A negotiation meeting on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja between the federal government and the organised Labour to find solutions to the crisis trailing the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock.
The meeting followed the sharp hike in petrol price and subsequent spiralling of transportation costs across the country.
The representatives of government at the parley consisted of Head of Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPCL), Mele Kyari, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar; and former governor of Edo State, and one time President of NLC, and now APC chieftain, Adams Oshiomhole.
Also part of the federal government’s team were the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachallon Daju; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
The Labour Unions who were led to the meeting by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Comrade Festus Osifo, demanded that government should go back to the status quo.
At the end of the meeting, which lasted several hours on Wednesday, the organised Labour criticized the government’s approach to removing the subsidy, emphasizing the lack of engagement in exploring alternative solutions.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, Ajaero, said that Labour’s position remained that government, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), which had earlier fixed new prices for petrol, should go back to what the prices were, while negotiation continues.
“We should go back to status quo, negotiate, think of the alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action will have on the people if it is an action that must take off.
“Subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June and before then, why is it now? Last administration made it up to end of June. Why can’t we respect the sanctity of even that law that provided that expenditure up to June.”
On the claim by the federal government that there is no money to continue with the subsidy, Ajaero asked, “what is the purpose of governance, is it the duty of NLC to raise funds for the government, collect tax, to sell crude at the international market when the price of crude is going high and the government that is a major importer of crude product is telling you there is no money?”
Asked whether it is realistic to continue with the payment of subsidy, he noted that “even in the US there is subsidy on wheat product, is there any country that does not subsidise living of people even if it is by providing public transportation, those are the issues we are looking at.
“If you are a major producer of crude and you refine or carry the crude abroad and refine and bring it, definitely there will be difference in the price and that is what they are paying.
“If your father established a refinery and that refinery dies in your hand and you are now refining abroad, you ask yourself some questions.
“We have refineries in Kaduna, Sapele, Warri and Port Harcourt, why are they not functioning that we have to go and refine abroad? The transportation money, refining cost at international price or rate and bring it back here and the same government pays the difference in cost of what it is here and what is internationally, that is what they are telling you about.”
He wondered why the government should claim that it has deregulated the product and at the same time is fixing prices of the products.
Also speaking, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) said the unions will go and consult with their members before deciding on the next meeting with government.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the government side, Dele Alake, told State House Correspondents after the meeting with Labour Unions that it was a robust engagement.
“We had a very robust engagement. We cross-fertilized ideas, ideas flew from all sides and there is one thing that is remarkable even from the Labour side and that is Nigeria. We are all looking at the progress and stability of Nigeria. That is what is paramount.
“We cannot go into any details now because talks are still ongoing. We cannot finish everything at one sitting. So, we have adjourned now, we are continuing the talks at a later day very very shortly.
“The point is that talks are ongoing and it’s always better for all sides to keep talking with a view to arriving at a very amicable resolution that will be in the longer term interest of all Nigerians. That is as much as we can say now”, Alake said.