The Federal Government, yesterday, said it would meet with its relevant agencies and ministries over the demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, that government should revert to old prices of fuel and electricity tariff to avoid indefinite nationwide strike and mass protests.
This came as pro-labour civil society organizations, yesterday, applauded the 11-day deadline given by NLC to the Federal Government to reverse the recent hikes in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff, or face an indefinite nationwide strike and mass protests.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, dropped hint of government's meeting when Vanguard sought reaction of government to the threat by organized labour. It will be recalled that TUC had earlier issued a seven-day ultimatum to government to reverse the increases or be ready to contend with labour.
The Federal Government representatives and leadership of organized labour met on Tuesday at the instance of government to find a common ground on the hikes in the wake of growing opposition by labour and other concerned groups. The Tuesday meeting which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, ended in deadlock without resolving any of the contentious issues and adjourned sine die after 10 hours.
Govt'll react appropriately - Ngige
However, speaking with Vanguard, Senator Ngige said: "We will react appropriately. I have not seen the letter. In fact, I have not seen the TUC letter which they claimed they wrote to Mr. President.
"But NLC has informed me that they are sending me a letter, so their letter is being awaited. But government will respond through the appropriate mechanism that is allowed in labour dispute. "But as you know, this is not a pure labour dispute, even though the main actors are labour people, we will react accordingly.
"The affected ministries and government agencies will meet as soon as possible and after that, government's position will be known."
On how soon it would take the government to meet and react to labour threat, Ngige said: "I don't know. Like I told you earlier, I have not seen their letter to know the content and what they are demanding. "I don't know whether it is complete reversion back to old prices or old rate in electricity. On petrol, if you are reverting back, which one do we revert to, is it the N145 when Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, was fixing prices, or is it N120 or N125 which was got by deregulation? "So, until I see the letter, I will then know what to present to government side because we will convene as a government as soon as possible to deal with it."
Also on whether the NLC contravened any Labour law in its demands, Ngige said: "Till I see the letter, we will know whether they issued us the normal mandatory notice, those on essential services 21 days, normal services 15 days; we will look at it holistically."
JAF to join forces with Labour
Meanwhile, Pro-Labour civil society organizations, yesterday applauded the Nigeria Labour Congress' 11 days deadline to the Federal Government to reverse the recent hikes in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff, or face an indefinite nationwide strike and mass protests.
Speaking through the group's umbrella body, the Joint Action Front, JAF, the groups promised to join forces with the NLC, the working people and the oppressed poor in the struggle to ensure the reversal of the hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
JAF in a statement by its Chairman and Secretary, Dr. Dipo Fashina and Abiodun Aremu, respectively, read: "The Joint Action Front, JAF, welcomes the declaration made by the Central Working Committee, CWC, of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, at its meeting held in FCT Abuja on September 16, 2020, to the effect that the Congress resolved to issue a 2 weeks ultimatum for an indefinite strike and peaceful protest, to take effect from Monday, September 28, 2020, if government fails to reverse the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
"JAF wishes to declare that as a partner with the NLC in the Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO, we will join forces with the NLC, the working people and the oppressed poor in the struggle to ensure the reversal of the hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
"JAF wants to salute Nigerians who joined the nationwide mobilisation which commenced yesterday in four states - Lagos, Ibadan, Osogbo and FCT and urge them to intensify the campaign in their various neighbourhoods.
"But beyond the limited agenda of the September 28 declaration aimed at reversing the hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariff, we want to reiterate our commitment towards a long drawn struggle to resist and defeat the anti-poor increases in fuel prices, electricity tariffs, VAT and all other inimical policies that are making life unbearable for the working people, the poor masses, students, traders, professionals, women, unemployed youth, artisans, farmers, Muslims Christians and faith based groups, etc rejection of the IMF/World Bank policies of privatisation and deregulation at all times.
"Neoliberal policies of privatisation and deregulation, in essence and always, are economic instruments of hardships to the working people and the poor, whose lives are continuously being made miserable by incessant hikes in prices of goods and services, poor salaries and starvation wages, lack of social security and welfare, commercialisation of education and healthcare, poor living conditions, job losses and unemployment, etc.
"These policies are dictated by greed, profit-seeking and looting of the national resources by the few rich cabals at the expense of increasing the sufferings of the poor masses and working people".
Continuing, JAF argued: "Nigeria is rich. The wealth belongs to the people. Most Nigerians are hungry, have no jobs, no education, no healthcare, no potable water, no electricity supply and no affordable transportation.
"Most cannot feed their families or educate their children. Those who are lucky to have jobs are not much different. They also cannot afford a decent living for their families. On the other hand, there is a very tiny group of Nigerians who have cornered the wealth that belong to the working people and the poor, who are in the majority."
Nurses, midwives join battle
Similarly, nurses and midwives yesterday gave the federal government a 14-day ultimatum to revert to the old electricity tariff and fuel price or face indefinite strike.
Acting under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, the nurses and midwives said in a letter issued at the end of their meeting in Abuja to state chairmen and secretaries said their decision was in tandem with that of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.
The letter, signed by the General Secretary, T.A. Shettima, read: "I write to forward herewith the communique issued at the end of the Central Working Committee of the NLC held on September 16, 2020.
"In summary, the meeting discussed the unprecedented hike in the cost of Petroleum Motor Spirit (and) the outrageous increase in electricity tariff.
"The meeting resolved to issue a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government within which to reverse the increases or face an indefinite strike.
"You are by this letter directed to start mobilization and sensitization of our members. We shall keep you posted on any further development in this regard."