By Eromosele Abiodun
Although the tension raised by the fuel price hike seems to have died down, there still remains the question of legality of the price fixed by government.
Does the constitution recognise petroleum products price fixed by any organ of government other than the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA)?
The Joe Ajaero-led wing of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday offered insight into this aspect of the fuel price hike while briefing journalists on outcome of the dialogue with government and why his faction shunned the nationwide strike ordered by the other NLC group.
According to the labour leader, for petrol price ceiling of N145 per litre to be legally accepted, it must be generated and fixed by PPPRA in line with a high court judgment delivered in the matter in 2012 in the suit by Lagos lawyer, Bamidele Aturu.
Ajaero therefore said that his faction along with others had told government to reconstitute the board of PPPRA so that it could work out a legally acceptable price of fuel, adding that government agreed to do so without delay.
As to why the organised labour group shunned the nationwide strike to protest the hike in the petrol price and settled for dialogue for palliatives instead, he his group considered it futile after they realised that government did not make any provision for subsidy in the 2016 fiscal framework, but in its place earmarked N500billion for social welfare.
He further explained that their colleagues in the Ayuba Waba-led NLC told government that they would not sit together to engage in any dialogue with government even when there was need to form a common front in the interest of Nigerian masses and workers.
“So the only reasonable option is for us to dialogue on how best to utilise government’s social welfare provision in the 2016 budget and the gains of price modification.
For us, there is the need to ensure that the mismanagement of SURE-P instituted by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration after subsidy protest in January 2012 does not repeat itself this time around,” Ajaero stated.
According to him, his group like other trade unions including Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society groups were rather concerned on extracting commitment on what palliative measures government should put in place to ease the pains of the masses, and avoid mismanagement of the funds.
“Unlike the mismanagement of SURE-P exercise, we insisted that this exercise must be managed by owners where labour, civil society, comrades of Nigerian political parties, and all students and market women to make sure that the exercise is all inclusive, and Nigerians who the programme is meant for benefit from it. To that extent we agreed that the participation in that committee should be established without further delay,” Ajaero stated.
He further explained that his group urged government to discuss the minimum wage for approval without further delay, having already made representations for N90, 000 (by his own group) and N56, 000 (by other labour group).
TUC which he said also had separate dialogue with government aligned with all the issues his group had raised in the meetings with government earlier that day, and all the parties had agreement with government.
Explaining the modalities of the committee the federal government had approved to be constituted to dialogue on palliatives, the deputy chairman of the group, Achese Igwe stated that two members each from the two factional NLC groups, three members from TUC would represent labour in the committee, while other members of the committee would be drawn from civil society groups, and others.
He added that the function of the committee and subcommittees going to be set up is to look at all criteria, all the mass made and put them in proper perspective.
According to him, “And we agreed that it is not just this committee but subcommittees will be inaugurated out of this committee that will look at all the issues. We cannot talk for civil society groups, and so a committee will be set up to talk with civil society groups, while another will be set up to handle the issue of manufacturers with government, and to see that the minimum wage cut across all sectors. It will not be minimum wage for public sector or private sectors alone but for all workers; and there are situations and conditions we are looking at. With the support of the NLC as an organisation, we will go through all these issues and come up with requisitions.”