Nigeria: Electricity Tariff, Petrol Price Hike - Govt Moves to Abort Planned Strike, Invites Labour for Talks

24 September 2020

In a desperate move to abort the planned nationwide strike and mass protest over the recent hike in electricity tariff and petrol pump price scheduled for next Monday, the Federal Government has invited organized labour to a meeting today.

The meeting, which will be hosted by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, is scheduled to hold by 3pm at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Recall that the previous meeting between government's representatives and labour on September 15, ended without any agreement.

One of leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, acknowledged receipt of government's invitation and confirmed that labour leaders will attend.

He said: "Yes, our leaders received invitation from government for a meeting on Thursday (today). We will attend the meeting because we have made demands. We will attend the meeting to see if our demands will be addressed."

Both the NLC and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, have rejected the hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff, demanding their reversal to avoid nationwide strike and mass protest.

While the TUC had earlier given the government a seven-day ultimatum which expired on September 22, to go back to the old prices, the NLC gave September 28 deadline for government to cancel the new increment.

The TUC had Tuesday extended its strike notice to tally with the NLC deadline.

Same Tuesday, the highest decision making organ of NLC, the National Executive Council, NEC, ratified the September 28 national wide indefinite strike and mass protest should government fail to revert to old prices.

It will be recalled that at the NLC NEC meeting held at Labour House, Abuja, NEC ordered the 36 NLC state's councils and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, to intensify mobilization of workers and other Nigerians, faulting the timing of the increments.

Speaking after the NEC meeting, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, advised the Federal Government to, in the interest of industrial peace and social order, listen to cries of workers and other suffering Nigerians and rescind the increases, warning that failure to meet the demands would made the planned strike and mass protest inevitable.

According to him, "The National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress comprising members of the National Administrative Council, President and General Secretary of members of the affiliate unions and our state council chairpersons and secretaries of the 36 states and FCT met today (yesterday) and resolved as follows: "NEC resolved to reject in its entirety the issue of hike in electricity tariffs by almost 100 per cent as well as the fuel price increase in the name of full deregulation. This decision is premised on the fact that these twin decisions alongside other decisions of government including the increase of VAT by 7.5 per cent, numerous charges being charged by commercial banks on depositors without any explanations will further impoverish Nigerian workers and citizens, including their families.

"Therefore, this increase, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is not only ill-timed, but it is also counterproductive. NEC also observed that the privatization of the electricity sub-sector seven years down the line has not yielded any positive result.

"Whereas, the entire privatization process, the entire sector was sold at about N400 billion, we are also surprised that government within the last four years injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that accrued from this important asset. "Therefore, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatization process has failed and the electricity hike is actually a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians. "On the issue of the refineries and also increase in the pump price of PMS, this particular issue had been on the table for more than three decades and the argument had not changed.

"Whether it is the name of full deregulation or subsidy removal, what is obvious is that it is fuel price hike and this has further eroded the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage because it has spiral effects which include the high costs of food and services and the reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians. In the light of all of these, NEC thought that the issue of deregulation would be a continuous exploitation if it is import-driven."

TUC extends strike notice deadline

On its part, TUC in a statement by its President and Secretary, Quadri Olaleye and Musa-Lawal Ozigi, respectively, said TUC "after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilsation strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest fuel hike and electricity tariff increase, resolved that the Congress is going to work in collaboration with its sister Labour Centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike. "Consequent upon this, the ultimatum which should expire by midnight of today 22nd September, 2020 has been shifted to 28th September, 2020 for effective and maximum effect. We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts.

"There is no need for the pains we bear. It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills. You will recall that this government during its electioneering campaigns in 2014 told the world there is nothing like subsidy."

Govs meet on planned strike

Meanwhile, governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF, will today engage in a marathon meeting, with a view to nipping in the bud the planned nation wide strike and mass protest the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.

The emergency meeting which is scheduled to hold at 6pm, will be the first NGF emergency virtual teleconference since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement by the NGF Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo yesterday, all the governors are expected to participate in the meeting aimed at seeking ways of settling the rift between the Federal Government and Organized Labour.

The statement read: "Ahead of the threat by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to resort to an industrial action to force the Federal Government to rescind its decision to hike oil and electricity prices in the country, the Nigeria Governors' Forum is holding an emergency meeting of all the governors to seek ways of settling the rift and finding a mutually agreed soft landing on amicable grounds.

"All governors are expected to attend the meeting as the matter is considered to be of urgent national importance, which needs to be quickly resolved in order not to worsen the already bad situation of Nigerians as caused by the Corona Virus pandemic, according to the D-G of the Forum, Mr Asishana Bayo Okauru. "The meeting which is the first NGF emergency virtual teleconference starts at 6pm tomorrow, Thursday."

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