By Henry Umoru, Abuja
As part of moves to stop the planned nationwide strike and mass protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the thirty- six State Governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF yesterday entered into a meeting with the organised labour, pleading with the workers to jettison the action.
Consequently, the NGF and the NLC are on the path to resolving the impasse occasioned by the threat by workers to embark on industrial action if the Federal Government does not rescind the recent decisions to increase the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Electricity Tariff in the country.
To halt the planned strike, Chairman of NGF and Ekiti State governor, Dr.Kayode Fayemi at his Abuja residence yesterday entered into a marathon meeting with representatives of the NGFand the organised labour.
Speaking at the meeting, Fayemi who noted that Governors decided to wade into the on-going negotiations with a view to broadening consultations and assisting to bring the impasse to an end, said that at the end of the day, the step would help avert the impending strike action.
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Fayemi, however, reiterated the plea by the Governors that the NLC should take caution with regard to the proposed strike against the backdrop that the timing of the action was inauspicious and could aggravate an already worsening situation if not averted.
At the meeting, NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi spoke for the Forum while the NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba who was accompanied by the TUC President Quadri Olaleye and the NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboajah to the meeting.
Also at the meeting was the Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru.
Also as part of measures to nip the proposed strike in the bud, the governors have resolved to have an emergency meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and others with a view to arriving at a common ground on the matter.
A communique at the end of the meeting read, “The Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Nigeria Labour Congress are on the path to resolving the impasse occasioned by the threat by workers to embark on industrial action if the Federal Government does not rescind the recent decisions to increase the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Electricity Tariff in the country.
“This is the outcome of an early morning dialogue between representatives of the Forum and workers which took place at the residence of the Chairman of the NGF, in Abuja, early on Saturday.
“The Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr John Kayode Fayemi spoke for the Forum while the NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba who was accompanied by the TUC President Quadri Olaleye and the NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboajah, to the meeting. Also at the meeting was the Director-General of the NGF Mr Asishana Okauru.
“Dr John Kayode Fayemi emphasised that the plight of workers in the country was already in dire straits and that any action embarked upon by the union at this time would further worsen their situation as contained in the communique issued by governors after their first emergency meeting on Thursday, 24th September 2020, since the outbreak of the pandemic and eventual lockdown of the country, last March.
“The NGF Chairman said, no one that is conversant with the prevailing situation in the country would disagree with labour and its demands, as it were, but pleaded
that Governors be given time to consult more broadly with the various stakeholders, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, the vice president and the president. This he said would be top priority for the NGF and promised to head straight to the presidency once the meeting was over.
“The Governors Chairman expressed the hope that this gesture from the governors would also energise the leadership of labour to put a hold on their planned action.
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“On his part, the President of the NLC said the Federal Government violated the time-tested global process of dialogue and thanked the NGF Chairman for his efforts at ensuring that sanity returns to the negotiation table.
“When the cost of PMS rises, the cost of everything in the country rises with it, the NLC President explained.
“He agreed with the NGF Chairman and also praised him for agreeing to broaden the mechanism for consultation on the matter saying “I praise you for showing a good grasp of this matter and I believe that if they had widened the mechanism for consultation and involved people like you, we wouldn’t have come to this pass.”
“In conclusion, Dr. Fayemi stated that Government and Labour are not that far apart in the negotiation and the differences are not irreconcilable.”
According to NGF Chairman, “our President who is always on the side of workers will not be averse to the issues being raised and I’m hopeful for an amicable settlement on the issues highlighted.”
Recall that the Governors had at the end of their meeting on Thursday called on the NLC to exercise caution in its planned nationwide strike and mass protest, warning that such an action if carried out, would worsen the deteriorating economic situation of the country brought by Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
Rising from the 18th Teleconference Emergency Meeting, the governors had set up a seven-member Committee to brainstorm with the National Economic Council, NEC, the Nigeria Labour, NLC, major Stakeholders and other Nigerians with a bid to addressing the issue.
The Committee which is chaired by the Jigawa State governor, Badaru Abubakar, has governors Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa; Dapo Abiodun of Ogun; Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara; Muhammad Inuwa of Gombe; Okezie Victor Ikpeazu of Abia and Douye Diri of Bayelsa as members.
In a Communique signed at the end of the emergency meeting by the NGF Vice Chairman and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the forum resolved that the NGF Secretariat will provide relevant support to the Committee on the details of the mechanism for deregulation put in place by the federal government.
The governors had said that “On the call for a national strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Forum believes that the labour unions should exercise caution on the call for strike action, noting that any strike action will worsen the currently deteriorating economic situation of the country brought by the COVID-19 pandemic;
“While expressing concern over the call for a national strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Forum members suggested the provision of a cushioning arrangement to ameliorate the effect of subsidy removal.”
Recall that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had insisted on going ahead with its earlier planned strike and protest, with effect from September 28, 2020, following what it described as a failure on the part of the Federal Government to reverse the increases in electricity tariff and fuel price.
According to Labour, the hike in the pump price of fuel and electricity tariff, “were ill-timed, and insensitive to the sufferings that Nigerians are going through,” calling on the government to reverse it.
NLC’s plan to embark on a nationwide strike and mass protest against the recent increase in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff hike was sealed on Tuesday as the highest decision making organ of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the National Executive Council, NEC, ratified the decision the Central Working Committee, CWC.
It had also directed state councils to intensify mobilization of workers and other Nigerians preparatory for the strike scheduled to start on September 28.