Nigerian Labour Unions, on Tuesday, insisted on going ahead with its planned protest over the removal of petroleum subsidy starting from Wednesday, August 2, 2023.
Rising from another meeting of the Presidential Steering Committee on palliatives at the State House, Abuja, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress also expressed reservations about President Bola Tinubu’s ability to control inflation and gasoline prices due to the unification of the exchange rate.
Addressing newsmen after the committee’s meeting on Monday evening, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the plan for workers to proceed on a peaceful protest from Wednesday has not changed.
He dismissed fears that the peaceful protest could be hijacked by hoodlums, saying such had never happened in the history of workers protest.
He said it is the responsibility of security agencies to provide security for the protest to protect the workers.
According to him, the meeting of the Steering Committee adjourned till 12pm Tuesday to enable the labour leaders to listen to the president’s national broadcast on Monday evening.
His words: “We just adjourned to listen to Mr. President speech and to continue with our conversation tomorrow.
“Our peaceful rally will go on as scheduled. Even if we didn’t have this problem and decide to hold the rally, we still go on, so this rally has been fixed.”
Reacting to PresidentvTinubu’s plan to intervene on exhange rate over inflation and high cost of gasoline prices, Ajaero said: “By the time you have a single market and you are not having anything that has a comparative advantage, your energy is import driven, then how are you going to control it? How are you going to control somebody that exchanged dollar at about 900 (naira)? Are you going to tell him to sell below the price?
“How are you going to tell even NEPA today, with the cost of production not to increase tariff? Even corn in the villages that was sold at N18,000 by February, now it’s about 56,000. How are you going to control it?”
Also speaking, Chief of Staff to the President, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila said issues were discussed at the closed door meeting and that they adjourned to listen to the President’s broadcast.
According to him, government is dealing with the oil cabals that have brought the economy to its knees.
His words: “We have been locked behind for a couple of hours, we had a good meeting, issues were thrashed out on the situation in Nigeria today in terms of issues centred around on government intervention on the situation in the country.
“We agreed to adjourn till tomorrow as you know Mr. President is making a national broadcast today. Based on what we anticipate that Mr. President will be telling Nigerians we decided to adjourn meeting till 12pm tomorrow before labour can decide whether or not they want to continue with the protest on Wednesday.
“But we believe that after tonight broadcast, President will speak to all the issues, he will roll out his interventions and needles to say we believe any reasonable person will tell you that at that point there will be no need for any protest.”
Commentong on why government did not roll out palliatives before announcing the stoppage of petrol subsidy, he said the previous government did not budget for subsidy adding that President Tinubu is rolling out palliatives to cushion its effect on the people.
Asked whether the oil cabals are more powerful than the security and government, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives said, “Yes they are and that’s what government is dealing with. First of all remove the subsidy, that’s the first step.”
On his part, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, pleaded with the organised labour to give the administration little chance to fix the battered economy.
He said President Tinubu inherited a bad economy that he is working hard to fix.
“The meeting was an opportunity for us to appeal to the labour leaders by extension Nigerians that we are facing difficulties and challenges that are not our making. We inherited a very bad situation. Most of the problems people are talking about are not a creation of this government. This government is barely two months old and since we have been facing these difficulties and challenges, we have a listening and engaging President, a president who will want to have a conversation and react.
“He is truly, genuinely, honestly doing it. Our appeal is please Nigerians give us the support that is needed and required, we are working, we are trying to change things. We inherited a very bad situation, we are trying to stop all those things we witnessed in the past, we are trying to stop the killings, stop the attacks on trains, stop attacks on prisons, stop IPOB what they are doing, stop bandits, stop Boko Haran,” he said.
The organised had last Friday stormed out of the meeting, claiming that there was no top government officials to negotiate with them.
Present at Monday’s meeting were Ajaero, his counterpart from TUC, Festus Osifo; the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugbaja; the TUC Secretary, Nuhu Toro and other members of the organised labour delegation including Prof. Sam Amadi.
On the side of government were the Gbajabiamila; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachollom Daju; the Group Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari and the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Olu Verheijen, among others.