the palliatives will be in the areas of transport, power, housing, agriculture and humanitarian support.Ngige who read from the communique said the parties agreed to set up a Technical Committee comprising Ministries, Departments, Agencies, NLC and TUC, which will work for a duration of two weeks effective Monday 28th September 2020.The Minister said the committee will examine the justification for the new policy on cost – reflective Electricity Tariff adjustments; to look at the different Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate and examine and advise government on the issues that have hindered the deployment of the six million meters.”Withing the two weeks the DICOS shall suspend the increase in electricity tariff,” he said.On the downstream sector, part of the compromise reached was government agreement to revive the nation’s four refineries with the Port Harcourt refinerie achieving 50 percent completion by December 2021. The FG will also facilitate licensing of new modular refineries.The communique reads partly, “All parties agreed on the urgency for increasing the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the overdependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security, reduce cost of finished products, increase employment and business opportunities for Nigerians.”To address above, NNPC to expedite the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna and to achieve 50% completion for Port Harcourt by December 2021, while timelines and delivery for Warri and Kaduna will be established by the inclusive Steering Committee.”Accordingly, the Federal Government agreed it will facilitate the delivery of licensed modular and regular refineries, involvement of upstream companies in petroleum refining and establishing framework for financing in the downstream sector.The meeting also agreed that NNPC will expedite work on the Build Operate and Transfer framework for the nation’s pipelines and strategic depots network for efficient transportation and distribution of Petroleum products to match the delivery timelines of the refineries as agreed.The communique stated, “To cushion the impacts of the downstream sector deregulation and tariffs adjustment in the power sector, the Federal Government will implement the following:”A specific amount to be unveiled by the FGN in two weeks’ time will be isolated from the Economic Sustainability Programme Intervention Fund and be accessed by Nigerian Workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC for participation in agricultural ventures through the CBN and the Ministry of Agriculture. The timeline will be fixed at the next meeting. “Federal Government will facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage as a way of cushioning the impacts of the policy on the lowest vulnerable.”Federal Government will make available to organized labour 133 CNG/LPG driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale up basis thereafter to all States and Local Governments before December 2021.”Housing: 10% be allocated to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative through the NLC and TUC.”Consequently, the NLC and TUC agreed to suspend the planned industrial action.”The communique was signed on behalf of the Organised labour by NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, TUC president, Quadri Olaleye, General Secretary of both labour centres; president of NUPENG, William Akporeha and PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo.On government side, communique was signed by the Secretary to the government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; minister of information, Lai Mohammed It was also signed by minister of state for Labour, Festus Keyamo; minister of state for power, Godwin Jedi-Agba and minister of state for petroleum, Timipre SylvaSpeaking earlier, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that some of the contentious issues the labour was agitating for including the issue of deregulation have been resolved.He said, “When we met last week Thursday, we had a very robust discussion. We had very good insights into issues that necessitated Minister of Labour, to engage with the organized labour as to navigating through the agitating issues.”I believe strongly that we have resolved virtually everything that was on the table in the area of deregulation of downstream sector of the oil and gas and the increase in the pump price.”With regards to power, there are still outstanding issues that were raised by labour as to the conflicting information they had regarding electricity tariff as it applies in different areas and DISCOs. It was at stage that there should be some kind of validation. It was at this stage that the meeting adjourned”Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige in his opening remarks commended the patriotism of Labour for showing up for the rescheduled meeting despite the late noticeHe said, “I want to welcome you to this emergency meeting which we fixed in less than 5 hours today, but we have a large turnout. This to me shows that everybody is concerned on what is on ground “At our last meeting which the press described as deadlocked, I dont think it was deadlocked. I made it clear that we put something on table and Labour centres said they will go and fine tune those proposals to suit their own needs. And in between that, there were some other developments. A Judicial process was served on us by a CSO asking us as defendants to make sure that there is not strike. So, we felt that because of those issues, our date for us to reconvene tomorrow was no longer tenable. I therefore contacted the head of the two labour centres and the SGF and the Chief of Staff to the President and we all agreed that we need to talk and dialogue as soon as possible. That necessitated our invitation which was very urgent.”I dont think we will waste much time, we know where we stopped last time. So when we go into the interactive section, we will take some quick decision that will enable both parties to know that this conciliation process is temporarily at an end of a stanza. In his address, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba however said labour wasn’t aware of any court order stopping the peaceful protest or strike action.He said, “when we met here on Thursday, we could not conclude the discussion. First is the fact that government presented their positions, we also presented ours. Therefore, it was concluded that there was need for consultation and the meeting was adjourned till Monday.”As you said, this particular session was conveyed under emergency circumstance because all of us are committed to social dialogue, that is why we are here. Some of our colleagues missed their flights so, they could not join us. Flight of some of them were cancelled.”I think it is good for me to respond to one or two issues. One is the judicial process that the honourable minister of labour mentioned. Let me say clearly, that as we sit here, labour has not been served any process.”Let us not forget that because, we labour unions are passionate about this issue, particularly the hike in electricity tariff, remember we had to seek judicial pronouncement and as I speak here, there is still a subsisting court judgement, Federal High Court in Lagos that said the increase is illegal, therefore, it should be set aside. I’m not sure that judgment has been respected up till today.”The TUC President, Quadri Olaleye also noted that the leadership accepted to be at the meeting because it is the culture of Labour that whenever there are issues with any party, they will always focus on resolving the issues.He said, “and why we find ourselves in this situation is because we have been calling government attention to all those things, but government is not giving attention. So, I want to appreciate government for coming to table to dialogue with us, and giving us the attention that we required. I think we have a stake in this country too because I have mentioned in the past that if we are part of the country, the government would have listened to us earlier before now.However the labour leaders have said that despite the agreement, the impact of the strike would still be visible today as most workers already mobilised will not go to work.
“We all know that there is no way the effect will not last till noon, that would however serve as deterrent to government from taking labour for a ride. The same thing was done by Rivers State two weeks ago when we went to shut the state. The government was calling for a meeting at the last minute, which to me was not good enough,” one of the labour leader at the meeting said.