By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE organized labour last night walked out of the meeting organized by the government on the increment of the petroleum pump price and hike in electricity tariff.
The labour leaders accused the government of insincerity in the negotiation, alleging that it had got to a stage where things were not moving right again.
They insisted that before the should proceed with the meeting the government should revert to the old price of petrol at the inception of the meeting.
Efforts by the government team led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige to persuade the labour leaders to listen to their presentation failed on deaf ears.
To worsen the situation, the Minister of Labour had told the labour team that he was in charge and that no one should decide for him how to handle the meeting.
This infuriated the labour and they immediately stormed out of the meeting hall, the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to journalists, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Emma Ugbaja said, “We have had some understanding over time, but while these meetings were ongoing, we were suddenly slapped with a new increase in petroleum prices and we felt that was beyond what we had as an understanding with the government.
“And we felt that should be the first item for understanding today. But surprisingly the government team felt otherwise, they felt the issue of imaginary palliatives should be discussed before what is causing the need for the palliatives should be discussed.
“And we felt that was putting the cart before the horse. We want to address the issue on petroleum pricing before we begin to think whether there is need for palliatives or not and on that strength we felt we cannot continue with a meeting whose agenda is wrongly prioritized.
“When the Government is willing to take it the way it is, we are ever ready to engage and to have things properly determined.”
Asked on what would be the next step, he said, “We have to go back to our organs to agree on the way forward, because we have leadership, we are known and clearly with that position we have to tell our members what the situation is.”
On his side, the Trade Union Congress, TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye said that the government was not sincere with the labour in the discussion.
He said that the labour leaders cannot walk freely on the roads because workers accused them that they had betrayed their trust.
He said, “Gentlemen of the press, like I mentioned at the beginning of the meeting that today’s meeting is not going to be as usual while because we have seen the insincerity of government and it is putting us at risk.
“They are taking us for a ride which cannot continue. We are on the process of discussion for over three months now and they made an announcement increasing the fuel price again and no other person than the NNPC.
“When has the authority been given to NNPC to increase the price of pms, this is unacceptable, the meeting agenda is not well prioritized and because of that we are leaving the meeting, we cant continue, we will go back to our organ and we are going to get back to you on the next of action. We can’t continue with their insincerity.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige who played down on the situation said that the labour leaders wanted to go and discuss with their organs.
The stage for the walkout was laid when the Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero had insisted that there should be a reversal of the new increment to what it was at the last meeting before any deliberations could go on, but Senator Ngige said it was part of the agenda.