Organised labour yesterday, demanded that grey areas must be addressed before reaching an agreement on implementation framework to be adopted as fallout of the petrol subsidy removal, while it agreed to eight weeks for conclusion of talks over subsidy removal.
This was the kernel of discussion as representatives of the Federal Government and leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), yesterday, met in resumed talks on petrol subsidy removal palliative.
The meeting, held at the Presidential Villa, was presided by the Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu, Femi Gbajabiamila, where a Presidential Proposal Steering Committee, which also had five sub-committees, was formed.
The negotiation continues today with the sub-committees created – Cash Transfers, Social Investment Programme (SIP), Cost of Governance, Energy, Mass Transit and Housing – given eight weeks to conclude their assignment to hasten the implementation of the framework in cushioning the effect of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians. Nominees to the committees would be made known today.
NLC President, Joe Ajaero, who mentioned the grey areas that needed to be addressed, said representations on the committees should not be lopsided. He said an agreed membership of both the steering and sub-committees should be on a basis of 60 to 40 per cent. He said it was important they return to the normal mechanism done in setting up tripartite committees in the past.
He assured that if the solutions and recommendations thrown up are adopted and implemented faithfully by the government, they would go a long way to cushion the fuel subsidy removal.
“There is a promising note that something may happen if we all sit down and look at the committees very well, and come up with solutions and recommendations to be adopted and worked on by the government.
“But along this stretch between working on the committee, making submissions and adopting them, the implementation becomes an issue because we know that committees have been set up before that came up with recommendations, but which were not followed. If they were followed, we would not be where we are today.
“For instance, we agreed before in the last administration on the issue of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and what to do. If they had implemented the CNG programme, we wouldn’t be here; Nigerians won’t be bothered because we have a substitute. It is the implementation of what has been suggested that is the issue.
“Work begins today, the nominees from the stakeholders from government and labour will be submitted today. We have eight weeks to conclude the assignment,” he said.
Also, TUC Secretary-General, Nuhu Toro, expressed optimism that the presidential proposal steering committee set up to look into the demands put forth by TUC would come up with ideas that would lead to fruition. He said they would reconvene in seven days to compare notes on the achievements so far to ensure the timeline of eight weeks is met.
“I am hopeful that the implementation will come to fruition because we are going to be part of it. We will monitor it closely to ensure it comes to fruition. In furtherance, the committee is expected to hit the ground running. We will also meet in seven days to compare notes on the achievements so far to ensure the timeline is met,” he said.
TUC and NLC had after meeting with representatives of government at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, a fortnight ago, suspended their planned nationwide indefinite strike to protest the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Those who attended yesterday’s meeting on the side of the government include Gbajabiamila; Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake and Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari.
HOWEVER, NLC demand for the Federal Government to increase the minimum wage from N30,000 to between N150,000 and N200,000 is unrealistic, according to an economist, Dr. Tope Fasua.
Fasua said this on Channels Television yesterday, while also hitting out at NLC for making such an outrageous demand as minimum wage for Nigerian workers. He said: “I honestly feel that it would be insane for the government to agree to increase the minimum wage from N30,000 to between N150,000 and N200,000 if you ask me.
“That is because once the Federal Government commits to that, it simply means that they are also committing the private sector into paying such a massive minimum wage,” the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) candidate during the 2019 Presidential election said.
MEANWHILE, the National Industrial Court yesterday reiterated that its order restraining NLC and TUC from embarking on industrial action subsists. Justice Olufunke Anuwe stated on Monday that the order as granted on June 5 subsists pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The court in addition ordered that parties maintain status quo and adjourned the matter until July 20, for hearing. At the Monday’s proceeding, Ochum Emmanuel, counsel to the Federal Government, informed the court that the matter was slated for Monday for the claimant to take its motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants from embarking on strike.
Emmanuel indicated his readiness to proceed with his application as the defendants had been served. However, Marshall Abubakar, the defendants’ counsel, said they had filed an application praying the court to set aside its order granted on June 5, restraining his clients from embarking on strike.
The counsel to the respondent submitted that the claimant was served the application on June 8, only for them to turn around and serve on them a counter-affidavit on Monday in court. He added that the claimant filed the counter-affidavit on June 16 and instructed the bailiff not to serve them until on Monday in court.
Emmanuel, in response, opposed Abubakar’s application for adjournment and urged the court to allow him take his motion on notice which was slated for hearing.
In his reply, Abubakar submitted that Emmanuel’s application was not necessary, as the court had earlier stated that parties should maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. He also informed the court that parties were meeting later on Monday to try and resolve the issue.
The court, in its ruling, granted the application for adjournment, directing the defendants to enter their memorandum of appearance and instructed parties to maintain status quo.