…NLC, TUC tell govt to revert to status quo
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The meeting between the Federal Government and the organised labour over the issue of subsidy removal has ended without any resolution.
The meeting called on the instance of the Federal Government at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was to find a solution to the brewing crisis over effect of subsidy removal and the hike in petroleum pump price.
Recall the government through the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, announced an adjustment in the price of PMS on Wednesday.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting on Wednesday, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero said that “as far as we are concerned there was no consensus.”
He said the principle of negotiation was for the government and the NNPCL to revert to status, adding that, “you don’t ask to negotiate under gun point.”
On the demands of the organised labour, Ajaero said, “We should go back to status quo, negotiate, think of the alternatives and all the effects and how many of the effects this action will have on the people if it is an action that must take off.”
He said that the subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June and rhetorically asked, “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 flanked by the President of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, Festus Osifo said, “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.
“Other countries that are in the same scenario are eating fat.”
Asked whether it is realistic to continue with the payment of subsidy the NLC President said, “why do you keep on hampering on subsidy, what do you understand about subsidy, has anybody explained to you the meaning of subsidy, what did they say is subsidy?
“Is there any country 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 product.
Ajaero said in 2011 labour met with government and agreed on some principles including the repair of the refineries to start operation latest by December last year but nothing was done.
The person who spoke on the side of the Federal Government, Dele Alake said, “We have been deliberating on finding very amicable solutions to the issue at hand, to the queue and all of that and the increase in pump price.
“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 peace, progress and stability of Nigeria. That is what is paramount.
“Of course the NNPCL CEO is here, Mr Kyari, we cannot go into details now because the talks are still ongoing. We cannot finish everything at one setting, so we have adjourned now, we are continuing the talks at a later date very shortly.
“But the point is that the talks are ongoing and it 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 for all Nigerians. That is as much as we can say now.”