The eight-hour meeting between the Federal Government and the Organised Labour over the removal of petrol subsidy and the increase in electricity tariffs, ended in a deadlock on Tuesday, September 15.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, welcomed the labour leaders to the meeting held at the Bouquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, in Abuja. He urged stakeholders to suggest ways that the country can survive the economic challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister said, “The meeting is a bilateral dialogue between us as Nigerians to consider the state of the economy and events that have necessitated recent increases in electricity tariff and the price of petrol.”
In his remark, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, appealed to the representatives of the organized labour to show more understanding with the government over its policies.
Sylva disclosed that due to fuel subsidy, Nigeria lost about N1 billion daily between 2016 and 2019, and N3.74billion daily before 2016.
Mr Sylva said, “There are a lot of issues to discuss; from 10 o’clock we haven’t been able to trash out all the things; I think it will be right to set committees to further deliberate and resolve them.”
However, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, pointed out that Nigerians were experiencing great economic hardship that was aggravated with the recent hike in the cost of fuel and electricity tariffs.
According to Wabba, the situation was even worse for workers who have lost their jobs and sources of income due to COVID-19.
Mr Wabba said, “Those issues that constitute the price are part of the inefficiency in the system which the government hitherto has been paying and christened subsidy. The government cannot transfer the inefficiency to the people. Nigeria should refine its products. At this point, what do you have on the table to cushion the effects on workers – their families because they have been pushed to the wall and already at the edge. Do you have anything for us? So that we can now say that despite these challenges, this is what I have for Nigerian workers that they can have something that can cushion this effect for them.”
He started further, “Already the value of minimum wage had been eroded. The purchasing power parity, when you compare with all West African countries, we are already on the ground. That is the reality. In Ghana, compare their minimum wage with our own; in all West Africa countries, including Niger Republic that has just started refining recently, they are now serving us with products. That is not how we ought to be.”
At the end of the meeting, both sides could not reach an agreement. Also, no date was fixed to continue the talks.