The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) suspended the nationwide strike action scheduled to take place on September 28, 2020. The NLC’s decision came after the Federal Government of Nigeria halted the implementation of increased electricity tariff and petrol pump price for two weeks.
Organized labor and Trade Union Congress had mobilized stakeholders in the past weeks to embark on indefinite strike that will force Nigerian government to rescind its decision to increase tariff and pump price. Consequently, the federal government engaged the stakeholders to avert the strike which would deal fresh blow on the already fragile economy.
The meeting was aimed at addressing the issues raised by the NLC and TUC, which includes the minimum wage, building refineries and metering electricity consumers.
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The Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige said the meeting was fruitful, as the parties reached agreement on the key issues.
Dr. Ngige said the committee agreed to set up a Technical Committee comprising Ministries, Departments, Agencies, NLC and TUC, which will work for a duration of two weeks effective from Monday, Sept. 28.
“The committee is to examine the justifications for new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost reflective tariff.
“The technical committee membership included Mr. Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labor and Employment, as chairman, Mr. Godwin Jedy-Agba, Minister of State Power, Mr. James Momoh, Chairman National Electricity Regulatory Commission.
“Others were Mr. Ahmad Rufai Zakari, SA to Mr. President on infrastructure, Dr Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimen, Member, NLC, Mr. Joe Ajaero NLC, Mr. Chris Okonkwo, TUC and a representative of DISCOs,” he said.
Part of the committee’s assignment is to examine the different electricity tariff rates of the DISCOs, and see if they are in compliance with the order of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), and also see if the commission is upholding its mandate.
In the aspect of deregulation, Dr. Ngige said all parties agreed that Nigerian refineries must function in bigger capacities to ameliorate the impact of petroleum importation.
He explained that based on the agreement, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has been given marching orders to expedite the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four refineries located in Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna and to achieve 50 percent completion for Port Harcourt by December 2021, while timeline and delivery for Warri and Kaduna will be established by the inclusive Steering Committee.
Dr. Ngige further explained that the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) will be integrated into the Steering Committee already established by the Corporation.
“The Federal Government and its agencies are to ensure delivery of one million CNG/LPG AutoGas conversion kits, storage skids, and dispensing units under the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme by December 2021 to enable delivery of cheaper transportation and powerful fuel.
“A Governance Structure that will include representatives of organized Labour shall be established for timely delivery,” he explained.
On the issue of minimum wage and general intervention, Dr. Ngige said the federal government will facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage to cushion the effects of deregulation and the pump price and electricity tariff increase. He added that the federal government will provide 133 CNG/LPG driven mass transit buses immediately for labor unions. The buses will get to all states and Local Governments before December 2021.
He said 10 percent of the Ministry of Housing and Finance housing scheme will be allocated to Nigerian workers under the NLC and TUC.
“A specific amount is to be unveiled by the Federal Government in two weeks’ time, which will be isolated from the Economic Sustainability Programme Intervention Fund that can be accessed by Nigerian Workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC,” he said
Based on these agreements, the strike was called off for weeks. The federal government is expected to live up to its side of the bargain by implementing many aspects of the agreement in two weeks. But Nigerians said that the NLC and TUC have betrayed their mandate by reaching an agreement with the federal government and calling off the planned strike.
This perception stems from the concern that the government always reaches an agreement with striking unions only to avert the strike, and moves on after without implementing any of the things agreed upon. Moreover, none of the demands of the NLC was met in the agreements. People believe that the federal government will renege on the agreements as soon the NLC and TUC sheath their swords. And they have a good reason to believe so.
The Nigerian government is notorious for breaching agreements with civil society groups and unions in the country. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is still on strike instigated by the government’s failure to fulfill its agreement with the academic union.
The trajectory this sets emboldens the notion that the Nigerian government cannot be trusted, and thus, should not be negotiated with on matters affecting the wellbeing of the citizenry.
Thus, it is believed that the NLC has betrayed the people by going into agreement with the government, as the agreements represent the interest of a few. “Are you representing your pocket or the people of Nigeria?” Seun Kuti, Musician and rights activist asked the NLC.
Dr. Ngige said there will be subsequent meetings between Labour and the federal government, to discuss other matters, including the participation in agricultural ventures through the CBN and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Nigerians will have to wait for two weeks to see if the government will keep its promises. While the people feel betrayed by the NLC and TUC, the federal government has succeeded in saving the economy from another shutdown.