President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (left) and the Labour Leader Joe Ajaero
A meeting between the Federal Government and organized Labour in Abuja to find common ground on the issue of subsidy removal, we learnt has ended without an amicable resolution.
The meeting was called at the behest of the federal government in its genuine efforts to find a lasting solution to the issues surrounding subsidy removal by the last administration and the recent increase in fuel prices across the country.
On Wednesday May 31, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) greeted Nigerians with a rude announcement indicating a bizarre adjustment in the price of petroleum products.
Fielding questions from journalists after the meeting, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero made it known that the discussion ended in deadlock. According to him, the reason for negotiation was for the government and the NNPCL to revert to status quo.
Shedding light 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 added that the subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June and rhetorically asked, “Why is it now? The 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 products, 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.
Dele Alake addressing the media after the meeting with key stakeholders
“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.”
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 in 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 of all Nigerians. That is as much as we can say now.”