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NLC to FG: We’ll shut down economy on Sept 28

…issues 14-day ultimatum on electricity tariff, fuel price hike

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to totally shut down the economy in the next 14 days, should the Federal Government fail to reverse the recent increase in the pump price of petrol and hike in electricity tariff in the country. President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, disclosed this to newsmen yesterday shortly after a meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the congress in Abuja. Wabba said that the industrial action, which may commence on September 28, might become labour’s last resort in view of the “harsh economic policies,” which the Federal Government had unleashed on Nigerians.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) had, a few days ago, issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the increases in petrol price, electricity tariff and other social services, or risk an indefinite industrial action and national protest expected to commence on September 23. President Muhammadu Buhari had, in the wake of an earlier threat by the organised labour last week, directed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to meet with the leadership of organised labour and Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) to explore ways of pacifying them.

The meeting, which held on Tuesday, September 15, ended in a deadlock after over eight hours of exhaustive discussions. Both parties had resolved to further consult and reconvene at a later date. But rising from its CWC meeting held yesterday, the NLC boss expressed disappointment at what he described as government’s insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians who were already grappling with so much hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. Addressing newsmen after the meeting, Wabba said it was sad the Federal Government decided to increase the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff at a time when other coun-tries were giving palliatives to their citizens to cushion the effect of the scourge. “We are surprised that at a time other countries across the world are giving palliatives to their citizens to cushion the effect of COVID- 19, Nigerians are asked to pay more for fuel and electricity.

“The CWC identified that COVID-19 and also the socio-economic situation of the country has given Nigerians enough suffering and that the hike has reduced the purchasing power of Nigerians as well as Nigerian workers. “Also, it has brought about high cost of goods and services and we saw that it has eroded completely the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage.

“The CWC and the NEC also took reports of the meeting that took place between the Federal Government and organised labour where NLC was represented by 14 of its leaders and, therefore, resolves as follows: “The Central Working Committee issued a two weeks’ ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the fuel price hike or face industrial action and peaceful Assembly. “In furtherance to this, the CWC resolved also to convene a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) in line with our constitution, on the 22nd of September, 2020, Tuesday, to also give effect to this decision because the proposed action will commence on Monday September 28, 2020, if those issues are not addressed,” he said. Wabba further disclosed that the CWC of NLC also mobilises its members, civil society allies and other social partners to resist these harsh policies, which, he said, had driven many citizens into poverty.

“This afternoon, CWC members were sharing their pains and experiences arising from the exploitative nature of these policies where it is very evident that even in some cases, the N30,000 minimum wage cannot actually pay for the electricity. “The experience we have here is that somebody actually loaded a credit of N30,000 on his electricity meter and it could not take him two weeks. This has been the experience all over the country. It is really a decision that is biting at every worker and every family and I think it is a decision that certainly requires reversion,” he said. The Federal Government had, about two weeks ago, announced an increase in the retail price of petrol from N123 per litre to N163 per litre, while electricity tariff went up by 150 per cent. Many Nigerians have expressed outrage over these price hikes and regarded them as insensitive actions on the part of government, considering the poor state of the economy and the low standard of living of the citizenry.

However, the Federal Government has justified its actions, describing them as tough, but necessary decisions, which came as a result of the removal of subsidies in the energy sector. Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has described as misplaced the ultimatum issued by the organised labour of strike action in protest against hike in fuel price and electricity tariff. He said the TUC issued the ultimatum to the President instead of his office which oversees labour matters. “The TUC issue, the seven-day ultimatum was misplaced because they were writing the President and issuing ultimatum to him. The President is not recognised by ILO. “The competent authority for this nature of dispute in Nigeria resides in the man who oversees them and he is the Minister of Labour and Employment,” he said.

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