By Joshua Chibuzo Andrew
Leaders of the organised labour on Friday evening stormed out of a meeting with the Presidential Steering Committee on Subsidy Palliatives scheduled to hold at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, led the delegation to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President around 5pm but was soon spotted exiting the building.
The steering committee members met the government delegation on Wednesday, where the two parties agreed to reconvene on Friday to get a brief from the government’s subcommittees on mass transit, compressed natural gas and cash transfer.
The steering committee was set up by the Federal Government to draw up intervention plans to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on Nigerians.
On their way out of the Chief Of Staff office, the labour members accused the Federal Government of using the meetings as a ploy to deceive Nigerians.
A member of the committee from the organised labour, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “They are not prepared for the meeting. That’s the truth.
“They are using cover to deceive Nigerians. There are supposed to be three subcommittees – the mass transit subcommittee, the CNG and the cash transfer – to brief us in the steering committee, but the government was not prepared for the meeting.”
“In their introductory remarks, they made excuses and wanted the meeting to continue; the meeting did not form a quorum. We are a people that operate on the basis of process. So, if there’s no quorum in a meeting, what do you do? You will adjourn for lack of quorum.
“There was nobody to meet with. The Chief of Staff was not there; they are taking us like children.”
However, Newsmen learnt that the Chief Of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, waited for the labour delegation alongside other team members.
But the organised labour delegation from the NLC and the Trade Union Congress suffered slight delays upon entering the State House over clearance issues. The reason for the delay was that the names of members of the delegation were not sent to the gate early enough for clearance.
Gbajabiamila later excused himself to attend to other official matters within the Villa, while other government team members waited for the organised labour team to arrive.
“We were detained at the gate,” one of the leaders of the labour delegation told journalists.
Friday’s gathering would have been the fourth in a series of meetings between the Federal Government and the organised labour since the removal of petrol subsidy.
The steering committee last met on Wednesday, but the Federal Government’s representatives could not convince the labour leaders to shelve the protest.
“We are going ahead with the protest because we have to be emphatic on what we put in our communiqué to say we’re commencing protests from the 2nd of August,” Ajaero had insisted.
“We’ve agreed to continue to make progress. It was a very productive meeting. The focus was really on how to fast-track a lot of the interventions that will bring relief, particularly around CNG, mass transportation, cleaner energy, transportation, and reducing the impact of the cost of transportation, and the increased cost of transportation. So, we’ve made good progress,” the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Ms Olu Verheijen, told journalists.
Meanwhile, the National Executive Council of the NLC has endorsed the August 2 nationwide strike and mass protests proposed by the body over the recent hike in the pump price of petrol.
The Federal Government had told the NLC that it was legally restrained from embarking on the planned nationwide strike.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, B. E. Jedy-Agba, in a statement on Wednesday, said the union was restrained by the order of the National Industrial Court from embarking on any strike on the removal of petrol subsidy.
She said the court had on June 5 granted an injunctive order restraining the NLC and the Trade Union Congress “from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending motion on notice.”
Jedy-Agba advised the union to explore other means of negotiations with the Federal Government rather than “resorting to self-help and undermining the orders of the court.”
However, in a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting on Thursday, the NLC NEC members also approved other decisions reached by the Central Working Committee of NLC at a meeting held on Tuesday.
The communiqué, which was signed by President and General Secretary of the NLC, Joe Ajaero and Emma Ugboaja, respectively, and made available to our Newsmen on Friday, read in part, “NEC-in-session after exhaustively deliberating and reviewing the current socioeconomic situation confronting Nigerian workers and masses, and the attendant mass suffering and deprivation across the nation as a result of the unfortunate actions and policies of the current occupiers of the seat of government arrived at the following conclusions in agreement with the Central Working Committee’s earlier deduction that the government has shown disdain and contempt for the plight of Nigerians, shunning reasonable dialogue and refusing to take active measures to protect Nigerians, instead, it resorted to robbing the people to pay the rich despite the massive outcry across the nation.
“To this end, NEC-in-session applauds, re-affirms and supports all the decisions of the Central Working Committee meeting of the 25th of July, 2023, of the immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the Federal Government, including the recent hike in PMS price, Increase in public school fees, the release of the eight months’ withheld salary of university lecturers and workers, and increase in VAT.
“The immediate inauguration of the Presidential Steering Committee as agreed in the earlier consequential dialogues to begin the building across the nation of a coalition of all Nigerians where all will be leaders and all will be followers, to call on all civil society organisations and Nigerians wherever they may be to begin mobilisation to take action on their own to save our nation and to lead and organise mass protest rallies across the nation to demonstrate outrage against the inhuman actions and policies of the government.”
The NEC agreed “to give the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum within which to meet all our demands and to embark on a nationwide action beginning from Wednesday, the 2nd of August, 2023, to compel the government to reverse its anti-poor and anti-workers policies.
“NEC consequently directs all affiliates and state councils to begin immediate mobilisation and closely work with associations, individuals and other entities, including the ones already on the streets to ensure that the government listens to the people.”
Members of NEC insisted that the lack of seriousness of the Federal Government towards the creation of frameworks to cushion the impact of the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit or petrol was demonstrated not only in the quality of its representation in the hastily-called meeting of Wednesday, but also in their unpreparedness to deal with the issues as canvassed.
“NEC, therefore, set up strategy committees across all the states, urging all affiliates and state councils, including the civil society, to come out beginning Wednesday, the 2nd of August, 2023 across the nation to protest the government’s insensitivity to the plights of Nigerians.”