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Petrol, electricity prices: Labour issues ultimatum

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From Frank Ikpefan, Abuja 

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Labour has asked the government to reverse the raised petrol price and electricity tariff or be prepared for an industrial action after two weeks.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the price of petrol being sold at between N159.92 and N162 per litre should be reverted to N121 – the price it was sold during the lockdown.

It said a strike will be called on September 28 unless the issues are addressed.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) gave a seven-day ultimatum to the government, which will expire on Tuesday, after which its members will proceed on strike.

The Federal Government withdrew its subsidy on petrol, following which the ex-depot price was raised on September 3 to between N138 and N151.56 per litre. This triggered the rise of pump price per litre.

On September 1, the Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) raised the tariffs for different bands.

The government has said it no longer has a hand in fixing price of petrol and the electricity tariffs.

On Tuesday, a government team of ministers, led by Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige, had a dialogue with the labour leaders on the new rates.

The meeting agreed that labour leaders should return to consult with their members before returning for another meeting.

The NLC Central Working Committee met on Wednesday after which the ultimatum was issued.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba said the union had commenced mobilization of its members.

He said the NLC had reached out to its civil society allies and other social partners to resist the increases in tariff and prices, which he said, had driven many Nigerians into poverty.

The NLC president said: “The Central Working Committee also identified the fact that the policies have reduced the purchasing powers of Nigerians as well as Nigerian workers. Also, it has brought about high cost of goods and services.

“It has eroded completely the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage.

“The Central Working Committee and the National Administrative Council also took report of the meeting that took place between Federal Government and organised labour where NLC was represented by fourteen of its leaders and therefore resolve as follows:

“The Central Working Committee resolved to issue a two weeks ultimatum to the federal government to reverse or face industrial action and peaceful assembly.

“In furtherance to this, the Central Working Committee resolved also to convene a meeting of the National Executive Council in line with our constitution on the 22nd of September, 2020 to also give effect to this decision because the proposal also for the action is to commence on Monday September 28, 2020 if those issues are not addressed.

“This afternoon (yesterday) Central Working Committee members were sharing their pains and experiences arising from the exploitative nature of these policies where it is very evident that in some cases even the N30, 000 minimum wage cannot actually pay for the… the experience we have here is that somebody actually loaded a credit of electricity of N30, 000 it couldn’t take him for two weeks and therefore this has been the experience all over the country.

“It is really a decision that is biting at every worker, every family and I think it is a decision that certainly require reversal. In summary, these have been the decision of the Central Working Committee and that we think it is important to convey to you members of the press.”

But, Ngige said he was yet to be notified of the ultimatum issued by the NLC.

The minister said the Federal Government would look into labour’s demands and see the ones they (government can meet.

He said: “I have not got their letter. A letter of ultimatum must come to the minister of labour. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it because we had a social dialogue yesterday (Tuesday).

“We told them that the social dialogue is still a continuous business, a continuous affair, work in progress. It is bilateral, so when we get the letter we will reply them. It could also lead to invitation, it could also lead to convoking a conciliation meeting where the demands will be put on the table.

“We will get the letter and see what their conditions are. We will see the ones government can meet and the ones government cannot meet.”

Ngige said at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that the seven day ultimatum issued by the TUC was misplaced.

The minister stated the letter by TUC addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari contravened the labour laws.

He said: “The TUC issue, the seven-day ultimatum was misplaced because they were writing the President and issuing ultimatum to him. The President is not recognised by ILO.

“The competent authority for this nature of dispute in Nigeria resides in the man who oversees them, which is whoever is the Minister of Labour and Employment.”

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