AS part of the last-minute moves to stop nationwide strike and mass protest scheduled for tomorrow by Labour, governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, yesterday, met with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), yesterday pleading with workers to jettison the action.
Consequently, the NGF and the NLC said they were on the path to resolving the impasse occasioned by the threat by workers to embark on industrial action if the Federal Government does not rescind the recent decisions to increase the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff in the country.
Speaking at the meeting, Governor Kayode Fayemi, who is the Chairman of NGF, noted at the meeting held at his Abuja residence that governors decided to wade into the matter with a view to broadening consultations and assisting to bring the impasse to an end.
Fayemi asked Labour to shelve the strike against the backdrop that the timing was inauspicious and could aggravate an already worsening economic situation in the country.
NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba was accompanied by the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, and the NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboajah, to the meeting.
Also at the meeting was the Director General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru.
Sunday Vanguard learnt, last night, that the governors resolved to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, among others, with a view to arriving at a common ground on the matter.
Elsewhere, yesterday, the Federal Government appealed to Labour to shelve the strike, saying it will only bring more hardship to ordinary Nigerians.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the appeal in Lagos at a meeting with the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria.
Mohammed, however, said the price adjustments in the petroleum and power sectors were inevitable because of dwindling resources as the country had lost 60 per cent of its revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He disclosed that the Federal Government spent N10.4 trillion on fuel subsidy from 2006 to 2009 and N1.7 trillion to supplement electricity tariff in less than five years.
The minister reiterated that the government could no longer afford the cost of the subsidies, especially under the prevailing economic conditions.
“Revenues and foreign exchange earnings by the government have fallen by almost 60 per cent due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector.
“There is no provision for subsidy in the revised 2020 budget. So where will the subsidy money come from?”
Mohammed added that in order to protect the large majority of Nigerians who cannot afford to pay cost-reflective tariffs from increases, only customers with guaranteed minimum of 12 hours of electricity would have their tariffs adjusted.
He said the industry regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), would ensure that those who get less than 12 hours supply experience no increase.
In addressing the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing, the minister said that a mass metering programme is being undertaken to provide meters for no fewer than five million Nigerians.
Also, yesterday, the National Executive Council of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) said members would not partake in the strike by Labour.
The National Public Relations Officer of IPMAN, Alhaji Yakubu Suleiman, said this in a statement in Lagos.
He said that the national body of the association had directed all IPMAN members to continue with their normal businesses while NLC goes ahead with the strike.
“We are calling on the NLC to realise that deregulation is inevitable. It remains the surest way to bring back our economy to normalcy.Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige
“There is no country in the world that can sustain its economy without deregulating it.
“We urge Nigerians to cooperate with government in ensuring that our economy grows,” Suleiman said.
Meanwhile, Labour said the court orders reportedly procured to stop the strike have put tomorrow’s meeting between both parties on a shaky position even as it explained that the protest/strike was organized by Nigerians and not Labour.
Labour spoke as some affiliate unions began to arrive Abuja, yesterday, for the strike.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, the Deputy National President of the NLC and General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said there was no contrary instruction that the protest will hold.
“We don’t have any instruction to the contrary”, Ajaero said.
Responding to the question on whether court injunctions had been served on labour, Comrade Ajaero said, “I am not sure any court injunction has been served on us. Are they giving injunction to us or Nigerians?
“If they serve us it is a wrong tactic, what’s happening is that Nigerians are protesting, so maybe they will serve Nigerians the injunction”.
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