L-R: Senate President, Senator David Mark; President of NLC, Abdulwaheed Omar; governor Rotimi Amaechi of
River State and TUC president, Peter Esele at a meeting of Labour Unions with the government on fuel subsidy at
By Ahamefula Ogbu
As the nation held its breath for a break in the impasse that has ensued since the labour unions in conjunction with civil society groups led a nationwide strike last Monday to protest the removal of subsidy on petrol, the meeting held last night between the federal government and labour to resolve the crisis failed to yield fruit for the second time in three days.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress remained adamant that the price of petrol must revert to N65 per litre before the parties can come back to the negotiating table, insisting that until a compromise is reached, the strike will continue tomorrow.
But all hope may not be lost, as THISDAY learnt that the meeting between the federal government and labour may continue today, and may precede a presidential broadcast by President Goodluck Jonathan to the nation also today on the issue.
Briefing the press immediately after the meeting, which ended at 11.15 pm, the unions, however, said contrary to threats by the senior oil and gas workers union to shut down oil production and exports, they would not do so, as they were taking things in phases, but did not give further details.
NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, said the unions and the federal government had deliberated without arriving at a compromise and that they were going back to meet with their various organs to inform Nigerians on the outcome of the meeting and would come back to the negotiation table when called back by the government.
He said, “We are going to continue our deliberations at our organisational level and then maybe we will see the way forward. We are going to meet with our organs; then we will inform Nigerians. Like we said the other time, it means the status quo remains."
When asked what labour wanted, Omar replied, "Let's go back to N65 then we can agree on a new line of action."
Asked pointedly what he wanted from the government, he said a return to N65 per litre, pointing out that they were talking when suddenly the government announced the subsidy removal and would want it to return to status quo before they come back to negotiate and reach a compromise.
Secretary General of NLC, Owei Lakemfa, also stressed that the government should revert first to N65 per litre for labour to get the people off the streets and insisted that they were misunderstood on what they meant by “shifting grounds”.
He debunked the allegation that people and interests have hijacked the strike, saying,
“We are still in charge.” He added that the only way forward was to return to the point the negotiation was before the government unilaterally abandoned talks to implement the removal of subsidy.
But THISDAY learnt that the unions had reneged on the understanding reached last Thursday that both sides were “shifting grounds” in the talks, following what sources said were threats to the lives of some of the labour leaders by some sectional forces should they change their stance on reverting to the old price.
Before the meeting, which was presided over by the senate president, Senator David Mark, who drove himself to the meeting in a Lexus car alongside his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Mark had called the two labour leaders aside and spoken to them sub rosa (in confidence) before the meeting commenced at 8 pm.
However, speaking after the meeting, the senate president said the federal government was doing everything possible to protect and act in the best interest of Nigerians, adding that the meeting had been fruitful even though no resolution was reached.
He said the government would continue to dialogue with the unions until a resolution is reached.
Those present at the meeting on the side of government were the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Ministers of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, Petroleum, Dizeani Alison Madueke, Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mohammed Bello Adoke, Information, Labaran Maku and Minister of State, Health, Ali Pate.
Also in attendance were Governors Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State; Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto; Babatunde Fashola of Lagos; Olu-segun Mimiko of Ondo; Chairman of Governors Forum and Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; Babangida Aliyu of Niger State; and Gabriel Suswam of Benue.
Other government officials included the Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadome; National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi; and Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Austin Oniwon.
The legislature was represented by Mark, Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, Senate Minority Leader, Abdul Ningi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha.
Labour, on the other hand, was represented by Omar and Peter Esele, President General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) along with 16 others while the civil society groups were represented by Dr. Dipo Fashina, President of the Joint Action Front (JAF). The team from labour and civil society had arrived the Villa at 7.20 pm for the meeting with the federal government.