Senate Mediates in NLC, FG Face-off

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Speaker meets with protesting NLC, appeals for living wage
NLC: We are open to negotiations but protest continues

Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate yesterday intervened in the face-off between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the federal government over the recent hike in the pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145.

Meanwhile, The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has also met with national executives of the NLC over the ongoing strike against the removal of fuel subsidy.

After a meeting with the leadership of NLC yesterday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the Senate had called the meeting to find a lasting solution to the crisis caused by the hike in the price of petrol.

Saraki also said he was happy to hear from the labour leaders that they were open to dialogue.
According to him, “The meeting with the leadership of NLC was part of the moves to finding lasting solution to the impasse as well as to bring an end to the impending strike and disagreement with government.

“I am happy to report that the NLC has shown their commitment to continue dialogue with government, and our role is to see that we facilitate that so that through dialogue, we can address the issues.

“I am encouraged by what they have said and confident that we would be able to do this. I know when they leave here, they are also going to meet with the House of Representatives and right now, as they are in the Senate, we play our own role in facilitating and ensuring that we can bring the two parties together and find a lasting solution that will reduce the hardships that Nigerians are going through.

Also, Dogara, in his opening remarks, before retreating into a closed door session, appealed to labour to suspend the ongoing strike, noting that the change promised by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government means things would be done differently.

According to the speaker, “It may not matter if two or three persons protest against the policies of the government, in democracy, there is always dialogue. Aspirations of citizens are supposed to be part of progress. ““When citizens only see democracy as a chance to push through their individual needs, they can shatter the country,” as he harped on the need for sacrifice by the citizens.

The Speaker, after meeting with the NLC leaders, also appealed for the payment of a living wage for workers. He told journalists that a living wage would reduce the harsh effects of the hike in pump price of petrol, appealing to labour to suspend the ongoing strike.

“Workers should be paid a living wage. We appealed to labour to look into this issue again and do the right thing. We have to look at the national interest in all our actions in order to suspend this strike or call it off entirely,” Dogara stated.

The NLC, on its part, said it was open to further negotiations with the federal government but insisted that the ongoing strike would continue until the government reviews the price of petrol downward.
NLC Chairman, Ayuba Wabba, denied the allegation that his team walked out of a meeting with the federal government.

He said there was no attempt to walk out on the government, explaining that what transpired at the last meeting was NLC’s sheer disagreement with the government position.
Wabba said the discussions with the Speaker have been fruitful and that the NLC would resume negotiations with government, adding that the struggle was in the interest of all Nigerian workers whom he said were the victims of the hike in fuel price.
“They have called us to actually brief them about what transpired and that is where we are now, which we have already done. In essence, what we did was to try to give a preview of the process we have followed to arrive at the stalemate we had.

“This is also to confirm because there has been a media report that we had been invited and we refused to attend meetings. And we said no because we have not received any formal invitation for any meeting, and we said there was no walkout. The strike is still on but we are open to dialogue,” he said.
Also speaking on the matter, Chairman, Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, Senator Suleiman Nazif, said the commitment of the Senate at the moment was to bring both the NLC and the federal government back to the negotiation table.

Nazif said the Senate sympathised with the masses who go through hardship caused by fuel price hike. “First and foremost, we called on the labour because they are open for discussion and we intend to at the end of the day, bring both parties to the table for discussion. The labour said they were open to discussion and we as the Senate want to be part of those that will mediate between the two parties.”
On his part, Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who is head of the ad hoc committee on deregulation of the oil sector, said the committee in its interim report chose to align with government to address current realities.

The House earlier appealed to labour to shelve the strike and allow dialogue with the government.
The meeting with the House which started at 5.25p.m. had in attendance the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun; Chairman of the Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Hon. Joseph Akinlaja among other lawmakers, while the labour was led by the NLC President, Wabba; Deputy President, Peters Adeyemi; General Secretary, Peter Ozo Esan; National Treasurer, Khaleel Ibrahim; former Vice-President, Issa Aremu, and other officials.

The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Leo Ogor meanwhile, has called for extensive consultation to aid the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
He said such was necessary to ensure full deregulation of the oil sector following the removal of subsidy on petroleum.
“No way PIB would have solved the issue of fuel imports and consumption. We have made a lot of mistakes as a nation, we have wasted trillions of naira in subsidizing what we shouldn’t have subsidized,” he added.

Oyo: ‘Buhari Policy on Economy is Terrifying’
The Zonal Coordinator of Ibadan chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Segun Ajiboye, has described the increment in the pump price of petrol by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government as a ‘terror policy’.
Ajiboye, while addressing a mammoth crowd of anti-subsidy removal protesters at the University of Ibadan gate yesterday, stated that the pain unleashed on Nigerians in the past one year by the federal government had become unbearable which required a mass anti-terror movement to check it.

The ASUU leader, who noted that the past one year has been full of blames of past government and pain on Nigerians, wondered what the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, wanted to add to the nation by requesting for N13million for a trip to China.
He noted that the many lies of the present government must be stopped before Nigerians will be labeled liars in the international community, stating that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is now All Promises Cancelled (APC).

“They promised to bring down the price of petrol below N50, they promised constant electricity, good roads and qualitative health services but rather than fulfilling these, it has been one lie over another, while they also disobeyed court orders at will.

“This government has been unleashing terror on Nigerians. We thought that when we finished with President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, succor would come us. All Progressive Congress is now All Promises Cancelled. They disobeyed two court judgments stopping hike in electricity tariffs. People are dying on a daily basis. A government that has no control over the black market but asked people to go to black market is clueless,” he said.

Also speaking, the state Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Chairman, Waheed Olojede, asked Nigerians not to see the present strike as a labour struggle alone but a joint movement to check anti-masses policies.
He said the present leadership in the country cannot be empowering their friends and unleashing hardships on Nigerians.

Olojede noted that asking people to go to the black market was a ploy by the federal government to bail out their corrupt friends who allegedly stocked their homes with dollars but afraid to take it out due to EFCC onslaught.
The protest was coordinated by NLC and its affiliates which matched peacefully on major roads and distributed leaflets on why more people should join the struggle.